With their fabulous horns and shaggy coats, Highland cows are famous worldwide! But while we’ve all seen iconic photos of Highland cows atop windswept Scottish moorlands, what are these beautiful cows used for?
Let’s find out!
- What Are Highland Cows Used for In the Real World?
- Highland Cattle Breed Profile
- What Are Highland Cows?
- What Are Mini Highland Cows Used For?
What Are Highland Cows Used for In the Real World?
Highland cows are a stout, hardy, vigorous beef cattle breed famous for their delicious and tender meat. These woolly, adorable cattle are prevalent throughout Australia and New Zealand for their rich, marbled beef. Their finely marbled and high-demand beef is invariably tender, juicy, flavorful, and savory. Highland cows can also thrive on rough pastures inadequate for many other beef breeds, making them an excellent choice for homesteaders with lackluster forage crops.
Highland Cattle Breed Profile
|Dated Origin||As far back as the 18th century.|
|Country of Origin||Scotland|
|Bull weight||1,700 to 1,900 pounds|
|Cow weight||1,000 – 1,200 pounds|
|Uses||Mostly for beef. They’re also perfect for sustainable farming systems.|
|Milk Production||Up to 2 gallons daily.|
|Milk Butterfat Content||Up to 10%|
|Color||Mostly red. But also brindle, yellow, white, black, and dun.|
|Description||Adorable shaggy hair, prolific horns, delicious meat, tremendously hardy, excellent maternal skills, prolific fertility, long life, pleasant demeanor, buttery milk.|
|Conservation Status||A Livestock Conservancy Graduate (That means their population numbers are doing well!)|
|Temperament||Friendly, docile, laid-back|
|Breed Association||Highland Cattle Society|
The table above represents the Highland Cattle breed profile.
But – there’s plenty more to know about this majestic cattle breed.
Some of the real-world uses of this lovely animal might surprise you.
Consider the following.
What Are Highland Cows?
Highland cows are one the most easily recognizable breeds of cattle, and many cattle rearers regard them as the ultimate cow breed! This ancient breed is the product of many centuries of tough living, surviving on the poor grazing ground and harsh weather conditions of the Scottish moorlands.
The most prominent features of Highland cows are their splendidly elaborate horns and thick shaggy fringe, so dense that it almost hides the eyes completely. They are usually vibrant ginger, but other coat shades include yellow, brindle, dun, white, and black. Rumors have it that Queen Victoria favored ginger Highland cattle, leading to the high prevalence of this coloring within the breed.
Highland cattle have been part of human lives for hundreds of years, first appearing in the Orkney Islands as far back as the 6th century! The official Scottish Highland Cattle herd book dates back to the late 19th century. To this day, stringent records exist by the Highland Cattle Society, which sets rigorous breed standards and maintains a detailed database of all registered pedigree Highland cows.
Cattle don’t come much hardier than the Highland – their thick double coats help to insulate them against cold weather and harsh conditions. They can browse rough terrain easily and find food on marginal land that fussier cattle breeds readily shun. The acute maternal instincts of these friendly cows mean they are dedicated mothers, and many Highland cows continue producing adorable calves until the age of 15 and above.
What Is a Highland Cow Used For?
Commercially, Highland cows are not a popular choice. They are slow-growing and do not produce milk or meat in large enough quantities to make them economically viable for large-scale dairy and cattle farmers. But Highland cows are still tremendously prominent. So why do homesteaders keep them?
Highland cows might not produce gallons of milk like a Friesian or the massive quantities of beef of an Angus. But they do still have their uses. These hardy animals are becoming increasingly popular in conservation grazing schemes and as part of sustainable farming systems, thanks to their ability to thrive on poor-quality grazing land in colder climates.
If you’re a homesteader or small-scale farmer, you might wonder how this hardy cattle breed could fit into your herd. Well, this quirky breed of cow has some fascinating traits that make it highly versatile in diverse situations! Whether milk production is your priority or you’re seeking to improve your beef herd, Highland cows might be the answer.
Can Highland Cattle Be Used for Milk?
Highland cattle are not commonly kept in commercial milk herds, as their milk production is far lower than cattle breeds like Holsteins or Friesians. But they still produce a reasonable amount of milk daily – around 2 gallons per day on average, more than enough for most households!
In the past, Highlands were renowned as family milk cows. A single Highland cow could produce enough high-quality milk to feed her calf, with sufficient milk left over to accommodate all the family’s dairy requirements.
