History of the Ayrshire
Ayrshire cows are a breed of dairy cattle native to southwest Scotland that is believed to have originally originated from Holland. While the strains of cattle crossed to form the Ayrshire breed is not entirely known, evidence suggests several breeds were crossed with native cattle to create what is now known as the Ayrshire. The cattle were recognized as a distinct breed in 1814 by the Highland and Agricultural Society.
By most standards, the Ayrshire is a medium-sized breed with the average adult weighing over 540kg (1,200 lb) at maturity.
Ayrshire coats are red and white, with there being no discrimination or registry restriction on coat colour patterns. Colour markings can vary from being a mix of red and white, to almost entirely red or white. The shades of red can range from the very light to what can appear to be almost black in contrast to white markings. Spots tend to be jagged, are small and scattered over the cow’s body with distinct breaks between the red and white hair. On occasion, a red pigmentation can be found on the skin under white hair. While brindle and roan colour patterns do exist, they are becoming increasingly rare.
Ayrshires are strong and hardy animals and are favoured by many modern dairy farmers due to their longevity and easy calving. The breed is not subject to excessive foot and leg problems and excels in udder conformation.
They adapt well to various management systems, including group handling on dairy farms with free stalls and milking parlours, and perform better under pasture conditions than other major dairy breeds such as the Holstein and Friesian. When necessary, they also require comparatively less grain to keep them in condition compared to other similar breeds.
The Ayrshire is a moderate butterfat breed. The actual average of all Ayrshires on Official DHIR test is over 12,000 pounds of milk with a 3.9% test. Ayrshires respond to good management and feeding practices and individual Ayrshire herds average as high as 5,4 tons (17,000 pounds) of milk and over 300 kg (700 pounds) of butterfat.
Top producing Ayrshires regularly exceed 20,000 pounds of milk in their lactations. The current world record for Ayrshire is held by Lette Farms Betty’s Ida. In 305 days, on twice-a-day milking, she produced 16,860 kg (37,170 pounds) of milk and 722 kg (1592 pounds) of fat.