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Fullblood or Graded or Genetically Modified or What


Over the years we have often found that owners of registered pedigreed Highland Cattle in Australia are surprised to learn that despite having "registration papers" that their animals are crossbred, having been graded-up from another breed of cattle.

While this revelation did not affect the quality or looks of their animals, they had thought that because they had a pedigree that the cattle were from a 100% Highland Cattle Lineage.  Some people felt cheated and others didn't care.

Australia and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world to allow grading-up of Highland Cattle using another breed as a base.

In parallel with grading programs there are also Highland Cattle in Australia that are 100% genetically pure with no grading-up from other breeds of cattle in their lineage, and pedigrees traceable all the way back to the various overseas herd books of Scotland (UK), America and Canada.

The problem is that for many years there was no easy way, without a lot of research, to distinguish registered crossbred Highland Cattle from those that had 100% Highland genetics.

All Highland Cattle in Australia will have Scottish Genetics and UK Herd Book Bloodlines somewhere in their pedigrees.  Therefore it makes it all very confusing as to the origins of any one animal, and the only way to work out whether the animal is crossbred is with pedigree research.

Advertising "Scottish Genetics" or "UK Herdbook Bloodlines" does not necessarily exclude the animal from being cross-bred from another breed of cattle and having a graded-up lineage.

After a vote by the membership the Australian Highland Cattle Society updated their database from June 2018  to now allow a means of clearly identifying the genetic origins on the pedigrees listed on the online database. 

Highland Cattle with 100% Highland genetics without any crossbreeding or grading-up are now easily identifed ... see examples below.

Grading System

All stock submitted for registration in the Australian Highland Cattle Society Herd Book are given a grade which classifies the level of Highland Cattle bloodlines in the animal’s pedigree.

Tracing genetic origin requires Pedigree research and this can be carried out on the Australian Highland Cattle Society database run by ABRI. Follow this link ... Animal Enquiry.

Type in the animals Name or Herdbook Number and activate the search.  In the top section the Grade of the animal will be shown as circled in red below.

Pedigree Example

The Grades may be as follows...

“F” denotes cattle derived from Fully Imported Bloodlines - 100% Highland. 

Only cattle with100% Highland Genetics can have the F designation. Without the "F" then the animal is crossbred or graded-up from another breed of cattle.

“C” denotes Class C. First cross or 50% or 1/2 (or from unknown background Inspected by AHCS)

“B” denotes Class B.  Second Cross or 75% or 3/4 (produced from a grade C cow)

“A” denotes Class A.  Third Cross or 87% or 7/8 (produced from a grade B cow)

“P” denotes Purebred. Fourth Cross or 93% or 15/16 (produced from a grade A cow)

What do the various terms that you may hear really mean?

This article aims to highlight the difference between the various terms that the buyer or breeder of Highland Cattle may hear, and in an attempt to ensure that purchases of “Highland Cattle” in Australia are made on an informed basis.

Unlike the UK, America, and Canada the Australian Highland Cattle Society regulations allow for intentional “grading-up” from other breeds of cattle, both dairy and beef, so the pedigrees of Highland Cattle registered in Australia may well contain breeds of cattle other than Highland in their pedigree.

Pedigrees are used only to determine the lineage of an an animal. The physical appearance and quality are completely separate. There are some magnificent graded-up animals and this article is not intended to deride their quality in any way.

At Cruachan Highland Cattle we believe that improvement of characterisitics should come from within the Highland Cattle breed, and not by introducing other breeds in an attempt to gain that improvement.  After all, Highland Cattle are a heritage breed and should be maintained as such.


FULLBLOOD or Fully Imported Bloodlines

New Zealand recognise the term Fullblood while in Australia it is an unofficial term, and its more common to refer to these animals as "Fully Imported Bloodlines" or F.I.B. 

These animals are the basis for the future of Highland Cattle, preserving and maintaining the genetic purity of this breed.

Animals in this category have 100% Highland genetics, derived from Fully Imported Bloodlines, and are designated as F in the Herd Book.

There are no known introduction of other breeds since the Highland Cattle Society UK was formed in 1884, in other words no crossbreeding or grading-up from other breeds of cattle.

The designation was introduced to give a distinction between animals that have come through a grading-up regime, and those animals that have come from a totally Highland ancestry.

All offshore societies, except Australia and New Zealand, do not recognise graded-up stock.  

Having this category allows members who have cattle derived from Fully Imported Bloodlines to possibly export genetics to these countries in the future, should they wish to do so.  It also allows for proper transparency in the Herd Book.

The pedigrees of these cattle can be traced back to the Highland Cattle Society in Scotland.  Genetics imported from Canada or America are traced via their respective herd books. (Note that the electronic versions of the American and Canadian Herd Books appear to only start in the 1930's.)


The Australian Highland Cattle Society (unlike UK, Canada and America) allows for registration of animals purposefully graded up from any other cattle breed, either dairy or beef, and considers such animals "pure" at 4th cross for females and 5th cross for bulls.

A registered Highland bull must be used to produce the animals to be eligible for registration.

The grades are as follows -

“C” denotes Class C. First cross or 50% or 1/2 (or from unknown background Inspected by AHCS)

“B” denotes Class B.  Second Cross or 75% or 3/4 (produced from a grade C cow)

“A” denotes Class A.  Third Cross or 87% or 7/8 (produced from a grade B cow)

“P” denotes Purebred. Fourth Cross or 93% or 15/16 (produced from a grade A cow)


Normally refers to graded cattle (cross-bred) that are fourth cross and above. Graded cattle can have origins from any breed (beef or dairy).