Highland cows produce tremendously rich milk, which can be a surprise if you’ve only tried the store-bought variety! The milky flavor tastes intense and boasts a smooth, creamy texture and an underlying sweetness that makes it ideal for various dairy products.
Can You Make Butter From a Highland Cows Milk?
Any Highland cattle farmer will boast about the milky richness their cows produce – this is nothing like the milk you buy from the store! The milk from Highland cattle has a 9-10% butterfat content, far higher than the 2-3% produced by commercial milking cattle. And, as the name suggests, milk that is high in butterfat is excellent for making butter.
And – the richness of Highland cattle milk makes it ideal not only for butter production. Highland milk also works perfectly to make other dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese. The natural sweetness of Highland cow milk also makes it the perfect choice for rich and creamy dairy ice cream. If you ever get the chance to try Highland ice cream, I would recommend it – in my opinion, it is even better than the world-famous Jersey ice cream!
Are Highland Cows Tasty?
In modern times, mass-produced beef has become somewhat disappointing. In the search for beef animals farmers can rear quickly and cheaply, we’ve lost some of the essential savor that makes beef one of the most popular cuts of meat. For this reason, many people are returning to heritage cattle breeds such as the Highland for high-quality meat production.
Remember that Highland cows can be reared slowly on poor-quality pasture, as they are incredibly efficient at utilizing whatever food they forage to grow and bulk out. Commercial beef breeds are fed a high-energy diet and grow markedly quickly, whereas Highland cattle do the opposite.
The result is high-quality beef, rich and intense in flavor, with sweet hints of grassiness due to their varied diet. Although Highland beef cow meat is low in fat, it contains a high level of marbling, making it deliciously tender and juicy.
Are Highland Cows Easy to Look After?
So, if we can get buttermilk-rich milk and delicious beef from Highland cattle, why aren’t more people keeping them? In commercial terms, it makes no sense to rear Highland cattle, but many smaller farmers and homesteaders are switching to this hardy type of cattle for just one reason – they are super easy to look after!
These beautiful animals evolved to withstand the harsh Scottish climate. And they sport a dense, woolly coat of hair that keeps them warm and cozy in cold and wet weather that many other farmyard cattle could never tolerate. These fascinating animals also have a friendly and docile temperament, making them well-suited to life on a family farm, and they’ll make efficient use of your roughest grazing spots without damaging the land.
What Are Mini Highland Cows Used For?
Mini Highland cows have rapidly increased in popularity in recent years, with miniature Highland cattle breeders popping up in countries worldwide. These adorable creatures boast the prominent horns and shaggy fringe we know and love but in a smaller size!
Like most miniature cattle breeds, mini Highlands make excellent pets. Their small size and friendly nature make them a doddle to handle, and they can become tame enough for older children to practice their cattle-handling skills.
These tiny Highland cattle are also a good choice for conservation grazing programs, as their varied appetite means they will browse most plants, grasses, and brushlands. Their lighter weight and dainty hooves are kinder to delicate grassland, causing less damage than their full-size counterparts.
Can You Milk a Highland Mini Cow?
While full-size Highland cattle produce enough milk to feed their calves or provide for a family home, the production capacity of mini Highlands is much lower. Highland cows also have small teats, making them harder to milk. So, in the miniature version, the task seems even more difficult!
So, theoretically, you could attempt to milk a mini Highland cow, but most homesteaders prefer to keep them as adorable pets. A fold of cute fluffy Highlands is a great way to keep your farmland in good shape, and they’ll provide you with ample manure to keep your vegetable plot in tip-top condition!
Thanks so much for reading our Highland cattle guide!
Highlands are, without question, among our favorite cattle breeds for homesteaders.
These cows are more to us than tender beef and rich, buttery milk. They’re an elegant yet hardy breed that can live nearly anywhere. And – while they might look ominous with their fearsome horns and unkempt, shaggy hair, they’re almost always sweethearts.
What about you? What is your Highland experience?
- Have you ever seen a Highland cattle in person?
- Have you ever raised a Highland? If so – what do you use it for?
- Have you ever tasted Highland cattle milk?
- Do your Highland cattle get too hot in the summer with their thick, heavy coat?
- What are your thoughts on miniature Highland cows?
We’re tremendous proponents of this majestic cattle breed. And – we love hearing from like-minded Highland enthusiasts.
Thanks again for reading.
Have a great day!