Originating from the rugged, harsh Scottish Highlands in the north of Scotland, Scottish Highland cattle are beautiful and delight all ages where ever they are seen, whether in the field or at the fair. This ancient breed, known for its shaggy hair coat and graceful horns, is beloved by Queen Elizabeth of England, who maintains her own “fold,” or herd, for the table at Balmoral Castle.
Here are some reasons we love Scottish Highland cattle:
- Calving ease – with the average calf weighing 65 lbs at birth, fewer than 1% of Scottish Highland cows require assistance at calving time.
- Great mothering insticts – the Highland mother is a strong protector of her calf, reducing losses to predators like coyotes.
- Double hair coat – all that hair means a thinner external fat layer over the meat, leading to less carcass waste and leaner meat.
- Browsing ability – Highlands enjoy and utilize forages unsuitable for most other breeds, such as blackberries, scotch broom, and deciduous trees, making them a great choice for clearing “unusable” land.
- Gentle temperament – in spite of their horns, most Highlands, male and female, are easy to handle. The early Scots kept them in part of their winter homes for warmth!
- Hardiness – their double coat is insulating and water resistant, helping Highlands stay comfortable in nasty weather and reducing their need for shelter. In summer the coat sheds to help them acclimate to hot, sunny days.
- Longevity – Highland cows can breed up to 20 years of age, producing more calves than most breeds.
- Beef quality – with less fat and lower cholesterol, Highland beef is not only a healthy choice, but a flavorful and savory one, too. Highlands can be finished on grain or grass, resulting in different flavors.
- Other marketable products – Highland horns and hides provide another value-added, unique product.
While many ranchers raise purebred Highland herds, the breed’s unique traits are also proving attractive to commercial beef operations striving to improve the forage utilization and hardiness and decrease problems at calving time.