This summer, a small group of concerned Ayrshire breeders officially launched Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative with the intent to help secure the future of Ayrshire breeding.
Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative seeks to grow the breed by advocating for genomic research, marketing the breed, and connecting knowledgeable Ayrshire breeders and dairy farmers with prospective breeders and farmers.
In a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Ayrshire Breeders Foundation, breeders expressed a desire to raise awareness of the breed and its desirable production attributes, with the ultimate goal of increasing in numbers and becoming more competitive in the dairy market. The Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative seeks to achieve this shared goal.
Breeders believe wholeheartedly in the Ayrshire's potential to regain relevance along with national recognition for its economic advantages. In addition, they share an excitement about opportunities to excel in both the commercial dairy market, and in niche markets that place a high value on grazing systems, sustainability and direct-to-consumer marketing of whole milk and/or cheese, including organic Ayrshire milk products, and animal rights' desire for naturally polled animals.
Ayrshire numbers have been falling steadily in the United States. Annual registrations have been cut in half since 1970, and the breed now numbers about 28,000 nationwide. Ayrshires account for just 0.3 percent of the American dairy herd.
Despite declining numbers, the average milk production and solids percentage per Ayrshire cow is steadily increasing. The average Ayrshire is producing more than 17,600 pounds. Overwhelmingly, breeders believe marketing, research, and networking-all goals of the cooperative-are keys to advancement of the breed.
Why a Cooperative?
Cooperatives are common within the agricultural community because they help to empower small operations like family farms through the power of partnership. Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack highlighted these key benefits of cooperatives:
- Cooperatives unite their member-owners in pursuit of common goals, helping both producers and individual consumers gain marketplace power
- Cooperatives are member-owned and member-controlled, and operate for the benefit of their member-owners and their business communities
- Cooperatives stimulate economic growth and improve the quality of life for member-owners and consumers
The cooperative model has proven effective in many specific agricultural market segments. Now, through the Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative, breeders and other Ayrshire enthusiasts can work together to achieve common goals.
What the Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative Offers
While still in its infancy, the Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative offers numerous opportunities to its members as it strives to secure a better future for the Ayrshire breed. For example:
- The website (www.ayrshireambassadors.org) serves as an online hub for our member-owners and a marketing vehicle for prospective breeders seeking resources on Ayrshires and dairy farming.
- A database has been built to reach Ayrshire breeders, the agricultural media, and other key audiences who can contribute to the cooperative's success.
- Mentors are available as personal contacts to new breeders and farmers who are considering Ayrshires for their herd. *Some positions are still available.
How to Get Involved
You can play a role by getting involved in the following ways:
- Become a mentor for new Ayrshire breeders
- Join the cooperative and take advantage of the opportunity to promote your farm in the directory
- Sign up at www.ayrshireambassadors.org to receive updates about sales, important news, and future collaborative advertising and marketing opportunities
For more information about getting involved in the Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative, breeders and other Ayrshire enthusiasts are ecouraged to visit the website at www.ayrshireambassadors.org, like the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ayrshireambassadors, or contact John Rodgers directly at (717) 250-8010.
Founded in 2016, Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative seeks to make owning Ayrshires an accessible, desirable, and profitable experience. The cooperative brings together individuals, families, farmers, and others who share a passion for Ayrshires and will work collaboratively to ensure the future of the breed.