Anyone who has ever traveled to southeastern United States and stopped at a convenience store has probably seen one of the most recognizable logos – a Jersey cow head, complete with horns, horn chain and a brown and cream colored back round on milk cartons, ice cream containers and just about anything that has dairy in it. The farm’s website states that in 1910 T.B. Mayfield Jr. purchased 45 Jersey cows and began delivering milk to customers in his hometown of Athens, Tennessee. Today, four generations later, Mayfield supplies a large portion of the southeast U.S. with milk, ice cream and yogurt. In the 1960’s the dairy was the first in the U.S. to make and fill its own milk jugs in a continuous operation. In 1981, Time Magazine named Mayfield “The World’s Best Ice Cream” and in 1990 Mayfield became part of Dean Foods Company.
In Jersey history, Mayfield Farms has an important role since it could be stated that nearly all pure Jerseys today have some Mayfield blood running through their veins, which is primarily the result of three of the most influential animals in the breed: Marlu Milestone, Milestone Generator and Beacon Bas Little Lady.
Marlu Milestone, as his name implies, was bred by the famous Marlu Farm, Lincroft, New Jersey, owned by hat maker, Maurice Pollack, and managed during it’s time of prominence by Curtis Hobson. Although the farm focused on production they still cut a good swath with the few animals that they did show. Conversely, Mayfield would field a show herd every year with mostly homebred cattle and their success was well documented, winning Grand Champion Female in both the All American Open and Junior shows with Beacon Bas Tulip, and also winning the Jersey Jug as well as the coveted Best Three Female class and the Premier Breeder Banners at the All American Jersey show in Columbus, Ohio. The show string would also travel throughout the south and Mid-West to promote not only the dairy cattle but the milk business too. In the early 1960’s a group of four cows was sent to National Dairy Cattle Congress to promote the Jersey breed as well as the daughters of M.F. Lindale Beacon Bas, the Canadian bred bull who was Mayfield’s herd sire at the time and the sire of Beacon Bas Little Lady. Intertwined with Marlu Farm would be Hobson who would become manager at Mayfield farm when he left Marlu and would continue there until his retirement. Klussendorf winner Paul Sparrow was herdsman at Mayfield and was responsible in later years for much of the farm’s success in breeding and showing. Tommy White Jr. took his early training at Happy Valley Farm in Kentucky before he would land at Mayfield for a time. Mayfield was always loaded with cow talent.
Named appropriately, Beacon Bas Little Lady was small as far as stature was concerned, maybe 48 inches tall, but a large bodied cow with incredible dairy character. The cow knowledge of the folks at Mayfield was considered amongst the world’s finest when it came to breeding and cow management.
They knew what kind of cow they wanted and needed in their commercial operation and Beacon Bas Little Lady was just that kind of cow. They also knew of her faults and a bull such as Marlu Milestone would surely improve her in size and power. The first resulting calf was Milestone Generator whom many consider “the game changer” in the Jersey breed. “Generators” were dairy cows, although not large, with a will to milk like never before seen in the breed at that time. They possessed Little Lady’s quality, open rib, flat bone and beautiful feet and legs. Almost overnight the Jersey breed changed from the “Horn Chained”, pretty, rich man’s play cow to a dairy machine that could almost milk with a Holstein.
Generator was used nearly across the board at the world famous Cedarcrest Farms in neighboring Alabama, who’s owners were close friends and business associates of the Mayfields. When used at Cedarcrest, which was a huge commercial breeding establishment, on daughters of their previous herd sire, Beautys Master Advancer, the resulting offspring produced hundreds of almost cookie cutter like daughters that could milk large volumes in a commercial setting and still have the added dimension of style and quality to win at the largest of shows. Generator daughters would dominate the Senior Get of Sire classes throughout the country in the 1970’s and the best of them became household names, sale toppers and bull mothers. Such cows as Generators Topsy, Generators Imp, Generators Sweet Dreams and hundreds more became the prototype of the future of the Jersey breed.
The mating that produced Milestone Generator was repeated and the resulting bull calf was named Milestone Dynamo. Dynamo offspring more closely followed his sire Milestone in that they were larger with more stature and more substance of bone and were not as wet as the Generators. While Dynamo was not used or promoted as much, he still made several great daughters and one particular herd, the Keightleys in Kentucky, would gather and breed some of his best and had much success with his daughters in their great herd.
The fastest growing breed of dairy cattle today is the Jersey breed and while several stand in line to take credit for the uprising, most Jersey aficionados say it all goes back to the genius of a group of breeders attempt to breed a perfect cow for a commercial environment. With their forethought and the phenomenal transmitting ability of just one “little” cow the entire dairy industry was changed.
The last Jerseys grazing the gently rolling hills of Mayfield Dairy farms left in July 1st, 1991, but dairy consumers throughout the U.S. are reminded of the beauty and quality of not only the breed but the dairy cow in large. The story of the breed will live on for generations to come.