1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > Cattle Breeds - (b) Dairy Breeds

(Part 81)


Cattle Breeds - (b) Dairy Breeds

The dairy breeds of cattle next claim our attention for although cattle of all breeds are used for this purpose, there are several which are cultivated chiefly, if not exclusively, because of their fitness for it. Dairy husbandry is prosecuted under two very different and well-defined classes of circumstances. In or near towns, and in populous mining and manufacturing districts, it is carried on for the purpose of supplying families with new milk. In the western half of Great Britain, and in many upland districts, were the soil and climate are more favourable to the productions of grass and other green crops than of corn, butter and cheese constitute the staple products of the husbandman. The town dairy man looks to quantity rather than quality of milk, and seeks for cows which are large milkers, which are long in going dry, and which can be readily fattened when their daily yield of milk falls below the remunerative measure. Large cows, such as short-horns and their crosses are accordingly his favourites. In the rural dairy, again the merits of a cow are estimated by the weight and quality of the cheese or butter which she yields, rather than by the mere quantity of her milk. The breeds that are cultivated expressly for this purpose are accordingly characterized by a less fleshy and robust build than is requisite in grazier’s cattle. Of these we select for special notice the Ayrshire of the Suffolk dun, and the Jersey breeds.

The Ayrshires, by common consent, now occupy the very first rank as profitable dairy cattle. From the pains which have been taken to develop their milk yielding power it is now of the highest order. Persons who have been conversant only with grazing cattle cannot be surprised at the strange contrast between the Ayrshires cows in full milk and the forms of cattle which have been used to regard as most perfect. Her wide pelvis, deep flank and enormous udder, with its small wide-set teats, seem out of proportions to her fine bone and slender forequarters. As might be expected the breed possesses little merit from grazing purposes. Very useful animals are, however, obtained by crossing these cows with a short horn bull, and these practice is now rather extensively pursued in the West of Scotland by farmers who combine dairy husbandry with the fattening of cattle. The function of the Ayrshire cattle is, however the dairy. For this they are unsurpassed, either as respect the amount of produce yielded by them in proportion of the food which they consume, of the faculty which they possess of converting the herbage of poor exposed soils, such as abound in their native district into butter and cheese of the best quality.

The county of Suffolk has for centuries been celebrated for its dairy produce, which is chiefly obtained from a polled breed of cattle, the prevailing colour of which is dun or pale red, from which they are known as the Suffolk Duns. They have a strong general resemblance to the Scotch polled cattle, but nevertheless seem to be indigenous to Suffolk. They are ungainly in their form and of the repute with the grazier, but posses an undoubted capacity of yielding a large quantity of milk production to the food which they consume. They are now encroached upon by, and will probably give place to, the short-horns, by which they are decidedly excelled for the combined purposes of the dairy and the fattening stall.

The breeds are already referred to a are those to which professional dairymen give the preference, but the cattle of the Channel Island of which the Jersey may be regarded as the type, are so remarkable for the choice quality of the cream and butter obtained from their rather scanty yield of milk, that they are eagerly sought after for private dairies, in which quality of produce is more regarded as quantity. The rearing of heifers for the English market is of such importance to this island that very stringent regulations have been adopted for insuring the purity of their peculiar breed. This cattle in general are utterly worthless for the purposes of the grazier. The choice specimen of the Jersey have a certain deer-like form which gives them a pleasing aspect. The race as a whole, bears a striking resemblance to the Ayrshire, which are alleged to owe their peculiar excellences to an early admixture of Jersey blood.

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