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Australia, New Zealand, U.K. are years ahead
A2 protein promising; especially with Guernseys

“What’s neat with the Guernseys is that people with other breeds have them, so our association helps unify the industry by bringing together young people involved in many breeds,” said Jill Trotter (right). Beneath the Bonnie Mohr ‘Autumn Gold’ painting featuring a Trotacre Guernsey named ‘Mamie,’ Jill and daughters Cara (left) and Bethany, who is the reigning National Guernsey Queen, talked about the future of the Guernsey breed and A2 milk during a recent Farmshine visit to Trotacre Farm.
Photo by Sherry Bunting

By SHERRY BUNTING
Special for Farmshine

ENON VALLEY, Pa. -- While the difference between proteins in milk among the dairy breeds -- and the potential for milk with the A2 protein to be easier for some folks to digest -- is a relatively new topic in the U.S., Guernsey enthusiasts in the United Kingdom have been testing for the A2 gene and marketing A2-certified milk, cheese, and other products for a few years now.

In fact, the A2 type of beta-casein protein has already been “branded” for sale in Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. In the U.S., it is just becoming known, and some are skeptical of any difference between the A1 protein prevalent in milk of all breeds and the A2 protein that can be identified genetically through a DNA test.

Instead of a protein test of the milk itself, genetic tests determine whether cattle carry the A2 gene. Research shows this tendency is most prevalent in Guernseys.

The Trotter family of Trotacre Farm, Enon Valley, Pennsylvania first learned about A2 milk in 2012 when Dave Trotter judged his first show in the U.K. He and Jill and their daughters were there representing the Guernsey breed. They visited farms and attended events, and they toured a cheese plant that utilized Guernsey milk to sell “A2-certified” cheese.

“That plant in the U.K. went out and found quality Guernsey producers with A2-tested cattle and certified their cheese because they say it makes their product more digestible,” Jill recalls.

She and daughter Bethany began researching this marketing avenue, and Bethany incorporated what she learned into speeches and projects during her quest for the crown as the current National Guernsey Queen.

Bethany -- who is studying to be a physical therapist like her mother -- has learned that children with certain disabilities, such as autism, can have related digestive issues. “These mothers look for foods their children will tolerate,” Bethany explains.

“A2-certified milk is a potential niche market for small dairies and Guernsey breeders and another way for Guernsey farms to be profitable,” Jill suggests. Her husband Dave adds that they will test some Trotacre cows for this gene. “As the market increases, we’ll want to be involved.”

The A2 protein discussion is one example of the growing trend among small dairies and colored breeds to differentiate themselves in the commodity marketplace. Consumers are also breaking away from the commodity-mindset, bringing potential for such market niches to be explored.