Have you ever seen Scottish Highland cows? They’re so adorable! We are just now learning about these beef and dairy cows from Scotland as we have acquired three Scottish Highlanders of our own to raise, and are borrowing a bull for breeding.
If you’re currently researching dairy cows, here are eight things you need to know when keeping a family milk cow and signs to watch for with an expecting cow. Or, if you’d like to know more about raising grass feed beef, you can read more here.
Why I Love Scottish Highland Cows
The look of these cows is one of the main reasons why I love them. They have long horns and beautifully colored shaggy long hair. We have our first new herd of Scottish Highlanders that are grazing at The Norris Farmstead.
Honestly, when I knew we were going to open an AirBnB, these furry cows were among my first thought. I don’t know about you, but if I had the chance to stay somewhere and look out the window at these adorable cows grazing in the field, I’d book that stay in a heartbeat.
Unique Cattle Breed: Scottish Highland Cow
Scottish Highland cows are a very unique breed. For starters, they’re known to be exceptionally friendly and gentle cows. They originated in Scotland, and their horns can grow up to six feet.
They can thrive in various climates (especially cold climates), and, on average, they live longer than most other cattle, as their life span is between 15 to 20 years.
Because our cows are new to us, even though they’re known for their gentle disposition, I still recommend keeping a good distance and being cautious until you know the temperament of each individual animal. As with any breed of animal, there are always outliers, so safety is always first.
Good for Milk
I see the question often asked if you can drink Scottish Highlander milk. Absolutely! They have wonderful milk that’s rich in butterfat, protein, and calcium.
Their milk will make incredible butter, yogurt, cheese, etc.
As with any dairy cow, you’ll need to breed them and get into a routine of breeding and milking, just as with any dairy cow.
Scottish Highlanders breed at two years, not one and a half, as most other cattle do.
But honestly, have you ever seen a photo of a Scottish Highlander calf? They look like teddy bears! (See the stock image above for cuteness!)
Good for Beef
Scottish Highlanders are known to have pretty lean beef. The meat has a marbling to it, like Wagyu beef, not Angus, because of the inner and outer layers of fur.
They will take a bit longer to get up to full butcher weight, so that’s something to consider if you’re wanting to raise them for beef cattle (more on this below).
So let’s talk about what good foragers they are, what they eat, and facts about their growth.
Unlike other cattle, these cows are exceptional and much heartier foragers. They will eat blackberry vines, poison ivy, and honeysuckle vines. If they can reach it, they will eat it.
They’re great for restoring pastures or wooded areas as well. They’ll clean up entire woods that other cattle may not even survive in.
If you have a field or wooded area that needs to be cleared, you could clear acreage while raising food for your table. Talk about a win-win!
It’s important to note that Scottish Highland cows do take longer to grow and get to butcher weight than most beef cows, and they will provide less overall meat than other breeds.
In fact, Scottish Highlanders take an extra year to mature compared to other cattle, so they are ready to butcher in about three years, instead of the average two for other breeds.
Because Scottish Hyland cows are used to the rocky mountains of Scotland, where they naturally get ground down from the rough terrain, they will need their hooves trimmed once to twice per year.
This is best done by a professional farrier since it requires special equipment and knowledge.
Cow Hoof Trimming
Why bother trimming their hooves? If you don’t trim their hooves, severe cases can lead to deformity and the development of arthritis.
Arthritis shortens the life of the animal (and this shortens your return on investment if it’s your breeding stock). Not only does it decrease their life, but if it’s painful to walk then they’re likely to eat and drink less, which means a smaller birth weight of calves and smaller weight of animals at harvest time.
This also affects pasture management as they’re unable to graze as far, allowing some areas of the field to grow up and some areas to remain unfertilized by their manure.
Longer hooves are more prone to breakage. This leads to hoof rot and a higher chance of infection.
What do They Eat?
The beauty of this breed is that they can eat a variety of feed. As mentioned above, they’re great foragers. But they also eat grass, hay, straw or cereal grains, barley and wheat, and even turnips and peas.
They eat less food on a daily basis than other cattle. But since they take an extra year to mature, your feed costs are still about the same.
Take a Leap of Faith
Sometimes new projects require you to take a leap of faith. You don’t always need to know everything at the onset of a new project, but having an idea of what to expect is wise.
And so we have taken this leap of faith with our
three four new Scottish Highland cows! I’m excited to continue to share our journey as we discover more about this unique breed.
If you want to discover new homesteading skills, you might want to take a leap of faith yourself and join us at the first annual Modern Homesteading Conference this summer (2023) in North Idaho.
Other Posts You May Enjoy
- How to Preserve Dairy, Meat & Eggs
- 8 Things You Need to Know about Keeping a Family Milk Cow
- Stocking Up on Animal Feed (Buy Now, Save Later)
- Your Livestock Questions Answered
- How to Make Real Buttermilk (Cultured Buttermilk Recipe)
- Fermented Dairy: Why You Should Be Doing This Now
- How to Make Homemade Yogurt that’s Thick and Creamy