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6 Things to Know Before Buying Scottish Highland Cows

Young Scottish Highland Cow

You see them all over socials and you can't help but think they are adorable, but what do you need to know about them? Are they really worth owning or are they just adorable lawn gnomes? What is the difference between a mini and a standard Highland? Well, we bought two and this blog post will only show you how much I really didn't know before my husband bought me two Scottish Highland Cows.


Scottish Highland Cows, AKA 'Fluffy Cows' are the most adorable cows on this planet in my humble opinion. They are known for their long curly or wavy hair and large horns. They are so adorable that I just had to have one. Which is where this story begins. Over 2 years ago I started researching Mini Scottish Highland Cows. As many of us have, I fell in love with them and was determined to find one close enough to home that we could drive to to pick up.. Unfortunately, finding one in our price range that was also in the same state became nearly impossible. I eventually got on a waiting list for a mini heifer calf, or so I thought... When I reached back out to this farm, that shall remain anonymous, they had never actually added us to their list. At this point winter 2021 was right around the corner and we were not prepared to purchase a new cow right before Wisconsin winter weather.


After getting through winter and processing a few beef cows we were in need of another large freezer. We happened upon one for free on marketplace which lead us to a guy, who knew a guy, that raised standard Scottish Highland Cows as a hobby. As fate would have it, we ended up purchasing 2 Scottish Highland Heifer Calf's shortly after this, and somewhat on a whim, from this man's local farm.

Now, you may be thinking, surely between meeting this man and purchasing these two cows I must have done some reading on standard Highlands vs mini's right?... wrong! I of course thought I knew enough about Highlands from all my mini Highland research. Plus, how different could it be from the beef cattle we raise?

Bringing cows home
Caramel & Moo (AKA Not Jude)

Moo and Caramel came to us at 4wks and 4mo. old (if memory serves). Transitioning them here at our home started off fine but quickly posed many issues that we eventually worked out. Below are 6 things to know before buying Scottish Highland cows that wouldn't have changed a single decision we made about bringing Moo and Caramel home, but are good to know none the less!

(In no specific order)


1. The difference between a Mini and a full-sized Scottish Highland cow is not always just the height.

Moo is approximately 9mo right now and we don't expect her to get much taller. Looking at her she is easily mistaken for a mini at her size. I was pleasantly surprised to see that stature wise she will not get very big to begin with! I wanted a mini for obvious reasons but typically a mini stands 36-42in shorter than a standard Highland. They do thankfully share the same Shaggy long- haired coat and large horns. Something that I was not aware of going into this, is that mini Highlands tend to have more health issues. This is due to breeding a standard Highland with a Dexter cow carrying the chondroplasia gene. Eventually breeding out the Dexter genes, to then have this perfectly imperfect mini fuzzy highland cow. All this to say, I learned I wanted a Standard size Highland after all.


2. They are incredible foragers.

I am looking at over a foot of snow out in our pasture. I have learned to not put it past a Highland to get it's furry butt out there and dig it's head as deep in the snow as they can, looking for fresh hay under it.

Typically a Highland uses its long sturdy horns to help them forage, our girls were dehorned so they choose their noses instead. It's an absolute delight to watch. Bonus fact: I also learned that if snow isn't melting on a Highlands back it means they are retaining enough heat to stay warm. This is very reassuring with our arctic temp weather we've had this week.


3. They make one of the best homestead cows.

Truth be told Moo and Caramel were going to be mainly pets, as time goes on I'm learning they will be able to earn their keep in a few ways. I knew we may eventually want to breed them, but milking them wasn't at the top of my list until recently. Turns out they make a great family milking cow too! This hadn't been part of the plan, though I'll admit it did cross my mind. One Highland cow can average 2gal. of milk per day and can carry a butterfat content of up to 10%.


4. They are considered a high-quality meat.

Through discussing cattle methods with other farmers and admittedly with very minimal reading on the subject, it turns out Highlands provide some of the best flavored meat. It comes down to marbling, which refers to the white streaks of fat that run throughout any particular cut. A steak from an Angus cow won't have as much marbling in it as compared to a Highland. This is due to a Highlands hair actually insulating fat in the muscle fibers, this in turn creates marbling. This characteristic of meat is sought after because during the cooking process the fat will liquify and create a marinade, making the meat quite tasty! Don't worry! Moo and Caramel are not food I promise!


5. They can have 12 or more calves.

When looking into Mini's we had plans to eventually breed. Once we brought Moo and Caramel home we still had those plans for them, however....I had imagined maybe 1 or 2 calves from each cow. After researching what breeding looks like for Standard Highlands I learned they can actually have 12 or more calves in their lifetime. This was an exciting fact to learn and we are thrilled with the possibility of more Highlands in the future, regardless of the number!


Scottish Highland Cows in a pasture with calfs


6. Highlands are fierce protectors and yet the most docile.

I knew Highlands were docile to begin with, whether big or small. What I didn't know is, they are equally as fierce when they have a calf and are exceptional mothers. When we went to meet Scott the farmer we purchased from ( www.highlanderfarmsllc.com ) and check out his herd, he showed us around and introduced us to Moo for the first time. Moo was approximately 4-6wks old and absolutely adorable, but she didn't stray far from Mom. While in the pasture, *SIDE NOTE* this is terrifying with 15 plus Highlands who carry huge horns and are trailed by adorable fuzzy babies everywhere* we were warned that although very friendly when they have a calf they are extremely protective. We were advised to keep a tree between us and any Mamma with a calf. Ultimately one did dig, grunt and lunge at us a bit, which was enough for me to conclude my time inside the pasture. Hey, as a Mom I absolutely respect another Mom's boundaries and got the heck outta there and viewed from a far.


Ultimately, Scottish Highlands are all around great cows. We did face some challenges and had a learning curve when it came to caring for them. If your a curious person or have cows, here are items that either helped solve a problem for us or were just plain useful. Plus a few products that we just love!

https://amzn.to/3Spx465 (Amazon) - Leather Gloves for chores

https://amzn.to/3RXO6GM (Amazon) - 3pc Feeding Pan

https://amzn.to/3SrmUBZ (Amazon) - Carhartt Beanie

https://amzn.to/48IrfpU (Amazon) - Food Scoop

https://amzn.to/3U3mOBG (Amazon) - Large Cattle Brush

https://amzn.to/3HuBEcZ (Amazon) - Preferred Pitch fork

https://amzn.to/3vIMyct (Amazon) - Canopy Tent for Pasture Shade

  • 4x 5gal Buckets (Tractor Supply)

  • 2x 20gal. Steel Trash Cans for Grain (TS)

  • Mineral Salt Block (TS)

  • Electrolytes (TS)


Well, there you have it! There truly is nothing better than becoming more self sustaining and of course, new hairy fluff ball animals. Stick around, I have a few more fuzzy animals I'd like to add to our... farm? homestead? hobby farm?... meh we'll figure it out as we go!


XX,

Kayla





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