Ayrshire cattle originate from the South West of Scotland. Originally referred to as the Dunlop and then the Cunningham, the Ayrshire was an established breed back in the early 1800s. The strains of cattle crossbred to create the Ayrshire remains a mystery.
Many regard Ayrshire cattle 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. Some Ayrshire bulls can appear to be almost black. Nearly all Ayrshire cattle are dehorned as calves. If horns are allowed to grow they can reach more than a foot in length.
Ayrshire cattle are a moderately farmed breed. Cows reach around 550kgs 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 UK averaging over 8,500 litres of milk per lactation. In some countries the yield is even higher - in excess of 10,000 litres. While the milk is high in butterfat and protein it is not excessively rich. Indeed, some believe milk from an Ayrshire cow is the ideal drinking milk.
Ayrshire bulls can weigh up to 900kgs. As they lack the yellow tallow characteristic that reduces carcass value, bull calves can be raised profitably as steers.