Why Ayrshires are the Best Option According to Terri Lawton

Todays’ dairy farmers are subject to ebbs and flows of the market, and it’s no secret that the profit margin is continually shrinking, to the point where farmers may not break even. Terri Lawton of Foxboro, MA grew up watching her dad struggle to make ends meet, but she had bigger ambitions for herself. She knew from the start she didn’t want to take the shamefully low milk price. Today, thanks to her determination, she runs her own raw milk dairy (Oake Knoll Ayrshires) and the Foxboro Cheese company, making a profit margin that can support a family and employees.

And at the core of her success is her even-tempered, efficient Ayrshire herd.

Though her dad milked Holsteins, Terri was drawn to Ayrshires early on.

“Many of the farmers I visited in college told me Ayrshire milk was higher quality, more easily digested, and made better cheese,” she recalls.

This was also later confirmed by farmers that she visited as a State Dairy Inspector for Massachusetts.

In the early days, to supplement the cheese-making business she aspired to, she started selling raw milk and quickly received positive feedback from her customers.

“My customers said they liked my milk better than other farms that had Holsteins or Jerseys,” she says. “They told me it had a sweeter taste and was easier to drink. My customer base grew exponentially—people were driving two hours just to buy milk from my cows.”

The better quality milk, combined with the fact that her cows are on rotational grazing, gave Terri the competitive advantage she needed to succeed.

“It was easier to keep my market share when I was competing against farmers milking other breeds,” she says.

“For example, Jersey milk is thicker and some people find it harder to drink.”

When it comes to making aged cheese, Terri is partial to using raw milk.

“When you’re making a hard cheese, raw milk produces a better quality cheese with wilder flavors, making it truly unique,” she explains.

Terri also swears by using Ayrshire milk for cheese-making. She noticed when her class made cheese with Jersey milk at the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese, the milk wanted to form clots of butter, which they had to remove from the cheese vat. Ayrshire milk naturally has smaller fat molecules, which are better for making cheese.

“Ayrshires are the ideal cow for any kind of niche dairy business,” Terri says. “Communicating that is really important because making raw cheese with Jersey milk, for example, just doesn’t make sense. I would always point any micro-dairy toward Ayrshires.”

But it’s not just their quality milk that attracts Terri to Ayrshires.

“I prefer their temperament,” she admits. “They’re also good grazers and convert grass into milk efficiently.”

In addition, Terri has made an effort to shape her herd to fit her vision.

“I’ve worked hard to breed cows that produce milk with 4% or higher fat,” she explains. “All of my cows are purebred, and I’m picking bulls and cows that are best for my business—those that produce milk that is sweet and easy to drink and has a good cheese yield.”

In fact, she doesn’t necessarily go to AI companies to find the semen she wants.

“I’d rather use a privately collected bull that has the traits I’m looking for, even if I have to pay extra to have the semen shipped across the country,” she explains.

Thanks to this opportunity, she has bred a herd that she’s truly proud of and achieves her objectives. And despite higher prices than you find in grocery stores, Terri’s customers are willing to pay a little more money for a better quality product.

How to Get in Touch with Terri

Terri is happy to share her wisdom with others looking to get into the raw milk industry or value-added products. She is an experienced consultant for the Farm Viability Program operated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and private businesses setting up cheese-making and other dairy products and managing human relations.

Terri is also a mentor for Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative in raw milk sales and cheese-making. Reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (774) 444-5824.