Can You Milk A Highland Cow? Are They Right For Your Homestead

​Can you milk a highland cow? Well, the short answer is yes. You can milk any breed of lactating cow for that matter. BUT is it the best breed for the job?

When you are starting your backyard farm it can be tempting to go with the animals that are the cutest. While It makes sense that you don’t want to think all of your animals are ugly, if you are trying to hit some serious homesteading goals and be more self-sustaining “cute” is not going to cut it. 

You have to be intentional with the animals you choose to raise. While yes you can milk a scottish highland cow, they are not one of the true dairy breeds. They were developed to be a “dual purpose” breed so you can get both dairy and beef from them. So like with any dual-purpose breed it’s a little give and take with both aspects.

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Let me also be clear that there are two sizes of highland breeds. The miniature highland cows’ body weight is about 600 pounds whereas the “standard” highland beef cattle weigh about 1300 pounds and the highland bull can weigh as much as 2000 pounds. 

MAKE SURE you know what you are getting before you buy and highland cow assuming it’s a mini and end up with a surprise. With the growing popularity of the Scottish highlands in the united states I have seen some inconsistencies as well as some people just not saying one way or the other and some simply may not know if their cattle are mini or not.

What are Highland Cows used for?

Highland cows, also known as Scottish Highland cattle, are an iconic breed of cattle originating from Scotland… (duh right?) 

With their shaggy long hair and curved long horns, they are hardy animals that can thrive in cold weather and harsh conditions. They are often associated with their use in meat production, with their meat being renowned for its quality and rich flavor. However, Highland cows also have a lesser-known use as milk producers. 

Are Highland Cows Good for Milk

While Highland cows are known for meat production, but they can also be used for milk production. However, compared to other dairy cow breeds, Highland cows do not produce as much milk and are only recommended as milk producers for small farms and homesteads.

On average, a Highland cow can produce up to two gallons of milk per day. If you are looking for a cow that can produce a decent amount of milk make sure to ask about the cattle ancestry to see how much milk they averaged. There are some things you can do to help milk production but good genetics are a huge factor in how much cattle can produce.

Their milk has a high butterfat content of up to 10%, making it creamy and ideal for making butter and cheese. 

Highland cow milk can have a unique taste depending on how you feed your mini highland cows. They are good at foraging and surviving in harsh climates so they are willing to eat a lot of different types of brush that other breeds of cattle may not.

If you are looking for a beef breed of cattle for your homestead that also produces milk, the unique characteristics of miniature highland cattle are a great option with their hardiness and ability to survive in harsh conditions. With their shaggy double coat of hair, they can endure colder climates and inclement weather, making them suitable for farmers in colder regions. You will not be worried about your farm cattle freezing to death in a surprise snowstorm if you live in the north.

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How To Milk A Highland Cow

Milking a Highland cow can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Here are the steps to milk a Highland cow:

1. Prepare the cow: Approach the cow calmly and tie her to a post or use a milking stanchion. Clean her udder and teats using a warm damp cloth.

2. (If you are not milking your family milk cow by hand) Attach the milking equipment: Use specialized equipment such as smaller teat cups designed for Highland cows. Attach the cups to a bucket or milking machine, ensuring they are secure.

3. Begin milking: Using your fingers, gently squeeze the base of the teats to begin milk flow. Place the teat cups onto each teat and ensure a proper seal to prevent leaks or air intake. Use a pulsating action to simulate the natural suckling of a calf.

4. Milk collection: Collect the milk in a bucket or milking machine. Highland cows produce less milk than larger dairy cows, with an average of 2 gallons per day.

5. Clean the teats: After milking, clean the teats with warm water and gentle soap to prevent infections.

Properly maintaining the teats is crucial to ensure the cow’s udder health. Regular cleaning and checking for infections can prevent mastitis and other health issues.

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What do Highland Cows eat?

As a hardy breed, they are especially well-suited to living in a colder and harsh climate. To survive in such conditions, Highland cows need a nutritious and balanced diet, consisting of fresh water, quality hay, and cereal grains.

Highland Cows are excellent foragers, thanks to their hardy breed and ability to survive in harsh weather conditions. They are known for their ability to eat a variety of plants, including those that other cattle wouldn’t consider edible. Highland Cows particularly thrive in wooded areas, where they can supplement their diet with blackberry vines, poison ivy, honeysuckle vines, and other edible plants.

Their natural ability to clean up entire wooded areas has made them popular in the forestry industry, where they are used to manage undergrowth without causing damage to trees. 

