Scottish Highland Cattle

When we start to farm 3 years from now we want to have a pasture based farm. That is a farm that just feeds grass and hay to their livestock with out adding any grains, like corn or soybeans. Most beef sold in this country is corn finished which adds  fat and gives meat more of  it’s marbling, it is unhealthy for the cows and its unhealthy for the people who eat them.We want to raise grass feed beef because all the healthy benifits it provides.  Grass fed means the meat is lower in cholesterol and higher in antioxdiants including vitimins E and B, as well a A and has  CLA’s that are proven to fight cancer. Grass fed beef has a better balance of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids and has more protein and is lower in fat.

During this plannig stage of our farm we are exploring what animals we want to raise and what breeds are best suited for our land that we can grass feed from start to finish. All your heritage breeds of cattle fit that bill and were used in farming in early Europe and before 1960 here in America. Breeds like Salers, Dexter, Belted Galloway, Galloway, Pineywoods, Devon, Red Polled, and Scottish Highland cattle to name a few. They are smaller framed then todays cattle who are breed to be grain fed. Right now we think we have found a breed that we like and will be best suited for our land, Scottish Highland Cattle.

A Highland Bull

We like the looks of the Scottish Highlands, they are striking with their long coat of fur and the big horns. They are one of the oldest breeds in the world that date back to the sixth century and originated in  the Highlands of Scotland. I am of Scotsh-Irish decent and like the idea of helping to keep the breed going. They where first brought to the US in 1893 by a New York state farmer who wanted to breed  more hardiness and cold resistance to his cattle herd. They are said to be very hardy and do not need shelter in the winter even in very northern climates.

Highland cattle come in range of colours, red, black white, silver and dunn.

They  make good mothers and rarley does a farmer have to pull a calf during birth. Highland cattle are very docile, and that is what I want when I turn 60 and start to raise them. I want a breed that is easy to handle and can be halter trained so they can be led.They also have more disease resitance then domestic cattle, and because of their long bangs over there eyes they don’t have the face fly and pink eye problem that other breeds have. They eat foliage that other cattle would pass by and are said to get fat from it. They have been breed to survive on the sparse and rocky mountains of Scotland. Our pastures have not been grazed for over ten years and I have no plans to plow them up and replant. My cows will have to make do with what is already growing there which is Reed Canarygrass and weeds.

 Highland beef is some of the best tasting beef and has nice marbling just from being grass feed and studies done by the National College for Food, Land, and Enviroment, a European Organazation  says Highland cattle have lower levels of fat and cholesterol and higher levels of protien and iron content from their beef then all other cattle. They have less cholsterol then even chicken. The beef is so good that it is fit for royalty and is the prefered beef for the Queen of England who maintains a fold of Highlands at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

So if Scottish Highland Cattle are good enough for the Queen of England, I think will be good enough for us. In our next post we will be going to Royal M Farm, to talk to the owner Jay Mather, who raises a small fold of Scottish Highlands. We want a chance to see for ourselves what the cattle are like.


About Gordon Milligan

I am a retired conductor for a commuter railroad in Chicago IL, I now live in and have bought a 40 acre farm in South Central Iowa that I have built from the ground up. My wife and I are trying to raise and grow most of my own food using sustainible and organic methods. I have a blog that journals my journey to becoming a farmer.
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11 Responses to Scottish Highland Cattle

  1. Langela says:

    Will your herd be raised just for personal beef use or do you plan to raise beef to sell? They are really a beautiful animal! You seem to have done a lot of research on this.

  2. We have done lots of research and plan to have a small herd of no more then 4 or 5 animals at a time. We will sale some of the heifers and plan to eat any bulls born. We hear that baby beef is excellent and will let the bulls get up to 5 or 6 hundred pounds before we slaughter them. We may expand the herd if our land will hold them, and may sell some meat to people we know and at farmers markets. It all depends how ambitious I am in my retirement years:)

    • Langela says:

      At least you can plan now before you get “old”. 🙂 My husband’s family raises beef. It would be interesting to see the difference. They raise show cattle, but we eat them too. I’m still looking to get a milk cow someday and will probably slaughter the offspring. Unless I fall in love with it. Then I will have to sell it.

  3. Susan Lea says:

    They are so picturesque! We visited Scotland last fall, and I was really excited to see some Scottish Highlands cattle in some fields. I wished we’d had time to go visit some of the Dexter farmers that I know are over there and again when we popped over to visit friends in Ireland. Well, that will have to be another trip!

  4. I bet that was a great trip to Scotland and Ireland, I would love to go there some time. Susan I know you raise Dexter Cattle, they are a great breed for the pasture farmer. They are more of a dual purpose cow for beef and milk. We looked at them but deciced we just wanted a beef cow.

  5. Fiona says:

    Hi. I have just had one of my Highland steers slaughtered. He had been fed on hay and grass since put out to pasture at the beginning of May. My butcher has informed me that my steer is extremely fatty for a highland due to lack of proteins (corn, soya, peas etc). This is quite worrying, as like you i also was under the impression that it would be better for the animal and create better meat for me. Could you give me your view on this. Thank you. Fiona.

    • Sorry I didn’t see your comments until now, Thanks for stopping by Fiona. What was the steers fed before May? Maybe they were fed grains and had developed the fat before you got them, I don’t know. I do know the Highland cattle do develope fat that is marbled into the meat from just being grass fed alone. Fat gives the meat flavor and is one of the criticims of grass fed beef that it dosn’t have the fat and flavor that corn feed beef has. If the cattle were fed grass alone then the fat you see is good fat and dosn’t have the cholestrol and has more omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, more cancer fighting components, and more B vitimains and iron then grain feed beef which makes grass fed beef more healthy to eat.

      How does it taste? Please let us know when you find out. I have not tried any Highland beef yet and am curious about that.

      • Fiona says:

        Hi Gordon. Thank you for your response. So far we have eaten the heart, some brisket and some braising steak. The meat is extremely tasty, better than high street shops, probably because it is fresh, also it is a very tender meat, though it has to be cooked slowly for a better outcome. My animals eat oats, barley and sugar beet pulp mix during the winter months, they also have fodder beet and hay. I tend to spoil them a bit as they are pets. It was just unfortunate that my girls are producing too many boys. 4 bull calves and 1 heifer calf to date. Im hoping my new bull will do better. Please let me know how you find it when you have yours slaughtered. Thank you. Fiona. Kindest regards.

  6. Are any of your photo’s for sale? Especially the 4 different colored highland cows in the snow storm. You’ve captured what I’ve been looking for.

  7. Catherine Scott says:

    I just love Highland Cattle. My dad was a cattle driver so, I got to see and I was around Black Angus as we showed them at the Royal Agricultural Fair in Toronto, Canada.
    Your cattle look absolutely stunning. I hope to come to the UK after covid and would love to see in person.

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