Wisconsin has seven breeds of cattle used by the Dairy industry. Let’s take a look at the Ayrshire.
Ayrshire cattle originated in the County of Ayr in Scotland, prior to 1800. The breed was developed over time, cross-breeding with cattle from Europe and the Channel Islands. It is believed they came to the US in the 1820s, to Connecticut, and New England where the land and weather were much like Scotland.
Ayrshires are reddish-brown and white. Their color can range from a deep mahogany that can vary from light to dark. The spots are usually distinct, jagged on the edges and often small and scattered.
This breed is medium-sized, weighing somewhere between 1,000 and 1200 lbs or over at maturity. Their butterfat is moderate and relatively high in protein.
Ayrshires are hardy, and are beautiful. They are profitable. They are efficient grazers. That means they convert grass to milk very efficiently. The breed is also easy to calf and they have good longevity.
Wisconsin cow Kamina of Budjon Farms in Lomira, WI won the International Ayrshire Show at the World Dairy Expo held in Madison in September 2021. She won Senior and Grand Champion titles, the $1,000 Udder Comfort Grand Champion Cash Award and the Allen Hetts Grand Champion Trophy.
Top producing Ayrshires regularly exceed 20,000 pounds of milk in their lactations. The current world record for Ayrshire is held by Lette Farms Betty's Ida. In 305 days, on twice-a-day milking, she produced 37,170 pounds of milk and 1592 pounds of fat.
Staging out of Eau Claire, I have found it hard to find Ayrshires. The Wisconsin Ayrshire Breeders Association has said:
“Wisconsin is home to some of the most elite Ayrshire cattle – and Ayrshire breeders – in the United States. Whether it’s in the show ring or in the bulk tank, Wisconsin Ayrshires are leading the way! “
Wisconsin is an interesting place. I mentioned I had found its hard to find Ayrshire cattle when staging out of Eau Claire. Ewell, I was roaming around south of Osseo and decided without knowing anything to take a left off Hwy 53 and drive to the east. I came upon a farm and saw a farmer working outside. I asked him if he knew where I might find some Ayrshires. Ha, he said out there in my field! I was dumbstruck. I thanked God, got out of the car, and the farmer walked me to a gate and pointed them out to me. We had a great chat and I took some great photos.
As an aside, this farmer told me he loved the Ayrshires. He said they might not produce as much milk as other breeds, but his Ayrshires produce a very high quality milk and cheese, which buyers craved.