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 white are also considered traditional colours.
The Highland is 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. recognised the natural qualities of the Highland animal and imported them to improve the bloodlines of their herds. As a result, the Highland is credited with having contributed in a great way to the success of the American cattle industry. Today Highlands are found throughout North America, Europe, the South Americas and of course here in Australia.
In their summer coat, they adapt well and although they appreciate shade, learn to tolerate the harsh Australian heat. They have been raised as far north as Queensland right down to the snow-capped peaks of Tasmania. Less than ideal pasture or grazing 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 rough undergrowth with speed and efficiency.
For centuries the Highland breed lived in the rugged remote Scottish Highlands. The extremely harsh conditions that prevailed created a process of natural selection, where only the fittest and most adaptable animals survived to carry on the breed.
Highland cattle are said to 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, as long as hay is provided.
WHY CHOOSE HIGHLAND CATTLE?
Despite the long horns and unusual appearance, the Highland is considered an even-tempered animal - bulls and cows. They can be broken to lead as easily as any other breed, even more so because of the Highland's superior intelligence.
The Highland is a disease resistant breed. Long lashes and forelocks shield their eyes from flying insects, and as a result, the blight of many an Australian farmer, pinkeye and cancer eye are less common. Highlands do not stress easily, so stress-related diseases occur with less frequency. Other bovine diseases affect the Highland less, due to the advantage of the genetic purity they have achieved.
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, yet well-marbled and flavoursome, with little wasteful top layer fat (the Highland is insulated by long hair rather than a thick layer of fat). For many years Highland and Highland crosses have quietly achieved higher than average scores in many carcase competitions around Australia. In the British Isles, Highland beef is recognised as the finest available and fetches premium prices, and this reputation is spreading as more and more beef producers utilise the advantages of this age-old breed.
Highland bulls are used as terminal sires over dairy and first-time beef heifers as the cross-bred calves thrive from the hybrid vigour produced. Calves from Highland bulls are generally of a smaller birth weight, which is then counter-balanced by quick growth and finishing off.
Today's cattle market is demanding. Regardless of whether you are a small farm with only a few head, or a large commercial operation with hundreds, your objective should be the same - to produce a fine cut of beef with as little effort and expense as possible. Highlands are the breed to help you do this. Whether your interest is in purebred animals or cross-breeding, we are confident that the Highland will improve your bottom line.
Australian Highland Cattle Society Inc.