Jersey cows made up our first dairy herd when we moved to our farm outside Ulverstone (Tasmania) in 1952.
Here are some of them, grazing in the paddock behind my sister Robbie and our dog Laddie, circa 1959. It was Laddie’s job to bring them into the cowshed, although they really made their own way, leaving narrow, well worn paths around the property.
I found my father’s rather basic annual record of the herd at the back of his 1960 farm diary. Just reading the familiar names filled me with nostalgia; Topsy, Bluey, Queenie, Biddy. For some weeks I carried the imprint of a plastic sandal after Topsy (or was it Toffee?) trod on my foot at the dairy, but it was an accident.
Beauty and Junka were two of our oldest cows, brought to the farm from Abbotsham, where my father had been share-farming. Junka’s name came from the fact that she was purchased from Western Junction. We kids called her Junket, because she was the colour of vanilla junket, something we felt we had to eat far too often, with stewed plums. 😨
Oddly enough we bought our butter from the grocer’s, but sometimes my mother made some as a special treat. I loved to watch her operating the wooden churn, then making sweet little balls with the butter pats.
Many years later I was given the task of making butter balls while I was working at a Scottish hotel. Do you know what? I had developed the skill by osmosis and was an instant expert.
But I digress…..our cow Mac was named for Anthony McKenna, a family friend from Spalford. My father had worked on the McKenna family farm when he left school.
The ‘Johnstone bull’ mentioned at the top was bought from a Jersey stud at Deloraine.
A JERSEY COW CALLED DORA
There is the most wonderful tribute to a Jersey cow in the book Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Rawlings lived on an orange grove in Central Florida and would catch blue crabs in a local scrub spring. She would use sherry, brandy, and cream from her beloved cow Dora to produce ‘Crab a la Newburg, Cross Creek.‘ Describing the effects of this dish on dinner guests, she wrote;
‘My friends rise from the table, wring my hand with deep feeling, and slip quietly and reverently away. I sit alone and weep for the misery of a world that does not have blue crabs and a Jersey cow.
Naturally Dora’s butter was also a winner.
My sister and I would take a jar of Jersey cow cream to my kindergarten teacher every Friday. She would give us a shilling, to spend on lollies. 😍
Oh, how true. Our next door neighbour Joe Richards had a Jersey bull called Old Roley, He was so bad tempered, and of course we kids would taunt him as we walked past his paddock to visit the Richards kids. This was very silly of us, because Old Roley would sometimes jump the post and rail fence. One night my father and other neigbours had to go out armed with pitchforks to get him back in. Fortunately they managed to do it without anyone being gored. Next morning we discovered our cream cans waiting for collection had been battered during Old Roley’s rampage. They were lying with their lids off, surrounded by congealed cream.
A NEAR THING
We were all really upset when Junka ate green potatoes and nearly died. I remember the dear old thing lying on the ground near the house, with my mother cradling her head. Against all the odds, she got better.
It almost broke my heart when I discovered what happened to Junka in the end. Good grief…sold as a ‘chopper’, which meant being slaughtered and turned into ground beef. It is the awful fate of cows too old to breed and produce milk.
What a miserable amount she brought compared to Sally and Peggy. Why was that I wonder?
Oh Dad, how could you send lovely old Junket off like that? I know farmers have to be pragmatic, but honestly…there is a limit! Perhaps that £8 bought us school shoes, but imagine if we ate some of Junket in the sausages we used to buy from Lionel Johnstone, the local butcher? 😰
Our herd eventually changed from Jerseys to black and white Friesians. Friesian cattle produce more milk, albeit with far less cream. There is a song by the late Janet Seidel (1955-2017), Australian jazz singer and dairy farmer’s daughter, in which she compares the two breeds and declares; ‘..,but I like Jerseys best’. Well, so do I.
FOR THE HISTORY OF THE JERSEY COW, CLICK HERE