Highland cattle are originally from Scotland, so they are often referred to as Scottish Highlands. In some of the western areas of Scotland and neighbouring isles they are sometimes called Kyloes.
Most breeders in Australia, just refer to the breed as Highlands. They are one of the most recognisable breeds in the world, with shaggy coats and very large, widely spread horns. The traditional value of the Highlander is in its vitality, thriftiness, and ability to rear calves in tough conditions.
Highland cattle are popular with hobby farmers and some are used in crossbreeding programs. Besides producing an attractive carcase, producers also find ready markets for hides and mounted sets of horns.
Highlands require the same facilities as any cattle. They tend to have quiet natures if handled and fed regularly, but their very large horns should be respected.
While the horns are a major feature of the Highland they do cause some problems in yards and races. Head bales may require modification to accommodate animals with wide horns. Stock crates for transporting animals should also be wide enough to let animals load.
Highlands are renowned for their toughness, and while they can survive in marginal conditions, good feed is needed for moderate growth. They calve easily, and make the most of feed available because they are very good foragers.
Health problems are minimal, but they can suffer from all the usual cattle diseases. Eye problems are rare, as they have an extra long forelock which gives summer protection.
Most of the Highlands in Australia have been bred using Artificial Insemination. Some animals have also been imported, but all live importations from Europe and the United Kingdom have been stopped because of health protocols.
Because the growth of Highland numbers in Australia has been moderate, there is a steady demand for purebred animals. Individual breeders also report on going sales for hides, horns and high yielding carcasses. Because the most heifers are sold as breeders to fanciers, consideration should be given to showing and participating in field days to expose stock to potential purchasers.
Because of the attractive appearance of the breed, some breeders are now trying to breed black animals, as they see a market opportunity to provide variety. Highland cattle predominantly have red coats, but other recognised colours are black, brindle, dun white and yellow.
Capital outlay can be modest if participating in an upgrading scheme is considered. This method is much slower than purchasing purebreds, but the Highland cross produces hybrid vigour and steers grow very well.
Some imported purebred cows have been flushed and embryos have made very high prices. Highlands offer breeders an opportunity to produce well muscled animals, with lean carcase and good dress out, with the added value of hides and horns that can be marketed separately.
The breeder market is still solid and it provides a premium over slaughter prices.
Organisations & Contacts
Secretary, Australian Highland Cattle Society Inc. Royal Showgrounds, Epsom Rd Ascot Vale, Vic 3032 Phone: 03 9281 7444. Fax: 03 9376 2973. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Keen Eye, by Una Flora Cochrane Published by Busdubh Publishing 18 Dumbrae South, Edinburgh, Scotland EH128SL (Needs to be ordered from above. Approximate cost $A50)
New Breeders Information Package and Highland Cattle Members handbook, available from the Australian Highland Cattle Society Secretary, Australian Highland Cattle Society Inc. Royal Showgrounds, Epsom Rd Ascot Vale, Vic 3032 Phone: 03 9281 7444 Fax 03 9376 2973
Farm Diversification Information Service, Bendigo