With its distinctive color pattern resembling an Oreo cookie, the Belted Galloway cow is one of the most instantly recognizable cattle breeds anywhere! This hardy breed of cow is rapidly increasing in popularity for many reasons, and you might be considering adding them to your homestead herd. But are Oreo cows a good choice for smaller cow herds, and are they easy to keep? Let’s find out!
- What Breed Is the Oreo Cow?
- What Are Oreo Cows Good For?
What Breed Is the Oreo Cow?
Have you ever heard people discussing Oreo cows and had no idea what they meant? This cute nickname refers to Belted Galloways, an iconic breed of beef cattle with fabulously distinctive coloring.
Belted Galloways, or Belties, have a wide, white stripe or belt of color around the entire midsection of their bodies. The rest of the coat over the forequarters, head, neck, rump, and legs is either solid black, red, or dun. The result is a cow highly reminiscent of an Oreo – two delicious cookies with a decadent cream filling sandwiched in the middle!
|Nicknames:||Oreo Cookie Cow, Belties, Sheeted Galloway|
|Cow Weight:||Up to 1,300 pounds|
|Bull Weight:||Up to 2,200 pounds|
|Mature Cow Cost:||Around $4,000 or $5,000|
|Uses:||Meat, ornamental, weed management|
|Coat Color:||Red, Dun, or Black double-coat with a broad white middle belt – or stripe.|
|Description:||Medium-sized. Naturally hornless. Thick, curly hair.|
|Characteristics:||Friendly, docile, survives harsh conditions, winter-hardy, excellent foragers.|
Where Do Oreo Cows Come From?
The name Belted Galloway derives from their area of origin – Galloway, in the far southwestern corner of Scotland. Galloway cows are one of the oldest cattle breeds in the world. They were allegedly selectively bred as far back as the eighteenth century. Back then, Galloway cattle came in many color variations, but breeders preferred solid colors and would tend to select these cattle to breed from.
It is unclear how the belted appearance came into being. But many cattle enthusiasts believe their famous stripe design to be due to cross-breeding the solid-colored Galloways with Dutch Lakenvelder belted cows. This unique breeding resulted in the classic wide white belt around the abdomen, giving rise to their famous Belted Galloway monicker. Belties were becoming more popular by the twentieth century – and Belted Galloway enthusiasts established a local breed registry around this time.
It wasn’t until later in the twentieth century that the Belted Galloway began to gain popularity worldwide. They started getting exported to Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Brazil, and across Europe. Advocates of this majestic breed formed The American Belted Galloway Breeders Society in 1951. (They are now called the Belted Galloway Society.)
Belted Galloway breed societies have tremendously strict guidelines about which cattle can meet the guidelines as true Belties. The band of white fur must completely encircle the middle section of the cow, extending no further forward than the shoulder and no further back than the hind legs. The rest of the body must be solid in color – either black, red, or dun. Any colored flecks on the white belt or white markings on the black coat mean the animal is not eligible for registration as a Beltie.
How Big Is a Galloway Cow?
Belted Galloways have a medium-sized cattle classification. Adult females weigh around 1,000 pounds, while adult bulls can tip the scales at 1,600 pounds.
Although this might sound like an immense weight, it is considerably lighter than many commercially reared cattle breeds. Their medium size has earned the Beltie a reputation as a light grazer, as their lower body weight means they inflict less damage on precious grazing land.
Are Belted Galloways Aggressive?
Belted Galloways have a calm and laid-back temperament and can be very easy to handle if trained correctly. Like all cattle, if kept in semi-feral conditions, they can be flighty and unpredictable, but if kept as a close-to-home backyard cow, the Beltie will give you little trouble.
Are Oreo Cows Rare?
Although Belties tick all the boxes for positive attributes in a cattle breed, sadly, they are considered to be quite rare.
Their rarity within the UK is due to the foot-and-mouth epidemic in 2001. During this time, large numbers of Belties faced culling. Following the epidemic, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust listed Belted Galloways as endangered. But luckily, by 2007, the breed population had recovered enough for these amazing animals to get removed from the native breed watchlist.
Elsewhere, the American Livestock Conservancy added Belted Galloways to their watch list in 2022. Hopefully, as Belties become more popular with homesteaders and on smaller farms, the numbers of this beautiful breed will start to increase.
Belted Galloway Cattle Cost
Belted Galloways can be more expensive than other cattle breeds due to their rarity and iconic status. You won’t often find heritage breeds such as the Beltie for sale at auctions and sale yards, so the best place to start is by contacting local breeders.
A mature Belted Galloway cow could set you back as much as $5,000, and a top-class pedigree bull could be double this or more. Prices for calves start as low as $500, rising to $1,300 for a young heifer.
