In the 1800s some areas in south-west Scotland had grown famous for their dairy produce, especially the butter from towns like Stewarton and Dunlop. In the later decades of that century dairy production increased sharply. A new crop-rotation system meant that there was now a lot of land lying under grass for much of the time which led to increased amounts of land for grazing. This, coupled with the cropping of hay, proved an incredible boost to meat and dairy production.

In an attempt to boost productivity, a few local landowners in Ayrshire brought Dutch cattle into the area from England and bred them with the local breed, which resulted in beasts which were noted for their milk yield and proved so popular that they spread across Ayrshire and into Dumfries and Galloway and other adjacent counties within a few years. Originally known as Dunlop or Cunninghame cattle they were eventually to be called Ayrshire cattle and now meet the needs of dairy farmers throughout the British Isles and further afield. Thanks to this new breed of dairy cattle the town of Dunlop in North Ayrshire became internationally renowned for its cheese. 

The cheese grew popular at the markets which had sprung up by the beginning of the 19th century, and soon south-west Scotland was famous for its cheese throughout Great Britain. A dairy association was created in 1884 for the purpose of improving cheese manufacture. Ayrshire farms also escaped much of the hardships faced by farms elsewhere in Britain by specialising, with most concentrating solely on dairy production. Most cheese production in the area mirrored the Dunlop process but after a while some copied a process of cheese-making from Cheshire. Eventually most manufacturers made a type of cheese similar to that from the area surrounding Bath. This became known as Ayrshire Cheddar. In 1889 a school for dairying was set up at  Kilmarnock which was later to become the Dairy School for Scotland. 

During the 20th century several changes occurred. Oats which had been the main crop and staple ingredient of the region's diet in past centuries were being grown less and less which left far more free land for cattle grazing. The production of cheese was replaced largely with dairy farms now concentrating on the production of liquid milk and cream.

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