BAIRNSLEY  HIGHLANDS

WHY CHOOSE HIGHLAND CATTLE

If you like the idea of strikingly beautiful, docile, low maintenance cattle that have several potential income streams, then you need look no further.

Great Looks

Their beauty is quite apparent from the first time you lay eyes on them. They are an ancient breed from the Highlands in Scotland that have changed very little over the centuries. 'We haven't stuffed them up yet' were the words used by one highly regarded cattle judge. They hair & horns are striking. (Do their hornas create issies when going through yards or a crush? -  (Read about yard & crush design for Highland cattle.)

Low Maintenance

Whether it is the nearly prehistoric, majestic appearance of a mature cow or bull or the incredibly adorable calves, the most common reason that people get started with Highland cattle is their visual appeal. The reason that breeders stay with Highlands however, is their docile temperament, their meat quality and their hardiness or low maintenance. Many visitors to our fold comment on how quiet the animals are, especially those who have had a lot to do with cattle. Highland cattle are naturally quiet and can be easily broken in and trained. We also select for this trait in our animals because we consider this characteristic to be paramount to the future of the breed.

Beyond the looks are some incredibly hardy characteristics that mean you do not have to fuss with them too much. They appear to be disease resistant compared with many other breeds - for example, they rarely get pink eye (an eye infection that can result in blindness) or eye cancers because their dossan (fringe) covers their eyes and protects it from the sun and flies. They calve easily, because of lower birth weights, and so it is uncommon to come across birthing problems. (What to expect with calving - what's normal and what's not!)

They generally are well put together animals and because of this excellent structure, they are less likely to break down as they get older. Highland cows are well known to have a calf each year until they are 15-20 years old or more. One cow we know of just had twins at 23 years of age. Can any other bovine breed lay claims to being as productive and fertile for this sort of time span? Economically, this means at least double the number of calves per breeding female over their life span, compared with other commercial breeds.

The cows have excellent mothering abilities. While they will fiercely defend their calves from predators, with time and trust they will allow you near their calves. We weigh all our calves in the first 24 hours after they are born, in front of the mothers. You may even notice a cow in the fold butting away another cow's calf. This helps teach the calf that the only one who will look after them is their own mother.

Their hardiness also extends to their appetite. While they still need feed to survive, they appear to forage better than other cattle. That is, they eat a lot wider variety of plant species - all the grass species, some weeds, bushes and trees. Some of our cattle will eat thistles, box thorn and even prune any overhanging trees for us so that they don't short out the electric fences. Basically, in the tougher country, they will do better than European breeds and the other British breeds because they are used to eating the rougher plants and converting them to energy. Just think what they are used to doing in the highlands of Scotland with nothing but heather to survive on.

Income Streams

While it is unlikely that a smaller beef property will turn a handsome profit, with any breed on it, Highlands allow you to diversify your income. The resale of the beasts themselves is mainly for heifers and cows. We never have enough of these. The steers, dehorned or not, are desired as pets by some people who like their looks and docility but do not want the hassle of breeding. All but the top 5% of bull calves are best made into steers, but some bulls can be sold to commercial herds, especially dairy herds, because of their smaller birth weights and muscling.

The meat is well known to be lean and therefore lower in cholesterol, as well as being as tender as you can get. In fact when we performed  genetic testing on a select group of our animals and they all came back with full marks for tenderness. We have sold the meat privately here for many years and have had nothing but glowing reports as to the taste and tenderness of the cuts. (More on the meat.)

Private sale of the meat is a way of maximising return on steers rather than putting them through the sale yards - they are sold down on the hoof because buyers do not know what to expect under all that hair. Their horns can bruise the meat of others in the pen with them and are undesirable in this situation. Now days we dehorn all our steers for this reason. The carcasses can also be sold 'over the hooks'. This is the best way to move steers on, for those who do not want to sell the meat privately. The carcass is given a price per kilogram depending on their muscling and fat cover, so you are not downgraded because of hair.

The hides are popular floor coverings for that warm, earthy feel. Because of the different colours in the cattle, there are various coloured hides that you can market as well. Only certain tanneries can handle Highland hides and they normally take a couple of months to process. They give value to a beast over and above the meat. (Hides for Sale)

Polished horns are also desired by individuals, bars or taverns that want this style of wall ornament. 

These animals have been used as attractions at various tourist venues in Australia as well. The historic homestead on Churchill Island in Victoria has a fold and Tarraleah in Tasmania has a fold of these beautiful animals to welcome people to their resort.

With all this to offer, why would you choose any other breed!