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. (Although 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, Ayrshire cattle can be found all over the world.
Ayrshire cattle – Characteristics
Ayrshire cattle are 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.
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.
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