The Ayrshire

This breed is justly celebrated throughout Great Britain and this

country for its excellent dairy qualities. Though the most recent in

their origin, they are pretty distinct from the Scotch and English

races. In color, the pure Ayrshires are generally red and

white, spotted or mottled, not roan like many of the short horns, but

often presenting a bright contrast of colors. They are sometimes, though

rarely, nearly or quite all red, and sometimes black and white; but the

favorite color is red and white brightly contrasted; and, by some,

strawberry-color is preferred. The head is small, fine and clean; the

face long and narrow at the muzzle, with a sprightly, yet generally mild

expression; eye small, smart and lively; the horns short, fine, and

slightly twisted upward, set wide apart at the roots; the neck thin;

body enlarging from fore to hind quarters; the back straight and narrow,

but broad across the loin; joints rather loose and open; ribs rather

flat; hind quarters rather thin; bone fine; tail long, fine, and bushy

at the end; hair generally thin and soft; udder light color and

capacious, extending well forward under the belly; teats of the cow of

medium size, generally set regularly and wide apart; milk-veins

prominent and well developed. The carcass of the pure bred Ayrshire is

light, particularly the fore quarters, which is considered by good

judges as an index of great milking qualities; but the pelvis is

capacious and wide over the hips.

On the whole, the Ayrshire is good looking, but wants some of the

symmetry and aptitude to fatten which characterize the short horn, which

is supposed to have contributed to build up this valuable breed on the

basis of the original stock of the county of Ayr, which extends along

the eastern shore of the Firth of Clyde, in the southwestern part of


The original stock of this country are described as of a diminutive

size, ill fed, ill shaped, and yielding but a scanty return in milk.

They were mostly of a black color, with large stripes of white along the

chine and ridge of their backs, about the flanks, and on their faces.

Their horns were high and crooked, having deep ringlets at the root--the

surest proof that they were but scantily fed; the chine of their backs

stood up high and narrow; their sides were lank, short, and thin; their

hides thick and adhering to the bones; their pile was coarse and open;

and few of them gave more than six or eight quarts of milk a day when in

their best condition, or weighed, when fat, more than from a hundred to

a hundred and sixty pounds avoirdupois, rejecting offal.

A wonderful change has since been made in the condition, aspect, and

qualities of the Ayrshire dairy stock. They are now almost double the

size, and yield about four times the quantity of milk that the Ayrshire

cows formerly yielded. A large part of this improvement is due to better

feeding and care, but much, no doubt, to judicious crossing. Strange as

it may seem, considering the modern origin of this breed, all that is

certainly known touching it is, that about a century and a half ago

there was no such breed as Ayrshire in Scotland. The question has

therefore arisen, whether these cattle came entirely from a careful

selection of the best native breed. If they did, it is a circumstance

without a parallel in the history of agriculture. The native breed may

indeed be ameliorated by careful selection; its value may be

incalculably increased; some good qualities, some of its best qualities,

may be developed for the first time; but yet there will be some

resemblance to the original stock, and the more the animal is examined,

the more clearly can be traced the characteristic points of the

ancestor, although every one of them is improved.

Youatt estimates the daily yield of an Ayrshire cow, for the first two

or three months after calving, at five gallons a day, on an average; for

the next three months, at three gallons; and for the next four months,

at one gallon and a half. This would give eight hundred and fifty

gallons as the annual average; but, allowing for some unproductive cows,

he estimates the average of a dairy at six hundred gallons a year for

each cow. Three gallons and a half of the Ayrshire cow's milk will yield

one and a half pounds of butter. Some have estimated the yield still


One of the four cows originally imported into this country by John P.

Cushing, Esq., of Massachusetts, gave in one year three thousand eight

hundred and sixty-four quarts, beer measure, or about nine hundred and

sixty-six gallons, at ten pounds the gallon; being an average of over

ten and a half beer quarts a day for the entire year. The first cow of

this breed, imported by the Massachusetts Society, for the Promotion of

Agriculture, in 1837, yielded sixteen pounds of butter a week for

several successive weeks, on grass feed only. It should be borne in

mind, in this connection that the climate of New England is less

favorable to the production of milk than that of England and Scotland,

and that no cow imported after arriving at maturity can be expected to

yield as much, under the same circumstances, as one bred on the spot

where the trial is made, and perfectly acclimated.