However, although the initial outlay may be high for a small herd of Belties, they still represent a good investment – especially in the long term. History has shown that Belted Galloway cattle have a highly efficient feed conversion rate. In other words – Belties require a low amount of feed per kilogram of weight gain. They also have a varied appetite and eat many plants and grasses that other cattle shun, keeping winter feed costs low.
In terms of beef production, Belties also rate very highly. Their high-quality meat is flavorsome and healthy. And they produce a high proportion of flavorful beef compared to their overall body weight.
Here’s the perfect Christmas ornament for any homesteader who raises Belted Galloways. It’s approximately 2.8-inches in diameter and features a glossy, colorful porcelain design. The Christmas ornament also has a blank side – so you can easily add a personalized, handwritten note if you give it as a gift.
What Are Oreo Cows Good For?
If you’re new to keeping cattle, you’ll want to start with a low-maintenance breed that gives you little trouble and produces a reasonable amount of milk or beef for your homestead. Do Belted Galloways fit this criteria, or are they best left to cattle-breeding professionals? Let’s take a look!
Is It Easy to Keep and Raise Belted Galloways?
Belted Galloways are not just a pretty breed of cattle – they are also surprisingly easy to keep! Of course, taking on any farmyard cattle is a big commitment and a steep learning curve for any new farmer. But if you were going to start with just one type of cow, Belties would come pretty high up the list!
Belted Galloways are so easy to care for because of their origins. Belties developed in the windswept moorlands and poor upland pastures of southwestern Scotland. They are well adapted to foraging for plants on poor-quality grazing and are very efficient at converting feed into increased body mass. In other words – they can find food in nearly any pastureland as long as some level of forage crop exists for them to graze.
Belties can also thrive in harsh climatic conditions thanks to their dense double coat. Wet weather, hail, snow, sleet, and icy winds are familiar problems for this hardy cow, and the double coat in winter means they stay warm and dry.
Rugged pastures and hills are no problem to Belties, and they are famous for controlling weeds and scrubland on open moorland and forestry land. Thanks to their lighter body weight, Belted Galloways do not churn grassland as much as heavier cattle breeds.
The final reason Belted Galloways are easy to keep is their great temperament – these tranquil and calm cows are unlikely to give you much trouble! They are friendly and easy to tame, making them an ideal choice for a first-time cattle owner.
Can You Milk a Galloway?
A Belted Galloway could be the perfect choice if you seek a milking cow for your homestead. They are very maternal and easy to calve and will produce calves yearly into their teens. A Belted Galloway cow will provide an abundant milk supply, and you can train them for milking without too much trouble.
Because Belties thrive on poor-quality grazing, they are an excellent low-cost dairy breed for milk production. You may need to provide supplemental feed when grazing is scarce, such as through frigid winters or scorching summer droughts.
Galloways are famed for their high butterfat production, making their milk perfect for turning into butter or certain types of cheese.
All these attributes could make the Belted Galloway the flawless choice for a higher welfare calf-at-foot milking system, where the calf and farmer each get a share of the cow’s rich milk production.
Are Belted Galloway Cows Good To Eat?
Not only are Belted cattle good milkers, but they are also good to eat! Their efficient feed conversion rates and lengthier body structure give a higher proportion of healthier meat production than most other medium-sized cattle breeds. Galloway cattle yield around 60% of their live weight in beef when butchered, so for a 1,000-pound cow, you can expect to get 600 pounds of prime quality, tasty meat.
What Does Belted Galloway Taste Like?
The varied appetite of Belted Galloways gives their delicious meat a clean and distinctive flavor, with taste notes including clover and olive. Beltie beef is also very low in saturated fats, and the healthy unsaturated fat content makes it comparable to high-quality fish or chicken.
Belted Galloway beef is also highly marbled, a quality prized for adding richness and flavor to the meat. In addition, many Belties are kept in organic or grass-fed systems, adding quality and taste to their beef. Because of this, it is not unusual for Beltie farmers to have waiting lists for their fresh farmyard cuts!
Thanks for reading our Belted Galloway breed profile.
Belted Galloways are easily one of our favorite cattle breeds. And – we forgot to mention that children love them, too!
What about you?
- Have you ever seen a Belted Galloway in person?
- Which Belted Galloway nickname do you like more? Oreo Cookie cows? Or Belties?
- Have you ever raised Belted Galloways? If so – did you have them for meat, milk, or ornamental purposes?
- Do you find that Belted Galloways get along with other cows?
We’re huge advocates for this rare and magnificent breed. And – we’d love to hear about your experience raising them!
Thanks again for reading.
Have a great day!