Ayrshire Cattle Facts, Profile, and Characteristics

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Introduction of Ayrshire Cattle:

The Ayrshire cattle breed has lived in the county of Ayr in southwestern Scotland for hundreds of years. Farmers began seeking to improve their stock after about 1750 and imported a variety of cattle from other countries in an effort to develop both milk and meat production. The resulting breed, the Ayrshire cattle, was recognized in 1814 by the Highland and Agricultural Society. Breed development began in the mid‑1700s, when native black, black and white cattle were crossed with Flemish and Tees water cattle and with cattle from the Channel Islands. The goal was to improve milk and meat production. This breed was recognized in 1814, and selection during the 1800s further improved dairy qualities, with emphasis on milk for the manufacture of cheese and butter. A herd book was established in the year 1877.

The Ayrshire breed is the native dairy cow of Scotland and the successful survivor of several types that were still present in the early nineteenth century in the Scottish Lowlands. By the mid-1600s in the northern area of Ayrshire known as Cunningham, there was a type of cattle used for cheese production called either the Dunlop, for the name of the cheese, or the Cunningham. In 1783, these cattle breeds were described as “mostly black, with large strips of white along the chine or ridge of the back, about their flanks, and on their faces.”

History of Ayrshire Cattle:

Ayrshire breed first came to America in 1822. H.W. Hills of Connecticut needed a dairy breed that might utilize his rough, stony pastures and produce well in the harsh winters. At first his neighbors were extremely skeptical of Hills’s choice of breeding cattle. They highly doubted that a Scottish animal could do well in America and also played the Ayrshire breed down as a nervous, high-strung beast. This breed succeeded quite well, however, and more importations followed, especially after 1850, taking advantage of further improvements made in the breed’s native country.

Every dairy region of America, especially New England, quickly latched on to the Ayrshire breed. Its numbers skyrocketed at the opening of the 20th century. In the ’20s and ’30s, farmers regularly established herds near cities so that they could deliver the nutrient-rich milk regularly. The Ayrshire cattle utilized their native Scottish forage efficiently, producing large quantities of milk relative to grass consumption. In 1822, the first Ayrshire cattle were imported to America, arriving in New England. It took some time, but Ayrshires eventually became accepted as a quality milk cow throughout most of the United States.

Read: Sahiwal Cow Cost, Features.

Typical Breed Characteristics of Ayrshire Cattle:

Ayrshires are red and white color, and purebred Ayrshires only produce red and white offspring. Actually, the red is a reddish-brown mahogany that varies in shade from very light to very dark. On some bulls, the mahogany color is so dark that it appears almost black in contrast to the white color. There is no discrimination or registry restriction on color patterns for Ayrshire cattle. The color markings vary from nearly all red to nearly all white color. The spots are usually very jagged at the edges and often small and scattered over the entire body of the Ayrshire cow. Usually, the spots are distinct, with a break between the red and the white color hair. Some Ayrshires exhibit a speckled pattern of red pigmentation on the skin covered by white color hair. Brindle and roan color patterns were once more common in Ayrshire cattle, but these patterns are rare today.

For many years, the Ayrshire cattle horns were a hallmark of the breed. These cattle horns often reached a foot or more in length. When properly trained, they elegantly curved out, and then up and slightly back. When polished for the show ring, the Ayrshire cattle horns were a spectacular sight. Unfortunately, the horns were not very practical, and today almost all Ayrshire cattle are dehorned as calves.

  • The body is red color with white stripes.
  • Head and upper side of Ayrshire body becomes deep colored.
  • Ayrshire adult ox weights about 500-700 kg and cow weights about 800-1000 kg.
  • It’s Horns are wide and curved.
  • Its Spine is straight.
  • Calf weights about 35-40 kg.
  • It Produce about 5000 kg milk annually.
  • Milk of Ayrshire dairy breed cow contains about 4 % fat.

