Merida the Highland Calf
We are the proud new owners of the most adorable little critter on the planet. I mean barring the hundreds of other highland cow babies born this spring. No, our’s is definitely cuter.
We decided to name this adorable little girl, Merida from the Disney movie Brave. Why not? First of all Highland cows are a Scottish breed and then she’s a red head. It’s perfect. Plus this little calf has zero fear. She doesn’t understand why she needs to stay in the pen with her mom and is constantly slipping out to go explore. Adorable right? I love her.
Highland cows are from Scotland, unsurprisingly they are from the highlands of Scotland (think Outlander). Highland cows are one of the oldest breeds of domesticated cows and are pretty special and unique as far as cows go. They actually have a much lower portion of body fat and use their hair to keep them warm rather than fat. This means they are a low fat beef. They also supposedly taste better than other cows (I will have to update on this one day!).
Highland cows are also endangered. They are currently on the threatened list according to the American Livestock Conservancy Association. This means that there’s a few thousand of them, but that’s not very many considering how many millions of cows there are in the world. We are trying to conserve them and keep this breed going because they are so frigging adorable!
Why are they endangered
Highland cows are endangered mainly because they’re not profitable for big producers. Highland cows are slow growing cows which is probably why they taste better than other cows (the longer meat has to mature, the more nutritious and tasty it becomes). However, this slow growing quality also means that they cost more to produce.
Highland cows take 2 to 2 1/2 years to get to butchering age whereas the typical beef cow takes only 1 1/2 years. This is an entire extra year when a farmer has to pay for and care for the cow before making any profit. And unfortunately the amount of meat the cow produces is smaller than some of the faster growing breeds too. So you wait longer to get less meat. Not great for the profit margin.
How they can be profitable
Highland cows turned a profit back in the day when there was plentiful cheap grass pasture. If you have at least two acres of grassland, you can raise a highland cow for pretty much nothing. We are of course in the desert so we have to buy grass for the cows to eat and when we eventually get a pasture in, we will have to pay to pump the water to it. Scotland has millions of acres of rolling grassland and it made it easy to raise a small, hardy and food efficient cow like the highland cow.
Why you should get one anyways
Highland cows are adorable and, if raised right, as friendly as a pet dog. If money isn’t your concern then this is a cow that your children can be safe around (relatively, it’s still a cow after all). It’s also a cow that produces enough milk and beef for a family and good enough tasting beef for a happy family.
We still feel blessed to have these cows despite knowing that we won’t make much money off them. It’s not the reason we have them so they are perfect for us.