For the moment at least, the controversy over whether the Jersey herd should lose its closed status through the introduction of new genetic lines can be put to one side as people with a shared interest in our remarkable breed share their knowledge and experience.
The scale of this latest World Jersey Cattle Bureau conference, which opened yesterday, is a reminder of the Jersey’s status as one of the most versatile breeds in existence. And, besides being able to thrive and deliver its famously rich milk in environments ranging from torrid Africa to the contrasting climes of Britain and so many parts of North America, the Jersey is a magnificently amenable – and therefore lovable – beast.
Delegates at the conference – the theme of which is, logically enough, Jerseys Without Borders – will, meanwhile, rapidly come to understand even more fully that our cattle are rather more than mere farm animals. As gentle icons of the Island and of Island life, they occupy not only a special place in the countryside but also in our hearts.
We take for granted such items as the cow watermark on our currency, the superb sculpture of Jerseys at West’s Centre and the employment of the cow as an element in the output of Island artists, but our visitors will without doubt note them and take them as signs of the esteem in which our cattle are still held even in the face of the decline of agriculture as a major contributor to the economy.
And it must also be said that there could scarcely be a better time for people with a deep interest in rural matters and farming life to come to our shores. The hedgerows and woodland are full of life, roadside blossom appears to be more vibrant and profuse than ever, and, so far, the sun has managed to shine. A more perfect backdrop for a great occasion celebrating such a key element of our natural environment could not be imagined.