The Ayrshire breed is large framed, stylish cow known for its ability to produce large quantities of high quality milk from forage. Ayrshires are economical cows, famed for their longevity and ease of management which has made the Ayrshire a cow of choice for organic systems. The breed thrives in extreme climatic conditions.Ayrshire cattle originate from the South West of Scotland. Originally referred to as the Dunlop and then the Cunningham, Ayrshire cattle were an established breed back in the early 1800s. However, the strains of cattle crossbred to create the Ayrshire remain a mystery. Many regard the Ayrshire as one of the most economic dairy breeds. It is an efficient grazer, able to produce large quantities of good quality milk. Ayrshire cattle thrive in a range of climates, from the heat of Africa to the cold of Scandinavia. Today, the Ayrshire breed can be found all over the world.
Regardless of the details of origin, the early breeders carefully crossed and selected the various strains of cattle to develop the cow we now know as the Ayrshire. She was well suited for the land and climate in Ayr. The Ayrshire is an efficient grazer; noted for her vigour and efficiency of milk production. Ayrshire’s are especially noted for the superior shape and quality of the udder. The composition of the milk made it ideally suited for the production of butter and cheese by the early Scottish dairymen.
Ayrshire cattle characteristics
The Ayrshire is typically red and white. The red markings can vary greatly, from light to dark reddish-brown. On some bulls this can appear to be almost black. Nearly all Ayrshire are dehorned as calves. If the horns are allowed to grow they can reach more than a foot long.Ayrshire cattle are a moderately framed breed. Cows reach around 550 kilos in weight. They are renowned for their hardiness , longevity and mild temperament. The Ayrshire is able to adapt to all management systems and can forage successfully. Ease of calving is another positive trait.
Ayrshires are red and white in colour. The red colour is a reddish-brown mahogany that varies in shade from very light to very dark. On some bulls, the mahogany colour is so dark that it appears almost black in contrast to the white. The colour markings vary from nearly all red to nearly all white. The spots are usually very jagged at the edges and often small and scattered over the entire body of the cow. Usually, the spots are distinct, with a break between the red and the white hair. Some Ayrshires exhibit a speckled pattern of red pigmentation on the skin covered by white hair. Brindle and roan colour patterns were once more common in Ayrshires, but these patterns are rare today.
For many years, the Ayrshire horns were a hallmark of the breed. These horns often reached a foot or more in length, they gracefully curved out and then up and slightly back. When polished for the show ring, the Ayrshire horns were a spectacular sight. Horns are not very practical, and today almost all Ayrshires are dehorned as calves. Ayrshires are medium-sized cattle and weigh approximately over 1200 pounds at maturity. They are strong, rugged cattle that adapt to all management systems including group handling on dairy farms with free stalls and milking parlors. Ayrshires excel in udder conformation and are not subject to excessive foot and leg problems.
There are Ayrshire herds in the United Kingdom averaging over 8,500 litres of milk per lactation. In some countries the yield is even higher – in excess of 10,000 litres. The milk is high in butterfat and protein but not excessively rich. Indeed, some believe the milk from Ayrshire cows is the ideal drinking milk. (A taste test in South Africa pitted Ayrshire milk against that of the Holstein and Jersey and over 70% preferred the taste of Ayrshire milk.)Ayrshire bulls can weigh up to 900 kilos. As they lack the yellow tallow characteristic that reduces carcass value, bull calves can be raised profitably as steers.
With today’s dairy farmers closely watching their budget, a cow that stays producing longer in the herd is what we are all looking for. Ayrshires have proven that they can remain ‘sound’ year after year producing milk well after others have fallen. This accompanied with a healthy cow having fewer vet visits makes her a much more economical option.
Ayrshire Cow Price