A red cow with large horns stand in a field surrounded by mountains.

Shaggy coat, big pony a hit with hobby farmers as ‘attractive’ Highland cow trends in the market

Shaggy coats, long horns and big fringes are very much in vogue in the Australian livestock market right now.

There is such a high demand for Scottish Highlanders that breeders have given up waiting lists as prices skyrocket.

South Gippsland breeder Deniz Karaca said demand had surged in the past two years.

Mr. Karaca has been breeding highlands for six years and currently has 50 cattle in his herd.

Highlanders are listed as a rare breed in Australia.Delivered: Mollie Agostino – Màili Fold

He said he got a call almost every day from someone wanting to buy something.

“We’ve moved from livestock readily available to breeders with two or three-year waiting lists,” he said.

“We’ve abolished our waiting list and are now just doing an auction because we can’t meet demand. Our next sale isn’t until 2023.”

What is the floating price?

The Highland is the oldest breed of cattle in the world, traditionally bred for beef in native Scotland. It even has a royal connection as Queen Elizabeth II is known to eat only Highland beef.

A red highland cow with big horns looks at the camera.
It is said that Queen Elizabeth II only eats Highland beef.Delivered: Mollie Agostino – Màili Fold

In Australia, Highlands are considered rare and primarily a boutique breed for hobby farmers due to their good looks and low maintenance.

Mr Karaca said the interest in the cows started when more people came started to leave town during COVID and moved to the country.

He said that people who were not experienced farmers moved to the land and bought smaller landholdings.

“They don’t have to rely on income, they go for something that looks attractive in the paddock, and Highlands look very good,” said Mr Karaca.

“We don’t have accommodation, but there are always people coming to the farm who want to take pictures and just spend time with them.”

two calves touch noses
The Scottish Highlanders are known for their gentle temperament. Delivered: Mollie Agostino – Màili Fold

Not just hobby farmers interested in variety

With the rising popularity, not only tree changers are interested in Highland cattle, commercial breeders are also starting to take notice.

Gisborne vet Glen Hastie has been breeding Highlands for 26 years and has also recently seen an increase in embryo purchases.

“We’ve had people want up to 40 breeders, which can’t be supplied at the moment, so they’re getting embryos,” said Dr. Hastie.

“We’ve imported embryos a number of times to broaden genetics in Australia, but so far inland it’s always been little bits and pieces.

“Financially it is a very good option. You get the best animals from someone’s herd.

A mother and calf are playing in the grass.
The increased popularity has also led to an increase in registered breeders.Delivered: Mollie Agostino – Màili Fold

dr. However, Hastie said it was frustrating being a Highland breeder at this point because the demand was so high.

“I love breeding them,” he said.

“But I’m afraid of what will happen if people start to get desperate, what kind of animals we will see.”

Varieties come in and out of fashion

Corcoran and Parker Wodonga, livestock agent Katie Lewis, said Highland cattle were once a novelty that farmers would buy cheaply at the sales points, but in the past 12 months it has turned into a bidding war online.

“Now when people call about Highlands, the first thing you do is warn them about the price,” said Ms Lewis.

“They’re not the accessible teats you used to find in the last few pens at a store sale. That’s how they used to be.

“Last year we opened a can of worms. We hung them up” [online portal] Auctions Plus, and it got out of hand. I’ve never seen bidding like this.

“We sold a cow and calf for $17,100, and a commercial bull a few weeks ago that made north of $16,000.”

A mother cow with shaggy bangs, long horns with her calf.
Ms. Lewis says the craze for Highland cattle will also subside.Provided: Katie Lewis

Ms Lewis said it was not uncommon to see rare breeds come in and out of fashion on the market, and the popularity of Highlands was “all the rage”.

“I’m not sure how long we’re going to see this price bubble, wherever the craze will dissipate.

“However, highlands are hard to replicate in crosses, so I think that’s why they’re so rare.”

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