Josh Nelson refers affectionately to his Highland cattle as “long-haired hippie cows.” They are definitely head-turners. But there’s a lot more to the breed than meets the eye On Nelson’s central Iowa operation, Cardinal Creek Farm, these cattle provide a consumer-direct revenue stream the fifth-generation farm family intends to keep building on. With Highland beef, Nelson said one of the first things new buyers mention after trying it is how tender and lean it is compared to supermarket beef. Those genetics are one of the big advantages of this breed.
“It’s all about how the Highland grow,” said Nelson. “Compared to your Angus, Highland cattle are much slower maturing. Their rate of gain is probably half of Angus. You finish them at an older age, around 2 years, when they’ll average about 1,100 pounds on the hoof. The meat isn’t as marbled as what a lot of people are used to seeing, but it’s incredibly lean and really tender. Fatty cuts of meat don’t necessarily mean tender. We have all been conditioned to think that’s the case, but it’s not true.” Studies in Canada and the UK, where naturally aged Highland beef is more common, report it registers higher on the tenderness scale than anything in the feedlot. A recent study from the Scottish Agricultural College notes the breed’s heavy coat, which insulates against the climate, also reduces development of excess back fat. As a result, Highland beef has been consistently shown to be lower in fat and cholesterol than other breeds.
Cattle are very social creatures and need a friend to be happy with their environment. Unless you already have a cow, horse, or donkey, be aware that your cow will not thrive without a friend.
Another thing that people don’t often think of is feed and water troughs. They make special troughs that the cows push down a plastic cover to get water. This keeps birds out of their water, as if there is bird poop in water or feed the cow can get coccidiosis. This is a disease that is relatively expensive to treat that causes bloody stool to run out of your animal. Not only is it expensive, it’s also really gross. Feed pans are another essential, cattle do not like to have their feed dumped on the ground. If they don’t eat it all by the next feeding, the feed must be dumped because it is old and they don’t want it. You will constantly have to watch your animal to see what their feeding needs to be, it changes throughout their life.
Features of Highland Cow
or centuries the Highland is the traditional hill cow of choice for the Scottish uplands. The cows are well known for their heavy hair hide which comes in a variety of colours from the common red to black, fawn and dun, with their handsome appearance unique and unmistakable. The breed also celebrates it’s close tie to the royal family, with the Queen keeping her own fold under the ‘Balmoral’ herd name. Docile and excellent mothers the cows are known for their robust health and longevity with cows often reaching exceptionally old ages for suckler cows.
Famously hardy, these small cows can convert very poor quality forage into milk, rearing purebred and continental calves with ease. There is a huge demand for Highland beef from restaurants and private butchers. Below you will find a range of Guernsey cattle available for sale throughout the UK, including a number of cross-breeds.
Prices of Highland Cow
To get an idea of price, Nelson says at recent auctions, he’s seen average prices for registered Highland brood cows between $1,500 to $3,200. Highland females are generally sold as unbred yearlings. They are bred around 2 years of age