One of the most prized cows at Elite Jerseys is Natalie Flash Queen EX-91. She was the Grand Champion at the October 2018 Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society Show, and is owned by John Le Feuvre and Derrick Frigot. 
PHOTO SUBMITTED
One of the most prized cows at Elite Jerseys is Natalie Flash Queen EX-91. She was the Grand Champion at the October 2018 Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society Show, and is owned by John Le Feuvre and Derrick Frigot. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    LES AUGEREZ, JERSEY, CHANEL ISLANDS – Dairy farming on an island has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities. Few know this better than Sarah Le Feuvre and her family, who milk 140 cows on their farm located in the west-central region of the island of Jersey.
    The island of Jersey is where the breed of dairy cattle that bears its name originated. It is located about 14 miles west of the Cotentin Peninsula in Normandy, France, and about 85 miles south of Great Britain. At 45 square miles, it is the largest of the Channel Islands.
    The Le Feuvre family’s dairy operation, which is called Elite Jerseys, has been in business for three generations.
    “My husband’s father started Elite Jerseys in 1938,” Le Feuvre said. “We still have three cow families from that original herd.”
    Le Feurve and her husband, John, operate their dairy with their son, John James. John has slowed down over the past few years and has turned most of his duties over to John James. Le Feuvre is responsible for breeding and showing cattle.
    “The island of Jersey has been closed to cattle imports since 1763,” Le Feuvre said. “As a result, we don’t have to vaccinate. We have no tuberculosis or IBR or BVD. Our cattle have an enviable health status that is highly regarded whenever we export cows to the UK.”
    Jersey is located at 49 degrees north, which puts it at the same latitude as the border between the United States and Canada. But the surrounding ocean keeps the island’s climate temperate. The average daily high temperature on Jersey ranges from 47 degrees in January to 68 degrees in August. Hard freezes are infrequent.
    “We have constant sea breeze,” Le Feuvre said. “Even during the hottest summer months, we don’t need fans in our barns. We receive an average of 32 inches of rain per year, but it can get quite dry in the summertime.”
    All of the cattle on Jersey are registered Jerseys. Every cow that is born on Jersey has to be named and recorded in the island’s herd book, which has been in use since 1866.
    The Le Feuvres graze their cattle on lush, green pastures from March through November or December. During the colder months, their cows are fed in the barns and are offered a TMR that includes fodder beets. The cows are given access to the outdoors at all times but will head for the barn as soon as it starts to rain.
    The Le Feuvres raise barley, wheat and maize (corn). Their maize is chopped for silage and they also put up a good amount of grass silage. Their cows are milked twice a day in a double-7 herringbone parlor. In addition to their family, the Le Feuvres have two full-time employees.
    “Some of our fields are quite small so farming them is labor intensive,” Le Feuvre said. “We have fields that range in size from about an acre to 15 acres. Because of its long farming history, the island is a patchwork of fields and hedges. We rent land from more than 20 landlords.”
    Le Feuvre said cash rent for good Jersey cropland is £300 per acre, which works out to about $375 an acre. Farmland on Jersey sells for £20,000 per acre, or nearly $25,000. The Le Feuvres must compete for land with farmers who grow Jersey Royal potatoes, the island’s largest agricultural export. The Le Feuvres often purchase waste raw Jersey Royal potatoes that they blend into their TMR.
    The Le Feuvres sell their milk to Jersey Dairy, a farmer-owned cooperative which is the island’s sole milk processor. Jersey Dairy buys milk under a quota system that includes incentives for dairy farmers to calve year-round.
    “Jersey Dairy supplies all of the island’s dairy needs and exports the excess,” Le Feuvre said. “The butter is especially prized because it’s a niche product that was made on Jersey from milk that came from Jersey cows. Most of our exports go to the UK, but we also have some very good customers in places like Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan.”  
    After all their quality bonuses are tallied, the Le Feuvres receive 45 pence per liter of milk. This works out to about $24.75 per hundredweight.
    There are some big challenges that come with dairy farming on an island.
    “We don’t have easy access to large supplies of feed like you have in America,” Le Feuvre said. “It would be cost prohibitive to ship in silage. Our expenses are very high because fertilizer and other inputs have to be imported.”
    As in the United States, the trend on Jersey has been toward fewer and larger dairy operations.
    “Years ago, there were as many as 1,000 dairy farms on Jersey with perhaps five to 10 cows per farm,” Le Feuvre said. “Today, we only have 14 dairies, but they have many more cows on each farm. Over the past 30 years we have made an effort to buy cattle from herds that were being dispersed. Our goal has been to keep the Jersey bloodlines and heritage here on the island.”
    Developing the best possible Jersey genetics has always been a passion for the Le Feuvre family.
    “John was president of the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society from 1993 to 1998,” Le Feuvre said. “He first traveled to the United States in 1965 and has been back there many times. He went to Australia for the first time in 1974 to judge a Jersey show. He has served as a judge at innumerable Jersey shows and has been an internationally respected breeder for many years. His passion for Jersey cattle has taken him all around the world.”
    Dairy farming on a Channel Island certainly has its share of problems. It also comes with some profound rewards.
    “Every day, I get to watch Jersey cows grazing peacefully on green pastures and feel the fresh sea breeze on my face,” Le Feuvre said. “It’s impossible to put a price on something like that.”