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THE AYRSHIRE

The Ayrshire breed of cattle as described in writings around the 1864 time frame.

 

AN AYRSHIRE BULL

AN AYRSHIRE BULL

      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 Scotland.

     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 higher.

     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.

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