Posted Jul 18, 2014
We run a small homestead and milk one or two cows just for milk and dairy for the home, no commercial sales (although I have worked on large dairies in the past).
For us we look for a cow with good health, good feed conversion, and efficiency. We don't try to push our cows to make all the milk they possibly can, because we simply don't need that much, and so our cows live pretty stress-free. We expect a decent production on good feeds but without having to push high-priced grains too much. In fact our cows milk primarily on a high-quality, high-protein balage from an excellent local farmer and are only supplemented with grain to keep tone and condition.
The Ayrshire we had here was a show cow of our niece. She was a pretty, big girl who gave a moderate amount of milk. She milked somewhere around the same but normally less than our Jersey given the same diet and conditions (in fact she got more grain for her size). The milk quality was good but her solids were softer and a bit less than the Jersey. I wouldn't complain about it in the least and she made tasty sweet fluid milk, but wasn't quite up to par with the Jersey for things like butter, cream, and cheese. She also dropped off in production much faster in her lactation.
Overall, she was a good cow but for our purposes we felt we were feeding a lot of body for a smaller milk return, and she just wasn't the most efficient cow we could keep, so in the long run she made our milk supply more expensive. She looks good in the show ring, though ;)