We keep getting asked why we chose to raise highland cows here vs all the other breeds out there. The simple answer is, Diane likes them. While serving in the US Air Force she spent a fair amount of time in Scotland and fell in love with the cows over there. They aren’t kawaii cute, but they are cute.
Other than cute, there are quite a few reasons to raise Highlands.
They give birth easily
Our first experience with birthing a baby happened just this year. We had done the research and understood that highland cows tend to have easy births. Fortunately, that was the case for us this time. No hassle and no drama for baby or mother.
Highland cows require very little “shelter”
Highlands are incredibly durable and adaptable. They are as comfortable as far north as Alaska where the snow and cold seem to have little effect on them and as far south as Texas and Louisiana where the heat can be brutal. Being here in Tennessee we don’t have either extreme to deal with and this allows to let the cattle roam and be as free range as they want. We are still going to be building a larger cattle barn for working with the cows and a few shelters, but they are happy to cruise around outside in all weather.
Highlands are more disease resistant than other breeds
It seems that the genetic makeup of the highland cow allows it to be more disease resistant than some of its over-bred siblings. They are often added to herds to help improve the genetic makeup of that herd. Also, because they are very hard to stress out, they are more resistant to stress-related diseases than other breeds.
They are slow growers
Highland cows generally are able to breed at about 18 months but we like to wait until 2 years. Other breeds such as Jerseys and Angus’ have been bred to reach puberty by 12 months to increase herd reproduction. Because they are slow growers they are also butchered at an older age. For example, some Angus crossbreeds are ready for the butcher as early as 14 to 18 months. Highlands take longer to mature and are generally held until 24 to 36 months.
An advantage of this and the fact that they have that long coat is that they marble very well as opposed to faster-growing breeds that become rather fatty. This leaner meat is healthier, lower in fat and cholesterol, and more tender than other breeds. Add to that the grass fed nature of our cows without all the grains and such they are healthier themselves.
Their size makes them perfect for cross breeding
Highland cows tend to be smaller than other breeds. When crossing a highland bull with a larger breed such as a Charolais or Angus you get a smaller baby being born to a larger cow making problems during birth almost non-existent. This is an avenue we intend to pursue in the future. Looking forward to it.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to choose highland cows. There are also a few drawbacks, the horns for one, but we are looking forward to learning along the way.