This letter was taken from The Scottish Farmer of April 16, 1921. Several entire copies of the newspaper from that year and 1920 have been sent to our office after being found as part of a house clearance. We hope to use more topical letters from them in the coming weeks and months – and sometimes there is nothing new under the sun!

Sir, – From letters that have appeared lately it is evident that some people are still in favour of judging Ayrshire cattle by points and would go the length of allowing from 75-90 points for milk production, and only 10-25 for form, symmetry, constitution etc.

Anyone who understands all the ins and outs of the case, must know perfectly well that to do anything of the kind would be the ruination of the breed. If the records that we hear about were all made under normal conditions and were the natural yields of the cows, there might not be so much harm done; but as long as so many different ways are open to create abnormal yields, this system can never be adopted with justice to the animals competing, or with the safety of the breed.

It is well enough known that a cow's yield can be increased in different ways, such as giving her an excess amount of rich concentrated food, by giving her her own milk to drink or by her having only two calves in three or four years.

Even a cow coming into milk in December or January, and milked three times a day, will give more than one calving in April or May and milked only twice daily, as the former gets the benefit of the full flow of rich grass at the time when she would be beginning to fail in her yield; whereas the later calver both the milk yield and the richness of the pasture begin to fade at about the same time.

Now, suppose a cow kept under natural conditions and having a calf every 12 months, gave 600 gallons in one lactation of 42 weeks; and in the first 42 weeks of her next lactation, by giving her her milk to drink and keeping her free of calf for two years, you increased her yield to 900 gallons, would it be just to put this cow in front of one giving 800 gallons under natural conditions, their other points being equal?

Or does any sane man imagine that a bull from this forced cow would breed a 900-gallon cow under normal conditions?

This sort of thing has already done considerable harm to the breed and has caused much disappointment to breeders who have given enhanced prices for bulls from dams with high records that were not made under normal conditions.

Some time ago, in an article you said that 'the system of judging as applied at the New Show at Ayr was at fault, the blame did not lie with the Executive of the Herd Book Society, but with those that forced a compromise.'

If by this you mean that the supporters of the old type of cow and the old way of judging were to blame, I am afraid I must take leave to differ on this point as I understand those in favour of the old style were opposed to the whole movement and left everything in the hands of the promoters of the new system. I rather think you will admit that the result has proved conclusively that those who favoured the old way are entirely in the right.