Before You Buy
Who You Buy From
About the Breed
The Highland breed has lived for centuries in the rugged remote Scottish Highlands. The extremely harsh conditions created a process of natural selection, where only the fittest and most adaptable animals survived to carry on the breed. Originally there were two distinct classes: the slightly smaller and usually black Kyloe, whose primary domain was the islands off the west coast of northern Scotland; the other, a larger animal generally reddish in color, whose territory was the remote Highlands of Scotland. Today both of these strains are regarded as one breed-the Highland. In addition to the red and black of the original strains, yellow, dun and silver-white are also considered traditional colors.
The Highland is one of the oldest registered breed of cattle, with the first herd book being established in 1885. Around that time, American cattlemen from the western U.S. recognized the natural qualities of the Highland animal and imported them to improve the blood lines of their herds. As a result, the Highland contributed in a great way to the success of the American cattle industry. Today Highlands are found throughout North America, as well as in Europe, Australia, and South America.
Highland cattle were first imported to North America in the 1880s, and importations have continued throughout the 1900s. The breed has always had a small but loyal following, especially in the northern part of the United States and in Canada. It is only recently, however, that Highlands are achieving their greatest popularity. One of the breed’s assets is its foraging ability. Highlands consume a wide variety of pest plants as well as grass and can be used to improve pastures. The breed is considered a “light grazer” in Europe, used to manage and diversify marginal lands without the negative impact seen with heavier breeds.
Highlands require little in the way of shelter, feed supplements, or expensive grains to achieve and maintain good condition and fitness. In fact, Highland cattle seem to enjoy conditions in which many other breeds would perish. Cold weather and snow have little effect on them. They have been raised as far north as Alaska and the Scandinavian countries. They also adapt well to the more southerly climates with successful herds as far south as Texas and Georgia. Less than ideal pasture or range land is another reason to consider the Highland breed. It has been said that the Highland will eat what other cattle pass by . . . and get fat on it! The Highland is also an excellent browser, able to clear a brush lot with speed and efficiency.
The Highland is a disease resistant breed. Long lashes and forelocks shield their eyes from flying insects, and as a result, pinkeye and cancer eye are uncommon. Highlands do not stress easily, so stress-related diseases occur with less frequency. And other bovine diseases affect the Highland less, due to the genetic advantages they have achieved.
Despite long horns and unusual appearance, the Highland is considered an even-tempered animal - bulls as well as cows. They can also be halter trained as easily as any other breed, even more so because of the Highland's superior intelligence.
The business end of any beef animal is the amount and quality of the beef it produces. Today's market is demanding premium meat, yet leaner and lower in cholesterol. The Highland carcass is ideally suited to meet this challenge. Highland beef is meat that is lean, well marbled and flavorful, with little outside waste fat (the Highland is insulated by long hair rather than a thick layer of fat). For over 20 years, the Highland and Highland crosses have graded in the top of their respective classes at the prestigious National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado. In the British Isles, Highland beef is recognized as the finest available and fetches premium prices. The British Royal family keeps a large herd of Highlands at Balmoral Castle, near Braemar, Scotland, and considers them their beef animal of choice.
Outstanding Beef Quality
A heavy coat insulates against a harsh climate and reduces the need to develop excess back fat. Recent studies in both North America and the UK have shown that Highland Beef is consistently much lower in fat content and cholesterol than other breeds. It is so lean that it compares with chicken and fish fat content.
The marbling of the beef gives the same tenderness and tastiness as the other larger breeds. Studies in the US have verified that Highland Beef is 38% lower in fat content and 4% lower in cholesterol than steaks from local supermarkets.
Studies in the UK list the quantities of fat per 100 grams as:
Highland Beef Overall 4.5 g/ 100g
Other Breeds Beef Overall 15.6 g/ 100g
Highland Beef Overall 40.9 mg/100g
Other Breeds Beef Overall 64.3 mg/100g
Highland Beef Overall 20.7 g/100g
Other Breeds Beef Overall 18.6 g/100g
Highland Beef Overall 2.1 mg/100g
Other Breeds Beef Overall 2.0 mg/100g
Unlike other breeds, Highlands are slow maturing making the meat tender, flavorful and succulent. In a study at Manyberries Research Station, Canada, groups of Hereford, Highland and Highland/Hereford crosses were tested. The Highland group produced 2000 pounds more beef than the Herefords. The Highland/Hereford crosses produced 6000 pounds more than the purebred Hereford group.
Highland cattle provide the opportunity to produce a premium quality beef with less cost and effort. They fit into a variety of operation styles, from the small farm to large commercial beef operations.
For newcomers to raising livestock, and cattle in particular, Highlands are a good choice in a first breed. Not only are they easy to handle and care for, but in many parts of North America, they are readily available.
For the complete cattle novice, it’s importance to acquire cattle with excellent temperaments, that are healthy, and can be easily handled, meaning they have been trained to halter, lead and tie.
When considering a breeder to buy from, it’s important to make sure you and the breeder are both emphasizing the same qualities in Highland cattle.
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