Recent years have shown tremendous signs of growth for the breed, such as increased prices for Ayrshires at public and private sales; increased production, making her competitive with other breeds; added value for high-solids milk; and growing potential for niche markets.


The sheer longevity of the Ayrshire breed provides her with one of her greatest opportunities. The Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory (AIPL) reports this advantage, as well as others, in statistics released after the January 2008 genetic summary release. The Ayrshire excels particularly well for productive life, somatic cell score and daughter pregnancy rate, which all translate into profit for the producer.

The opportunity for expansion of the Ayrshire breed is very exciting. In today’s dairy industry, commercial dairymen are continually looking at ways to be more profitable, and the Ayrshire breed can often be the solution. Ayrshires are being added to mixed-breed herds every day, and they are proving to be very competitive in the milking parlor and at the feed bunk. For those who crossbreed, the Ayrshire is an ideal third-generation cross. Ayrshires have the ability to adapt to any management style, efficiently convert feed, calve with ease and are excellent grazers. Breeders continually report that they require little treatment outside of routine herd health care. For those who rely on natural service mating, Ayrshire bulls are proven to be aggressive and successful.

The Ayrshire cow has some incredibly strong advantages that make her very competitive with the other dairy breeds; but due to the small Ayrshire population in university herds or other scientific venues for research purposes, it is very difficult to obtain documentation and statistics proving her profitability. However, Ayrshire animals are thriving in tie-stall barns in New England, freestall barns in Iowa, grazing operations across the country, commercial lots in New Mexico, organic dairies and other operations.

Because of lower numbers of cattle compared to some other dairy breeds, the Ayrshire’s potential for growth is also proving to be one of our foremost challenges. At times it is very difficult to provide a good supply of cattle for those looking to add Ayrshires or to expand their herds. We must work creatively to increase our numbers by using sexed semen, embryo transfer and superior management to provide quality genetics to meet this demand.


Another challenge the Ayrshire breed faces is probably not unique to the breed. A small genetic pool makes it difficult to find good outcross genetics for the next generation. Being open-minded about the global marketplace will help to continue to address this obstacle. All Ayrshire breeders must be diligent about being on official test, commit to sampling young sires and classify their cattle to provide documented information in order to speed up the rate of genetic progress. PD

—From Ayrshire Breeders Anonymous