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This is a topic that always creates a lot of discussion so I thought I'd throw in my wee bit too.

Sound genetics are the most important aspect for the future of the breed. There is room within our breed for a wide range of differing genetics. No one should be criticised for choosing his or her own path, whether that is cute and cuddly or big and beefy.

For those of us who are keen to promote Highlands as a beef breed it is of paramount importance that our animals are well presented to the public and the marketplace. The image that Highland Cattle are "small and skinny" is an unfortunate one.


A look back in time

Few people would be aware that Highland Cattle at the end of the 1800's were a much larger animal in comparison with today's average.

In 1893 the official average weights for Highland Cattle were given as ...

  • Oxen : 865kg.
  • Cows and Heifers : 794kg.
Source - A Keen Eye by Una Flora Cochrane.

As a comparison … one of our top bulls, James of Cruachan, weighed 848 kg at Royal Adelaide Show 1996. Mointeag of Trelissick, his dam, considered large by some, weighed 615 kg at Royal Melbourne Show 1993 … both are considerably smaller than that of yesteryear.

Today's figures would be more typically …

  • Bulls : 600 kg – 900kg.
  • Females : 400 kg – 650 kg

Should we then be attempting to attain weights and size of days gone by? Again that becomes a matter for personal choice. The old adage still holds true … its quality that counts not quantity. Just remember ... in recent years chicken has made large gains in the marketplace ... and a chicken is not a large animal, but the chicken industry have achieved a consistent quality in their product.


Factors that may affect growth potential.

  • Stocking rate (animals having to compete for the best feed).
  • Parasite control.
  • Quality of pasture (including trace elements) and water.
  • Climate ... relative to energy requirements.

Footnote: The weights shown above in 1893 reflect the selective breeding carried out in the 1800's across all breeds of cattle. There is no doubt that Highland Cattle, as with all breeds, were smaller several hundred years ago.

The article in the following link discusses the Size and Weight of Cattle in Early Scotland (PDF file)