In New York we ate a lot of Highland beef. In fact, we even had Highland steaks on the menu at our wedding. Highland burgers are the best burgers I’ve eaten, period. We really wanted to raise them on our farm. However, we were a little worried that the breed wouldn’t make sense to raise in Tennessee. The shaggy coat surely wouldn’t work in the heat, and could we get comfortable with the long horns?
Tennessee tends to be hot and humid, which we thought would be a major issue for the furry cow friends that we were hoping raise. Upon further due diligence, however, we discovered a number of breeders and Highland beef producers throughout the South. BUT, just because other people are doing it doesn’t mean it’s right. If the animals could only survive in confinement or on shaded feedlots this wouldn’t be the breed for us. We needed them out eating 100% of their diet from the grass and forages on our land.
So we started our research. What we found out was that the Highland cows actually do quite well on pasture and in the heat and that they are almost never raised in feedlots. Highland cows, in addition to their premium beef qualities, are known to be scrappy foragers. That means they’ll eat more than just the fescue and clover. They’ll go for the less palatable grasses in between and make more efficient use of our pasture. In fact, when we first put the cows in their new paddock the little one (Corrina) walked up to a tree and ate some leaves off!
The shaggy hair on these girls is actually a great coat for cooling purposes as well. The hair is very thin, so it protects them from the sun, but also lets their bodies breathe. In speaking with a couple of the other regional Highland producers we heard nothing but good things. When you see them out there with their big horns you immediately conjure images of being carried around like a shish-kabob baking in the summer heat. While we’re not saying that couldn’t happen, the Highlands we purchased are incredibly friendly and very, very calm. Maybe because they have those huge horns they know that nothing will mess with them? Regardless, it’s nice to have a cow that’ll walk up to you calmly and not toss that big ole horn-filled head around.
As of Sunday we now have Janis and Corrina on the farm. Janis is 5 yrs old and we believe she’s carrying a calf that should be due in the fall. She’s a big red cow that just about everyone calls a bull, not knowing that cows have horns too :) I admittedly made the same mistake when we first saw some Highland cows in Vermont. Corrina is a 6 month old calf and her little horns are just starting to develop. We plan to raise them for a small amount of beef in the future. Our focus remains on the goats and the cheese, but our cows will help nourish us with grass-fed beef and also mow down the grass that the goats don’t eat.
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