On excellent authority, the most approved shape and marks of a good

dairy cow are as follows: Head small, long, and narrow toward the

muzzle; horns small, clear, bent, and placed at considerable distance

from each other; eyes not large, but brisk and lively; neck slender and

long, tapering toward the head, with a little loose skin below;

shoulders and fore quarters light and thin; hind quarters large and

broad; back straight, and joints slack and open; carcass deep in the

rib; tail small and long, reaching to the heels; legs small and short,

with firm joints; udder square, but a little oblong, stretching forward,

thin skinned and capacious, but not low hung; teats or paps small,

pointing outward, and at a considerable distance from each other;

milk-veins capacious and prominent; skin loose, thin, and soft like a

glove; hair short, soft, and woolly; general figure, when in flesh,

handsome and well proportioned.

If this description of the Ayrshire cow be correct, it will be seen that

her head and neck are remarkably clean and fine, the latter swelling

gradually toward the shoulders, both parts being unencumbered with

superfluous flesh. The same general form extends backward, the fore

quarters being, light the shoulders thin, and the carcass swelling out

toward the hind quarters, so that when standing in front of her it has

the form of a blunted wedge. Such a structure indicates very fully

developed digestive organs, which exert a powerful influence on all the

functions of the body, and especially on the secretion of the milky

glands, accompanied with milk-veins and udder partaking of the same

character as the stomach and viscera, being large and capacious, while

the external skin and interior walls of the milk-glands are thin and

elastic, and all parts arranged in a manner especially adapted for the

production of milk.

A cow with these marks will generally be of a quiet and docile temper,

which greatly increases her value. A cow that is of a quiet and

contented disposition feeds at ease, is milked with ease, and yields

more than one of an opposite temperament; while, after she is past her

usefulness as a milker, she will easily take on fat, and make fine beef

and a good quantity of tallow, because she feeds freely, and when dry

the food which went to make milk is converted into fat and flesh. But

there is no breed of cows with which gentle gentleness of treatment is

so indispensable as with the Ayrshire, on account of her naturally

nervous temperament. If she receives other than kind and gentle

treatment, she will often resent it with angry looks and gestures, and

withhold her milk; and if such treatment is long continued, will dry

up; but she willingly and easily yields it to the hand that fondles

her, and all her looks and movements toward her friends are quiet and


The Ayrshires in their native country are generally bred for the dairy,

and for no other object; and the cows have justly obtained a world-wide

reputation for this quality. The oxen are, however, very fair as working

cattle, though they cannot be said to excel other breeds in this

respect. The Ayrshire steer maybe fed and turned at three years old; but

for feeding purposes the Ayrshires are greatly improved by a cross with

the short horns, provided regard is had to the size of the animal. It is

the opinion of good breeders that a high-bred short horn bull and a

large-sized Ayrshire cow will produce a calf which will come to maturity

earlier, and attain greater weight, and sell for more money than a

pure-bred Ayrshire. This cross, with feeding from the start, may be sold

fat at two or three years old, the improvement being most noticeable in

the earlier maturity and size.

In the Cross with the short horn, the form ordinarily becomes more

symmetrical, while there is, perhaps, little risk of lessening the

milking qualities of the offspring, if sufficient regard is paid to the

selection of the individual animals to breed from. It is thought by some

that in the breeding of animals it is the male which gives the external

form, or the bony and muscular system of the young, while the female

imparts the respiratory organs, the circulation of the blood, the organs

of secretion, and the like.

If this principle be true, it follows that the milking qualities come

chiefly from the mother, and that the bull cannot materially alter the

conditions which determine the transmission of these qualities,

especially when they are as strongly marked as they are in this breed.

Until, however, certain mooted questions connected with breeding are

definitively settled, it is the safest plan, in breeding for the dairy,

to adhere to the rule of selecting only animals whose progenitors on

both sides have been distinguished for their milking qualities.

It may be stated, in conclusion, that for purely dairy purposes the

Ayrshire cow deserves the first place. In consequence of her small,

symmetrical, and compact body, combined with a well-formed chest and a

capacious stomach, there is little waste, comparatively speaking,

through the respiratory system; while at the same time there is very

complete assimilation of the food, and thus she converts a very large

proportion of her food into milk. So remarkable is this fact, that all

dairy farmers who have any experience on the point, agree in stating

that an Ayrshire cow generally gives a larger return of milk for the

food consumed than a cow of any other breed. The absolute quality may

not be so great, but it is obtained at a less cost; and this is the

point upon which the question of profit depends. The best milkers which

have been known in this country were grade Ayrshires, larger in size

than the pure bloods, but still sufficiently high grades to give certain

signs of their origin. This grade would seem to possess the advantage of

combining, to some extent, the two qualities of milking and adaptation

to beef; and this is no small recommendation of the stock to farmers

situated as American farmers are, who wish for milk for some years and

then to turn over to the butcher.

Strangulation Of The Intestines The Barn facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail