Ayrshires in America

by Clifford T. Conklin [American Dairy Cattle Their Past and Future by E. Parlamee Prentice. 1942]

Plans for introducing a new breed of live stock to a country are seldom made in advance. As a rule, the first specimens filter in with other commercial articles,a fter they have attracted the attention of a few enterprising or curious individuals, who make the first purchases. A dairy breed, like any other commodity, is thus given a trial. If it is economically successful and conditions are favorable, additional importations follow, and a breed becomes established. It was in this manner that the first Ayrshires were brought to America. Enterprising masters of sailing vessels, settlers moving to new frontiers, or the occasional traveller with means for making such purchases, were responsbile for introducing the Ayrshire to the United States.

Like other breeds, Ayrshires arrived here while dairying was in its primitive stages, and before it had become a great commercial industry. According to Plumb, the first Ayrshires were probably introduced early in the 19th century by Scottish settlers moving to Canada. Later, descendants from these cattle may have been shipped into northern New York and New England.
There is no evidence of specifi importations prior to 1822. In the Memoirs of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society for 1824, considerable discussion is devoted to breeds of cattle, yet the Ayrshire is not named. Colonel John Hare Powel John Hare Powell, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Society, who had studied the various breeds in Europe, wrote that he had traced every importation of European cattle of which he had heard, mentioning cattle of arious breeds taken to eight different States, with no Ayrshires, however, being included in any of these importations. In view of the youth of the breed in its native land, it seems quite reasonable to conclude that no Ayrshire had been brought to America before this time.
In 1822, the first definitely known importation of Ayrshire cattle was brought to the United States by Mr. Henry W. Hills, who sent them to the farm of Mr. Hezekiah Hills at Windsor, Connecticut. Apparently, they were later re-sold and mated with shorthorns and native cattle, so that they in no way contributed to the establishment of the breed.
From 1838 to 1844, inclusive, Captain George Randall, a sailing master of New Bedford, Massachusetts, made a series of five small importations which totaled eight head. Since in four of the shipments there were cows in milk, Captain Randall may have ad the double purpose of supplying the ship`s tables and improving his own herd, in which he took considerable pride.
Still another publication, Turf, Field and Farm, reported that Ayrshires were first introduced into this country in 1828, which is indicative that a shipment was made in that year. In 1831, reference is made to a full-blood Ayrshire cow being in the possession of a Dr. White of Dutchess County, New York. These shipments apparently had no lasting effect, except to acquanint a limited number of individuals with the characteristics of the breed.

Massachusetts becomes first Ayrshire center. In all probability, the first importations of any consequence were made in 1837 by J.P. Cushing of Watertown, Massachusetss, and by the Massachusetts Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, each involving four head. The latter organization was destined to become an important force for the advancement of the Ayrshire, as well as other breeds. The shipment of 1837 consisted of a bull and three cows. The bull was sent to the western part of the State and was kept near Pittsfield. One of the cows was placed in the care of Hon. P.C. Brooks at Medford; another in the care of Hon. Daniel webster at Marshfield; and the third of Mr. Elias Phinney at Lexington. This last, eighteen years old, was still living in 1847.
In 1845, this Society made its second importation, consisting of a bull Prince Albert and four cows. These animals were selected by Mr. Alexander Brickett of Lowell, and were placed on the farm of mr. Elias Phinney at Lexington.
In 1858, the Massachusetts Society again sendt to Scotland and this time, through Mr. Sanford  Howard, selected and imported four bulls and eleven heifers. Mr. Howard, an agricultural leader of his day, was on the staff of The Boston Cultivator, at that time one of the nation`s foremost agricultural periodicals, which encouragedd importations of purebred live stock. Mr. Howard was greatly interested in Ayrshires and wrote the Introduction to the Ayrshire Section of Volume I of the Herd Record, published by the Association of Breeders of Thorough-Bred Neat Stock, in which the pedigrees of the first Ayrshires were recorded. The bulls selected by Mr. Howard appear to have been Tam Sampson, Troon, Albert and Irvine. Kilmarnock and Young Cardigan were imported in their dams. All of these animals were from the herds of well-known breeders in Ayrshire.
Following their policy of attempting to improve the live stock of Massachusetts, the Society presented these pure-bred sires to the agricultural societies of Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester County, Essex, Hampden, Barnstable, Plymouth and Middlesex, all of which were then thriving organizations.

Very few importations before 1860.

Available records indicate that up until 1840, a total of only seventeen Ayrshires were introduced into The United States. During the next twenty years 1840-1860, there are records of additional importations of nearly two hundred head.
Undoubtedly the largest operators prior to 1860 were Mr. James Brodie of Rural Hill, New York, and Mr. H.H. Peters of Southborough, Massachusetts. The former acted as agent for several breeders, and played an important part in popularizing the breed in northern New York. He also exhibited his importations at the New York State Fair.
In 1858 Mr. Peters made his first impotation of four heifers through Mr. Sanford Howard, and the next year imported two bulls and twenty-one cows and heifers. The Peters herd was not only the first well-managed herd of Ayrshires of any size, but in 1864, was also the first to issue a catalogue giving the full details concerning the herd, and an interesting review of the business of an early Ayrshire breeder, from which we quote as follows:

I sold my herd last year, 29 head, which brought in the aggregate $4,800 (average $165). Nineteen cows and heifers brought $3.800 (average $200). The animals sold were taken into several of the New England States, though some were taken into the State of New York.

One of the outstanding members of Mr. Peters`herd was the cow, Jean Armor, Imp. That in 114 milking days gave an average of 49 pounds and 3 ounces of milk, ranging from 58 to 43 pounds. Her weight at the close of the trial was 967 pounds. That the hard-working Jean Armour was evidently somewhat smaller than other members of the herd, is indicated by the fact that when dressed for beef, Ada, also owned by Mr. Peters, had a carecass weighing882 pounds, tallow 111 pounds, hide 70 pounds, making a total of 1,009 pounds. Few Ayrshire cows of the present day would dress more.
On April 11, 1865, Mr. Peters dispersed his herd at auction which was undoubtedly the first Ayrshire auction sale held in this country. An indication of Mr. Peters` business may be gathered from the statement:

The sales of Ayrshires since my last statement, January 1, 1864, have exceeded $7,000 in amount for 46 animals, 20 bulls and 26 heifers, nearly all of which were quite young, many of them being calves. It should be understood that my herd is not in show condition, most of the cows having given large quantities of milk through the winter, of which my sales for the past five months, at five cents per quart have amounted to $1,330.
A full-blood steer, three years old March 5, 1865, now weighs 1,332 pounds and girths six feet and ten inches; had ever tasted meal until the middle of last November, and has made greater  increase of weight on less food, than either of fifteen grade and native animals fed by his side; these animals will be on exhibition at the sale.

Probably the first introduction of the breed in Kentucky was made by Mr. R.A. Alexander, who brought over some Ayrshires in 1855. At that time, Mr. Alexander`s Woodburn herd of Shorthorns and his stud of thoroughbred horses were nationally famous, and unfortunately his Ayrshires were so completely overshadowed that they eventually disappeared. However, New England continued to import the largest number of Ayrshires, with Mr. Sanford Howard serving as agent andleader of this movement.
Among the leading Canadian importers of this period were the Montreal Agricultural Society, and Mr. James Logan of Montreal, the Hochelaga Agricultural Society, and Mr. Dawes of La Chine, P.Q.,
Mr. N.S. Gibb of Compton, P.Q.,
Made a series of importations, the largest of which consisted of 21 head during 1870.
Six cows and a bull were also brought to Canada by Mr. William Gibson of Morrisburg, P.Q., who later sold two of the cows to Mr. J.T. Rutherford of Waddington, New York. In 1870 Mr. J.J.C. Abbott, of st. Anne`s near Montreal received ten head. Some of these Canadian-owned cattle later crossed the border.
In July, 1870, Mr. J.H. Morgan of Ogdensbur, New York, imported three cows and a bull. One of the group, Model of Perfection was later sold to Sturtevant Brothers, South Framingham, Massachusetts, for £1,000, the highest prie known to have been paid for an Ayrshire at that time, and undoubtedly close to a top figure for dairy cows of any breed at that time.

Sturtevants first breed publicists.
In 1869 the Sturtevant Brothers, Dr. E. Lewis sturtevant and Mr. Joseph N. Sturtevant, received eight cows from Scotland and proceeded to establish a herd that became a worthy successor to the Peters herd, that had been dispersed in 1865. In addition, the members of this firm published, in 1875, a volume entitled, A Monograph on the Ayrshire Breed of Cattle, which is one of the most complete sources of information on that period. In this book is a monthly report of the milk production of each member of their herd from 1867 to 1874, inclusive. In 1867, the twenty-five members of the grade herd that were on the farm prior to the introduction of the Ayrshires, averaged 4,675 pounds of milk - a sad commentary on the productivity of a herd that was kept under far better-than-average conditions of its day.
Obviously, the number of Ayrshires is the United States prior to 1870 was quite limited - probably not over 1,000 head - but at that time the strength of the Ayrshire was about on a par with that of the other dairy breeds. Beef was the major crop harvested from cattle herds. Shorthorns were booming, while breeders of dairy cattle were still in the dark as to the popularity that was to come to their herds.

Early breeders ignore expansion opportunities.

Unfortunately , Ayrshire interest, unlike those associated with the other breeds, were not organized to take advantage of the vast expansion of the dairy industry, that was to begin in the late seventies and the early eighties and to continue for the next forty years. Home butter-making, cooperative cheese factories and later creameries, as well as the steady progress made in the fluid milk trade, were all stimulating a demand for specialized dairy cattle, which only Europe could supply. Literally thousands of Holstein-Friesians and Jerseys, and later Guernseys, and a limited number of Brown Swiss, were imported to propagate their kind in every youthful but growingdaiary center, while Ayrshire importations showed but little increase.
Perhaps of even more far-reaching importance was the placing of other breeds on the fertile lands of the Midwest, where feed was abundant, while the majority of the Ayrshires remained on  rougher farms amid the sterner climatic conditions of New England.
A vivid picture of the status of the Ayrshire breed may be gathered from the fact that the tenth annual meeting of the Ayrshire Breeders` Association held on February 4, 1885, when plans were laid for its incorporation, revealed that the receipts from registrations during the year amounted to only $1,297,99, while the expenditures were $791,68. At this same meeting it was reported that 12,367 Ayrshires ahd been recorded since the establishment of the Herd Book.
Contrast these modest conditions with the fact that by that time about 10.000 Holstein-Friesians had been imported, most of them having come over during the previous eight years, and that from 6,000 to 9,000 were being recorded each year. Furthermore, by that time there had been registered just about 40,000 Jersey cattle. Just five years later, the officers of the thriving American Jersey Cattle Club voted to appropriate $10,000 for a demonstration herd at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, a project in which $23,000 was invested by the Club before it was concluded.

Establishment of the Herd Book.

The first registration of Ayrshires in the United States was included in the Herd Book of the Association of Breeders of Thorough-Bred Neat Stock, Hartford, Connecticut, which included not only Ayrshires, but also Shorthorns, Devons, Jerseys, Alderneys and Herefords. This method was followed until May, 1875, when Dr. E. Lewis sturtevant and Mr. Jospeh N. Sturtevant issued a herd book known as the North American Ayrshire Register.
Since the publication of two books caused considerable confusion, the newly-organized association of Ayrshire Breeders, at their meeting in Albany, New York, on January 21, 1875, decided that an official Ayrshire Herd Record should be established under the control of the Association. This publication has been continued witthout interruption through to the present time.
The demand from importers, as well as a desire on the part of the Scottish breeders to establish their own book, resulted in founding the Scottish Ayrshire Herd Book Society on June 26, 1877. The Canadian Herd Record, which was originally a part of the Amerian book, has for yearsbeen established asa separate publication.
On November 23, 1886, the Ayrshire Breeders` Assocation was incoporated under the laws of the State of Vermont. The first secretary of the Association was Mr. J.R. Stuyvesan, who was elected at the organization meeting in 1875, and who resigned later that year to be succeeded by Mr. J.D. W. French. Mr. French served until 1882, when he was succeeded by Mr. C.M. Winslow, who was Secretary for thirty-six years, until his death in 1918. Mr. Winslow established his herd in 1873, and was an active breeder until his death. In addition to serving as Secretary, he was one of the leading early breeders, with a wide following in dairy cattle circles.
From all indications, the outstanding Ayrshire cow in the United States prior to 1900 was Duchess of Smithfield, owned by Mr. H.R.C. Watson of Brandon, Vermont, and New York. In 1885, this cow was reported to have produced 10.748 pounds of milk in 301 days.

Breed population 11,000 in 1900.

At the beginning of the century, there were about 11,000 Ayrshires in the United States, of which only about 1,400 were west and south of Pennsylvania. In the light of later developments, this was almost a crushing handikap, for the other dairy breeds were then widely scattered over an area that was later to furnish the bulk of America`s domestic and export dairy products.
However, under the leadership of Secretary Winslow, supported by loyal, hard-working northeastern farmers, the breed made progress, even though its orgnization program was most conservative. The first important breed display had been made at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where the conformation and shapely udders of the Ayrshire attracted no small amount of attention. This show, which brought together the more stylish and lighter coloured Scottish-bred cattle from Canada, in contrast with the plainer,d arker-coloured and much smaller New England entries, caused quite a rift in breed circles, while helping to establish new type standards, which were rather far-reaching.
The Chicago show of Ayrshires was almost immediately followed by classifications at other fairs, with the result that the breed was presented over a much broader area, which undoubtedly stimulated popularity.

Home test established in 1884.
In 1884, the first steps were taken to recognize production, as $225 was voted by the Ayrshire Breeders`s Association for six annual prizes - three prizes of $50 each for the most milk, butter or cheese made by herds of six cows, as well as prizes of $25 each for the most mil, butter or cheese made by single cows. These were home tests, in which the owners`s records were accepted. In the years that followed, the results of these tests were widely published in the Agricultural press, and whereas they id not compare in numbers nor amounts with those of some of the other breeds, it was a start which helped the breed and commanded considerable attention.

Advanced Registry founded in 1902.
In 1902, the Ayrshire breeders followed the exaample of the other breeds and established an Advanced Registry, which gradually increased in importance and continued to stimulate interest in higher production. It was based on 365-day records, with no calving requirements, and reached its peak between 1915-1918.

Progressive influence brings tardy expansion. Fortunately, during the first two decades of the 20th century, a more progressive Ayrhisre movement was launched as a group of men trained in business established herds, some of which were destined to become the leaders in breed improvement. With the inclination and the ability to assemble and develop outstanding herds, these breeders searched through both Canada and the United States for the best cattle that were available. In addition, several of them became interested in importing some of the best stock available in Scotland. Repeated inspection trips were made to the homeland of the breed, and with the animals that were brought over, came a splendid group of Scottish cattlemen, who have distinguished themselves in positions of responsibility, where they have contributed much to the progress of the breed.

Conspicuous among the herds that came into existence with this progressive period prior to 1925, and whose influence is still being felt, are the following:
R.R. Ness & Sons, Burnside Farm, Howick, Quebec, Canada (1893 -   )
John R. Valentine, Highland Farm, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (1894-1927)
Lawrence A. Reymann, Hill Top Farm, Wheeling, West Virginia (1897 - continued as Reymann Memorial herd)
W.P. Schanck, Avon, New York (1899-1938)
Percival Roberts, Jr., Penshurst Farm, Narberth, Pennsylvania (1906-1938)
George H. Converse, Woodville, New York (1906-1925)
A.B. McConnell & Sons, Wellington, Ohio (1906- )
George H. McFadden, Barclay Farms, Rosemont, Pennsylvania (1906-1925)
J.W. Clise, Willowmoor Farm, Redmond, Washington (1906-1919)
Leonard Tufts, Pinehurst Farm, Pinehurst, North Carolina (1908 --)
Adam Seitz & Sons, Waukesha, Wisconsin (1908- )
Arthur H. Sagendorph, Alta Crest Farms, Spencer, Massachusetts (1909- )
Hugh J. Chisholm, Strathglass Farm, Port Chester,, New York (1911- )
Gilbert McMillan, Springburn Farm, Huntingdon, Quebec, Canada (1911- )
H.A: Mosees, Woronoco, Massachusetts (1912- )
 R.L. Montgomery, Ardrossan Farm, Ithan, Pennsylvania (1912- )
Mrs. E.R. Fritsche, Sycamore Farms, Douglassville, Pennsylvania (1912-1940);
A. Henry Higginson, Middlesex Meadows Farms, South Lincoln, Massachusetts (1913-)
F. Ambrose Clark, Iroquois Farm, Cooperstown, New York (1914- )
J. Henry Stewart, Bath, New York (1914- )
J.W. Hanner, Bryndune Ayrshire Farm, Elk Grove, California (1915- )
Robert L. Knight, Lippitt Farm, Hope, Rhode Island (1916- )
E.W. Van Tassell, Wenatchee, Washington (1917- )
L.A. Johnson, Mesa, Arizona (1918-)
J.M. Cochrane, Bath, New York (1918- )
W.T. Tonner, Glen Foerd Farms, Torresdale, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1919- )
J.W. Alsop, Wood Ford Farm, Avon, Connecticut (1919- )

Through the work of these breeders, a high percentage of the breed`s leading record cows and Advanced Registry sires has been developed. They have also been most active in displaying heir cattle and in generally promoting the interests of the breed. Several of these, including Mr. Hugh J. Chisholm, Mr. Arthur H. Sagendorph and Mr. Percival Roberts, Jr., were most active making periodic importations from Scotland.

Herd Test established in 1925.

After some two years of consideration and debate, the Ayrshire Herd Test plan was adopted in 1925. It was based on the principle that every registered female of milking owned by a breeder must be kept on test as long as th herd is enrolled. Following a system in which it had been customary to test the better producers and to ignore production records for others, this type of test wasconsidered revolutionary. However, it has not only stood the test of time , but it is now the most popular type of test, with practically all breeds.
It is interesting to note that the Herd Test was virtually a reaction against the high-pressure methods of record making that were in vogue up to about 1920. Ayrshire breeders had learned from experience that their highest record cows were not reproducing as regularly as those that were not forced, and that the cumulative production of these animals was not proportionate to the highest records. The first reaction against the 365-day test was to ban it in 1925 and to substitute for it a 305-day Roll of Honor record, for which a cow coul d not qualify except by meeting production requirements and dropping a living claf.ALthough this was a step in the general direction favored by Ayrshire breeders, the herd test was really the objective desired.
Evidence of the whole-hearted manner with which Ayrshire breeders have adopted the principle of Herd Testing may be gathered from the fact that there are 14.154 registered Ayrshires enrolled in dairy herd improvement associations. In addition there are 5,085 Ayshires entered in the Herd Test, of which about 2,000 are not testing through local testing associations. It is therefore conservatively estimated that there are 16,000 Ayrshires under supervised test.
Since there were about 16,000 calves registered during 1940, it seems reasonable to believe that after allowing for cows that gave birth to bull calves that are not registered, at least 40% of the registered Ayrshire females of milking age are on test.
Herd Test records are being used widely for breed-improvement purposes. Practically all prospective herd sires are now selected with these records as a guide.

Approved Sire plan adopted.

