Ayrshire cattle

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An Ayrshire calf
Country of origin Scotland
Distribution World-wide, mainly temperate climates
Use Dairy, with exceptional foraging ability
Weight Male: 635 to 900 kilograms (1,400–1,984 lb)
  Female: 450 to 600 kilograms (990–1,320 lb)
Coat Red and white
Horn status Horned, normally removed
Bos (primigenius) taurus

Ayrshire cattle /ˈɛərʃər/ are a breed of dairy cattle originating from Ayrshire in south west Scotland. The average mature Ayrshire cow weighs 450 to 600 kilograms (990–1,320 lb). Ayrshires typically have red and white markings, although the red can range from a shade of orange to a dark brown. They are known for their ability to convert grass into milk efficiently and their hardiness. The breed's strong points are the now desired traits of easy calving and longevity.


The Ayrshire is considered a native breed from Ayrshire, Scotland. However, the breed is thought to have originated in Holland.[1][2] The first difference from ancient cattle came in around 1750. This is when they were first crossbred with other types of cattle. From this, in around 1775 the brown spots that distinguish the cattle today appeared.[3] In 1814, the cattle were first recognised by the Highland and Agricultural Society.[4] The first herd book in Scotland was produced in 1877.[5] Today, many dairy farmers are turning to the Ayrshire because of easy calving, longevity and hardiness.[5] These traits are thought to have developed due to the rugged conditions of its native habitat.[6]


Ayrshire cattle first came to America in 1822, taken to Connecticut and various other parts of New England.[4] The environment was very similar to their native Scotland. In 1875, the American Ayrshire breed association was formed. During the 1930's a programme to promote the cattle was formed. The Approved Ayrshire Milk program licensed certain farms that whose herds were composed solely of Ayrshires. This was partially marketing and promotion as the milk was seen as a better quality, especially for babies and small children.[7] Today, the cattle is in many areas of America, including New York state and Pennsylvania.


The Ayrshire is regarded as a medium sized breed of cattle. the bull will weigh 635-900 kilogrammes and the cow will weigh 450-600 kilogrammes. The average milk production is 17,230 pounds of milk per year with a butterfat content of around 3.3%. The average milk production per lactation is around 17,000 pounds of milk.[7][8]

Ayreshire cattle are usually red and white in colour. The red colour can vary in tone from very deep red to a lighter shade. However, there is no mention in the Breed Standard of what colour is acceptable. At birth, they are horned but normally dehorned due to the nature of dairy production. Naturally, these horns could grow up to one foot in length.[3] Due to the nature of their native Scottish Highlands, the tend to be strong and adaptable to many methods of farming. These traits can be reflected in the calves, which makes them more desirable. Also, they tend to be able to survive on less feed and less fertile ground, compared to other dairy breeds, such as the Holstein-Friesian.[3]


  1. ^ "Ayrshire Cattle History". Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  2. ^ "Discover Ayrshire - Cattle History". Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "Breeds of Livestock - Ayrshire Cattle". Ansi.okstate.edu. 2001-01-05. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  4. ^ a b "Ayrshire cattle heritage". Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Ayrshire Cattle Society - The Breed". Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  6. ^ "Daily Telegraph - Dairy Farmers turn to Ayrshire cattle". Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "USA Ayrshire Cattle Association - History". Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  8. ^ "The cattle site - Ayrshire". Retrieved 22 June 2015. 

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