The Jersey cow is quite small, ranging from only 360 to 540 kg (800 to 1200 pounds). The main factor contributing to the popularity of the breed has been their greater economy of production, due to:
- The ability to carry a larger number of effective milking cows per unit area due to lower body weight, hence lower maintenance requirements, and superior grazing ability.
- Calving ease and a relatively lower rate of dystocia, leading to their popularity in crossbreeding with other dairy and even beef breeds to reduce calving related injuries.
- High fertility
- High butterfat conditions, 6% butterfat and 4% protein and to thrive on locally produced food. Bulls are also small, ranging from 540 to 820 kg (1200 to 1800 pounds), and are notoriously aggressive.
Castrated males can be trained into fine oxen which, due to their small size and gentle nature make them popular with young teamsters. Jersey oxen are not as strong as larger breeds however and are generally out of favor among competitive teamsters. Due to the small size, docile and inquisitive character and attractive features of the Jersey cow, small herds were imported into England by aristocratic landowners as adornment for aesthetically landscaped parks.
Jerseys are adaptable to hot climates and are bred in the hottest parts of Brazil. Jerseys come in all shades of brown, from light tan to almost black. All purebred Jerseys have a lighter band around their muzzle, a dark switch (long hair on the end of the tail), and black hooves, although in recent years color regulations have been relaxed to allow a broadening of the gene pool!
They are calm and docile animals, but tend to be a bit more nervous than other dairy cow breeds. They are also highly recommended cows for first time owners and marginal pasture.
Unfortunately, they are also notoriously known for a tendency towards post parturient hypocalcaemia in dams and frail calves that require more attentive management in cold weather than other dairy breeds due to their smaller body mass and greater surface area.