One of the most important project recently undertaken by the Ayrshire Breeders` Association is its Approved Sire plan. This projectbased on some ten years of personal study by Mr. Leonard Tufts of Pinehurst, North Carolina, has been adopted for the purpose of analyzing the transmitting ability of Ayrshires sires.
In order to gain Approved rating, there must be a comparison of a complete sample of at least ten daughter-dam pairs (a complete sample consists of 10 registered daughters in the order of their birth. No exceptions are made for those that die before freshening or that are sold into the herds of non-testers.); all tested daughters of a sire must average at least 8,500 lbs of milk or 30 lbs fat with an average butterfat test of not less than 3.9%; a sire must have an index of not less than 8,500 lbs. milk or 340 lbs fat and a butter-fat test index of not less than 3.9%; and not less than 70% of all the tested daughters must each make 8,500 lbs milk or 340 lbs fat.
All records used in this pln are compared to a mature equivalent 305-day lactation basis on two milkings daily by the use of standard factors approved by the Bureau of Dairy Industry, United States Department of Agriculture. Except under unususal circumstances, records of daughters used are limited to those made in the Herd Test, and only when necessary are Advanced Registry records of the dams used.

Greatest progress in last quarter century

From the foregoing, it seems obvious that even though Ayrshires were introduced more than seventy-five- years ago, the major amount of breed progress has been made during the past quatrer century. With 11,220 head at the beginning of the century, 30,619 in 1920, and 85,204 in 1940, it will be noted that numerically the breed has advanced in spite of economic considtion that have prevailed in the dairy industry.
Most of the breeds` more recent growth has been in the Midwest and the upper South. Among the factors responsbile for this growth has been the changing standards of retail milk markets, with a tendency to rquire milk testing 4%. This in itself has greatly stimulated interest in the Ayrshire breed, which has consistently averaged 4,04% during the past fifteen years.
The nation-wide swing away from high individual records and the growing interest in herd averages made under practical farm conditions, have also been extremely beneficial to Ayrshire interests. No doubt the tendency for dairymen to reduce production costs by making greater use of pastures and roughage while limiting the feeding of concentrates, has resulted in the establishment of many Ayrshire herds.

Common sense on conformation
Distinctly differing from other breeds in conformation, the ayrshire has for many years enjoyed a very favorable reputation because of its distinctive type. No doubt he physical characteristics of the breed have won for it many friends and have helped in making sales. Fortunately, parallel with the desire of the Ayrshire breeder to maintain the highest standards of conformation, there has developed an increasing tendency to stress the utility value of their cattle and critically to select breeding stock on this basis.
The importance of well attached udders and the correct conformation of feet and legs in contributing to wearing qualities are still emphasized. On the other hand, there are at present no fads or prejudices concerning colour, although of course there are individual preferences. The socalled vesseltype Ayrshire is acceptable only when her shapliness of udder is matched by creditable production.
Although horns have been a distinctive Ayrshire characterstic for many years, in 1931 members of the Ayrshire Breeders` Association revised the score card by adding the following clause: An animal that has been cleanly and neatly dehorned, and whose head shows true Ayrshire character, shall not be penalized. Since then, several dehorned animals have won championships at leading fais, including the Dairy Cattle Congress.
Ayrshire breeders have also taken the initiative in abandoning a score card for bulls. This conclusion was reached after careful consideration and a frank expression of opinion by the members of the committee to the effect that they were not competent to recommend physical  characteristics of a dairy sire that were in any way indicative of his ability to transmit production, not even some of the more important physical characteristics, to his daughters.
At a meeting of the directors of the Association held in November 1940, it was unanimously voted to request all fairs to discontinue to provide a class for aYrshire bulls either three years old or four years old and over. This step was taken because Ayrshire breeders have concluded that the results of showing aged bulls have been economically and genetically disappointing.

Apparently Ayrshire breeders are devoting themselves wholeheartedly to a program of breed and herd improvement. With considerable independence of thought, they have not become enthusiastic about the occasional high record made under forced conditions. Herd averages are their criterion, and these averages permit no exemption of cows as nurse cows, nor because of unsoundness. Sires are given an Approved rating only aftera most exacting study of the whereabouts and records of every daughter standing to their credit on the Association`s books. Life-time records, a field in which the breed stands second to none, are in the opinion of Ayrshire breeders, evidence that there is a reward for continuing to breed a sturdy, wellmade cow.

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