Characteristics of Ayrshire Cattle:

Ayrshire cattle are medium-sized and should weigh over 1200 pounds at maturity. They are very strong, rugged cattle that adapt to all management systems, including group handling on dairy farms with free stalls and milking parlors. Ayrshire excels in udder conformation and are not subject to extreme foot and leg problems. Few other breeds can match the ability of the Ayrshire cattle to rustle and forage for themselves under adverse feeding or climatic conditions. Ayrshire cattle will do better under pasture situations than willing the other major dairy breeds and, when pastures are poor, they need less grain to keep them in air condition (C.H. Eckles, Dairy Cattle and Milk Production, 1923). The ruggedness of the terrain and the unfavorable climatic conditions of their native land led to the collection for those points of hardiness that adapt them to less than ideal conditions. These traits make Ayrshire cattle outstanding commercial dairy cattle. Other traits that make Ayrshires attractive to the commercial dairyman include the vigor of Ayrshire cattle calves. They are very strong and easy to raise. Ayrshires do not possess the yellow color tallow characteristic that would reduce carcass value, so Ayrshire bull calves can be profitably raised as steers.

Distribution of Ayrshire Cattle:

Ayrshire cattle remain popular in many countries such as Russia, North America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and parts of Europe and South America.

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Ayrshire Cattle weight:

Ayrshire breed cattle are a moderately framed breed. Ayrshire cows reach around 550 kilos in weight. These are renowned for their hardiness, longevity and milk temperament. The Ayrshire breed is able to all management systems and can forage successfully.

Ayrshire Production:

The typical Ayrshire breed cow produces milk consisting of 4 percent fat and 8.8 percent nonfat solids except for cheese-making. The color is white with a yellow color tinge. This milk contains tiny fat globules. The average Ayrshire breed cow produces about 12,000 pounds of milk annually, but the best producers in the breed might produce 20,000 pounds each year.

The Ayrshire cow is a moderate butterfat breed. The actual average of all Ayrshire on DHIR test is over 12,000 pounds of milk with a 3.9% test. Ayrshire cattle respond to good management and feeding practices and individual Ayrshire herd average as high as 17,000 pounds of milk and 700 pounds of butterfat.

Top producing Ayrshire cattle regularly exceed 20,000 pounds of milk in their lactations. The present world record for Ayrshire is held by Lette Farms Betty’s Ida. In 305 days, on twice-a-day milking, Ayrshire cow produced 37,170 pounds of milk and 1592 pounds of fat. The Ayrshire cattle Breeders’ Association does not officially recognize records in excess of 305 days, but one Ayrshire has produced over 41,000 pounds of milk and 1800 pounds of butterfat in 365 days.


The Ayrshire breed is known for overall good health. Ayrshire cattle are a basically healthy breed, with strong feet and legs. These Calves are especially robust and cows are known for their longevity.

Cost of Ayrshire Ayrshire Cow:

The cost depends on milk production, age, lactation status and pregnancy status. In north and east Ayrshire, the average price sits at $134,000.

Milk Production of Ayrshire Cow:

Ayrshire cows produce about 5 gallons or 43 pounds of milk per day.

Ayrshire cattle respond to good management and feeding practices and individual Ayrshire herd average as high as 17,000 pounds of milk and 700 pounds of butterfat. These days it is not rare to see an Ayrshire breed cow producing over 10, 000 kg of milk per lactation or 80, 000 kg or more in a lifetime.

Advantages of Ayrshire Cattle:

  • It produces high quality milk
  • Efficient Forage Conversion
  • Excellent Functional Type
  • Health and freedom of disease and ailments
  • Economic and Profitable Milk Production
  • Healthy Long lasting Ayrshires are Profitable Ayrshires

Disadvantages of Ayrshire Cattle:

  • They have Strong personality, which may be difficult for beginners to handle.
  • Less milk than the Holstein, though higher quality.

Read: HF Cow Facts.



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