We recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of ours and purchased two yearling calves for our homestead. It’s been a mission of ours for a long time to raise ALL of our own meat and beef was the last item we needed to check off our list. Plus, our farm didn’t feel like a real farm without cows!
Most of the time when you see Americans raising beef cows they are typically Angus, Herefords, limousines, or some other breed well known for quick beef. That’s why I think everyone was surprised to learn that we decided to raise Scottish Highlands! You see, Highland cattle look considerably different than the cows on your average farm. First of all they are in my opinion, a million times more adorable! They have long shaggy hair, long horns, and short, stocky bodies. Often the young calves are so fuzzy and small they look like teddy bears! Their unusual long hair keeps them warm in cold months and protects them from flys and mosquitos during the warmer months. Because of their shockingly different appearance, we have lots of people stop and ask us, “what kind of cows are those?”.
Let me start by giving you a little background on Scottish Highland cows…
As you might have already figured out, this breed of cows originated from Scotland. Go figure! They are also one of the oldest registered breed of cattle in the world.
Unlike many Americanized breeds of cattle, Highlands do great in rough country, mountains, thick woodlands, and cold climates. They forage on shrubs and other plants that most other breeds would consider undesirable. For this reason they do wonderful on pasture and raised as grass fed beef. While known for being raised primarily for beef, they can also be used as milk cows on a small scale, making them suitable as the perfect homestead cow.
Highland cattle are what we would consider “slow growing”. They aren’t meant to be pounded with feed grain and turned over for meat quickly like many other breeds we see today. They also do not grow as large as most beef production cattle. Some people see that as a negative attribute, but because their long hair keeps them warm in the winter, they don’t have to grow as much fat as other breeds to stay warm. Thus, their meat is leaner and there’s less waste. Their slow growing process allows for better naturally marbled meat that often grades out as premium. I’ve heard stories that the Queen of England has her own herd of highland cattle and that it’s the only beef she will eat! Fancy! Highland cattle are also well known for being a more docile breed. So far I believe this to be true. Our cows are very friendly and for the most part very calm. They allow us to pet them, scratch their heads, and they eat treats out of our hands. It’s also a big bonus that they don’t do a lot of testing boundaries. And by boundaries, I mean Fence, and that’s always a big plus for farmers and ranchers. There’s nothing less appealing than chasing run away cattle all over creation!
Currently we have two heifer yearlings. It’s our plan to breed them next spring and raise their calves for beef. It’s also a long term goal of ours to grow our herd and work our way into a niche market. The reality is, we are a small starter farm and we simply cannot compete with these large farms and ranches that quickly turn over Angus and Herefords and so forth. Plus, it’s more our style to go a little against the grain! We’re shooting for high end restaurants and swanky butcher and grocery shops! It might take us a bit to make it there, but we will enjoy every step of the journey!
In a world full of Angus, be a Highland!