At fourth cross the calculated purity is 93%. Further dilution of the cross-bred genetics can be achieved by using "Fullblood" bulls over the subsequent generations. Of course this does not necessarily remove any dominant genes inherited from other breeds.

However, some breeders choose to use graded bulls over their herds. These bulls can be of various purities (5th, 6th, 7th cross etc.). In my opinion using such bulls does little to dilute the genetics from the other non-highland breeds and certainly does nothing to preserve and maintain the genetic purity of the breed.



Progeny of cattle that were imported to Australia during the 1950's.

The imported cattle were used for breeding over quite a number of years but it seems that no official records had been kept.  Some breeders then used the offspring of these cattle as the early basis of their herds.

When the Australian Highland Cattle Society was formed an inspection program was initiated to look at cattle derived from the "old cattle" and as a result some of those were given a grading of 'A' (equivalent to 3rd Cross),  or 'B' (equivalent to 2nd Cross).

There was a lot of debate as to whether some of these cattle should really have been recognised as having 100% Highland Genetics.  However, without paperwork to back the claims, the Society Council at the time stayed with the grading given by the inspectors.  Debate still continues today as to whether that was a fair decision.



The intent of this article is to help with making an informed decision. Genetics are just one part of the story when it comes to animal selection, but I personally feel there needs to be clear transparency in this area.  It is then a matter of personal choice what people choose.

Cruachan Highland Cattle choose to breed Highland Cattle  derived from Fully Imported Bloodlines with no grading-up or genetic modification within their pedigrees.

Buying Highland Cattle?

Please visit our SALES Page to check our current availability of stock.



The Highland Cattle Society in the UK was formed in 1884 to preserve and maintain the genetic purity of the cattle breed known as Highland Cattle.

Both Canada and America have Highland Cattle Associations with America forming an association in 1948 and Canada in 1964.

None of the aforementioned associations or societies allow for anything other than full Highland genetics to be registered, in other words grading-up from other breeds is not permitted.

In fact grading-up Highland Cattle from other breeds of cattle is only allowed in Australia and New Zealand and nowhere else in the world.

So then how did we in Australia come to allow "grading-up"??

Prior to the formation of the Australian Highland Cattle Society in 1988 a number of people in different States had introduced a cross breeding/grading-up program using imported Highland semen over both dairy and beef cattle.  There were also some who had used "old cattle" offspring.

In my opinion the reasons for this were primarily cost savings as importing live animals and embryos was extremely expensive at that time. The first crossbred animal was classed as 50% Highland and by using different imported Highland semen over each subsequent cross it was established that at 4th cross (93% pure) the animals were close to looking like "Highland Cattle". Consequently a number of cross-bred herds of graded-up "Highland Cattle" were formed.

At the same time a very small number of people imported live Highland Cattle and embryos and produced Highland Cattle with 100% genetics with no grading-up. These breeders were very much in the minority due to the aforementioned high costs of importation and running embryo programs at that time.

By this stage there were a number of independent breeders all doing different things, and of course there was a lot of talk about what was best in terms of both animals and in going forward with the breed. Some of these breeders felt it was time to have some standards, and a meeting was called for interested parties with the view to forming a society.

In 1988 the Australian Highland Cattle Society was formed and after much debate, between those with 100% Highland Genetics and those that had Cross-bred, or Graded-Up Cattle, it was agreed that graded-up cattle at 4th cross would be classed as "Pure" or "Purebred", with the meaning of "purebred"  described/defined as such in the constition of the Australian Highland Cattle Society. (Later it was agreed that bulls would need to be at least 5th cross.)

At the time of the formation of the Australian Highland Cattle Society, and as part of the debate, it was also agreed that the pedigrees for both graded-up cattle and those with fully imported bloodlines would have clear identification so that buyers could determine whether they were buying cross-bred stock that had been graded-up, or buying cattle with fully imported 100% Highland genetics.  Accordingly cattle with Fully Imported Bloodlines were  first designated without "any letter" and then later with a "F"  as their grade to indicate that there was no crossbreeding in their pedigrees.

Sadly that practice was discontinued in April 1993 ... all the way through to June 2018.

Therefore buying Highland Cattle with Australian Highland Cattle Society registration papers from 1993 to 2018 gave no indication of the origins of the cattle, and for those without knowledge on how to research the pedigrees it was impossible to know whether the animals purchased were graded-up or derived from Fully Imported Bloodlines (Fullblood) .

As a result of lack of easy identification for so many years it is also unfortunate that not everyone realised they had graded-up stock and because they had 'papers' may have misrepresented their cattle's lineage.  It is possible that even today this may still be the case.  So, checking of pedigrees is a must.  

In April 2016 the members of the Australian Highland Cattle Society chose to finally rectify the lack of identification, and  they voted to clearly recognise those cattle with 'fully imported bloodlines'.

It took sometime after the vote in 2016 to implement the recognition and it wasn't until June 2018 that animals with Fully Imported Bloodlines (100% Highland Genetics) were recognised in the AHCS database with the letter 'F'.  The designator is shown as F on the online database.   If there is not a "F" in the Grade designator then the animal is from crossbred lines (graded-up).


The New Zealand Highland Cattle Society handled this complex issue in a different way.  In my opinion their implementation is very clear, and encourages breeders to use bulls with 100% Highland genetics.
Check it out  at this link ...
New Zealand Highland Cattle Grading.