Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Willowbrook Highland Cattle Fold...

We have finally settled on the type of cattle we are going to breed at Willowbrook. It was a close competition between Highland Cattle and Belted Galloways, but in the end the large horns and the extra long shaggy coats of the Highlands tipped them into pole position. This will bring to a close our stocking of the rare breeds farm, as we will then be at full capacity and will have only rare breeds on site, having sold on our Herefords.
Highland cattle or kyloe are a Scottish breed of beef cattle with long horns and long wavy coats. The can be coloured black, brindled (red and brown tiger striping), red, yellow or dun (a warm nut-brown). We are getting three pregnant dun coloured cows, and shall get a bull next year to run with them. If we get a yellow bull we should end up with a mixture of duns and yellows. The yellow colour is more of a warm caramel - see below...

The breed was developed in the Scottish Highlands and Western Isles. The breed was developed from two sets of stock,one originally black, and the other reddish. Breeding stock have been exported to the rest of the world, and once an 'extremely rare' breed, they are now only considered 'rare'.

Highlands are known as a hardy breed due to the rugged nature of their native Scottish Highlands, with high rainfall and strong winds.Highland cattle have been successfully established in many temperate countries and indeed in countries where winters are substantially colder than Scotland's such as central Europe and Canada. Their hair provides protection during the cold winters and their skill in browsing for food enables them to survive in steep mountain areas. They both graze and browse and eat plants which many other cattle avoid. The meat tends to be leaner than most beef because Highlands get most of their insulation from their thick shaggy hair rather than subcutaneous fat. The coat makes them a good breed for cold northern climates and they are able to thrive in outdoor conditions that would defeat most other breeds of domestic beef cattle. As such, Highland cattle are able to produce beef at a reasonable gross margin from inhospitable land that would otherwise normally be incapable of rendering a profit agriculturally.Whilst the UK domestic and worldwide popularity of Highland cattle has made trade in pedigree beasts occasionally the most lucrative - mainly on account of their handsome appearance - they are at their best agriculturally when used to produce beef in a cold climate from poor pasture and forage.

Whilst the beef produced by pure-bred Highland cattle is exceptionally tender and of high flavour, modern butchery and shopping trends tend to demand a carcass and a cut of meat of a different character. In order to address this market, Highland beef producers commonly run commercial Highland suckler cows with a 'terminal' sire such as a Shorthorn or Limousin bull. This allows the hardy Highland cow, grazed upon the rough hillsides of her natural environment, to produce across-bred beef calf featuring the tender beef of its mother on a more modern carcass of high commercial value at slaughter, thus rendering a gross margin from her grazing that would have been impossible from other breeds in that environment. There is also a healthy demand from fellow producers of outdoor-reared beef who farm on more forgiving terrain, for Highland cross-bred bulling heifers: most often Highland cows crossed with the Shorthorn bull, for use as suckler cows. These cross-bred beef suckler cows inherit the hardiness,thrift and mothering capabilities of their Highland dams and the improved carcass configuration or their sires. Such cross-bred sucklers, further crossed with a modern beef bull such as a Limousin or Charolaisto produce the finest quality beef are one of the mainstays of Scottish commercial beef production. It is this ability to pass on thrift and gross margin down the beef-breeding cascade that has secured this breed's place as a modern commercial beef breed.
The Highland cattle registry ("herd book") was established in 1885. Although groups of cattle are generally called herds, a group of Highlands is known as a fold. They were also known as kyloes.

There are many international societies for Highland cattle. The British Highland Cattle Society, whose patron is Her Majesty, The Queen, is a registered charity. There are at least two Highland Societies in New Zealand. We shall join the New Zealand Highland Cattle Society.

The hairy calves are adorable...

Below: A prize Highland at Dumfries House...

I designed the Willowbrook Highland Cattle Logo using our highland tartan as the backdrop...


  1. I go weak at the knees over a paddock of Belted Galloways, but I can understand your choice, they are a perfect match for the challenges of a Kiwi Winter.
    Love your new Bloggie look, what a wonderful transformation. Bravo!
    Millie xx

  2. What a beautiful, noble breed! How splendid. We live near a farm that has Belted Galloways, and I always look forward to driving by the property and seeing them. Your Highlands are marvelous. Reggie

  3. You will have problems with those horns. Cattle are just like chickens, they establish a pecking order and those cattle will do it with their horns. Keep the antibiotics handy for dressing the wounds. Linen Queen

  4. The horns are the main reason that these animals are no longer considered "commercially viable" - damaging themselves in the paddock, but more so, when packed into a truck for transportation. However, the non-commercial status of these animals is what makes them perfect for our rare breeds farm.


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