By Alan Timbrell, breed manager of the Ayrshire Cattle Society

Having just taken up the role of breed manager within the Ayrshire Cattle Society, I am looking forward to the many Challenges ahead.

I was raised on a dairy farm in the Cotswolds of England and the cow of choice for my father, Gordon, was the Ayrshire. That was 54 years ago and over that time I have seen the breed go through a lot of changes such as losing registrations during the 1970s and 1980s, mainly due to the bull calf trade of the time.

I still own the Millford herd of pedigree Ayrshires and this next year completes 65 years of the prefix being established.

Over the last 10 years there has been a resurgence of the Ayrshire breed, with many more herds being started up all over the country and in 2018 we saw a 17% growth in registrations in the UK.

The Ayrshire cow has many qualities which I think will help her over the coming years in what will be a challenging period for British agriculture. Many of our new breeders have been remarking that the Ayrshire cow is a less labour-intensive animal and we all know about labour shortages in the industry, so that is a real plus.

With all the talk of carbon footprints and global warming, milk buyers are going to be more wary of how milk is produced for their consumers and I feel it will be the way we, as a society together with producers, educate and help the general public understand what we do will make the biggest impact.

I know at the moment there is a lot of negative information being fed to and from the media, but the Ayrshire has everything that is wanted for a sustainable milk industry that the British consumer is asking for.

The breed’s greatest attributes are its longevity and ease of management, a cow that will withstand many setbacks and still get up and move on – rather like the British dairy industry. She is a very hardy cow that will graze even the poorest grass and turn this into milk and as we are told that, grass growth soaks up carbon which is good for the environment and the Ayrshire cow can utilise this.

She doesn’t need fancy products from around the world to do what she does best. She can survive on home-produced feeds that can be turned into a nutritious and wholesome product and that the consumers can be reassured that they get real quality milk and now with the arrival of sexed semen no longer dose the bull calf have negative impact on the breed.

I feel with all this in mind and the fluctuation in milk price in the last 10 years – and probably the next 10 years as well – that the Ayrshire cow as a type holds an answer for many dairy farmers home and abroad.

The aim of our society is to see this elegant red and white cow, called the Ayrshire, being talked about in the world as much as it was in my childhood days.