With Highland Cows being able to supplement their traditional pasture diet with various edible plants, this makes them an excellent choice for farmers and homesteaders looking for a low-maintenance breed.

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How Much Milk Can Dairy Cows Give

Dairy cows are developed through selective breeding for their high milk production. They are much more slender than beef cattle and while they do prefer cooler weather they do need more protection than beef cattle from the cold weather.

The milk they produce is not only rich in nutrients but is also the primary ingredient for various dairy products such as cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream.

Farmers and dairy farms rely on the amount of milk they can produce, and it is important to have an idea of how much milk a dairy cow can give if making your own dairy products on your homestead is your main goal. 

How much milk can you get from a Jersey Cow?

The Jersey cow is a small and docile animal, making it a great choice for small-scale farming. The females weigh about 770 pounds to almost 900 pounds. (Making them a bit bigger than mini highland cows but significantly smaller than standard highland cattle.)

On average, a Jersey cow can produce around 5 gallons of milk per day. This high milk yield is due to the breed having a high concentration of butterfat in its milk, making it ideal for dairy production.

On the other hand, the Highland cow is a hardy breed that is known for its ability to thrive in harsh conditions, such as cold weather and wet climates. 

Compared to the Jersey cow, the Highland cow’s milk yield is much lower, only producing around 2 gallons of milk per day. This is due to the Highland cow being primarily bred for premium beef production, with its milk being a secondary focus in what the breed is used for.

When choosing a breed of cow for your farm, it’s important to consider your farming needs. If you’re looking to focus on dairy production, the Jersey cow’s high average milk yield makes it a more suitable choice. However, if you’re looking for a hardy animal that can withstand inclement weather conditions while still producing meat as a primary focus, the Highland cow may be a better fit for your farm.

How much milk can you get from a Brown Swiss Cow?

Brown Swiss cows are very docile animals known for their exceptional milk yield, producing about 5 gallons a day. They do weigh significantly more than Jersey cows at about 1300 pounds so if you need to be intentional with the space you have the are definitely on the bigger side.

 They thrive well on a diet of grains and fresh water, which allows them to produce high-quality milk year-round, and are going to do fine when grazing is not an option in the winter.

Overall, if you’re looking for a high milk yield, choosing a Brown Swiss cow is the way to go. With their rich milk and high productivity, they are an excellent choice for both family milk cows and commercial milk producers alike.

Quick Facts That Affect Milk Production In Dairy Cows

If you are trying to get a good amount of milk for your homestead there are some things you need to know that effect the milk production of cows. 

Some of these factors include diet, genetics, milking frequency, and even the season. 

  • For instance, a diet lacking in proper nutrition can impact the quality and quantity of milk a Holstein cow produces.
  • Genetics plays a significant role in determining a cow’s milk production.
  • Milking frequency is also crucial in maintaining high milk production, inconsistent milking schedules can decrease milk output and even cause infection or pain for your dairy cow. 
  • The season can play a role in milk production, as hot and humid weather can cause stress in cows and decrease milk production. (Highland cattle may not be ideal for warmer climates.)

Growth Facts

Highland cows a slow growth rate compared to other cattle breeds, requiring more time to reach butcher weight. They can take almost an entire year longer than other beef cattle. However, this slower growth process also leads to a longer lifespan, with some Highland cows living up to 20 years or more.

Despite their lower overall meat production, Highland cows are still a valuable multi-purpose breed to homesteaders as family milk cows, with some producing up to 2 gallons of milk per day.

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Trimming Hooves

Trimming the hooves of Highland cows (or any cattle for that matter) is an essential aspect of their overall health and helps to keep them producing enough milk if you are keeping them for dairy. 

Keeping the hooves trimmed correctly prevents any deformity, discomfort, or infections that could lead to reduced milk and meat production. Neglecting hoof trimming can have severe consequences in the long run, such as arthritis, hoof rot, and infections that can be life-threatening if left untreated. The correct trimming also allows Highland cows to distribute their weight evenly, which is essential for the growth and development of a baby highland cow as well. Neglecting hoof care could result in reduced birth weight, rendering the calf weak and susceptible to other illnesses.

You can higher a professional farrier for this process because they have the right tools to and can identify any problems and treat them accordingly. But if you are wanting to save money and be more self-sustaining there is no reason you can’t learn to do it yourself. 

Regular trimming is especially crucial during harvest time when the cows spend extended periods standing on hard surfaces. Additionally, pasture management plays a significant role in hoof health, as exposure to wet and muddy environments increases the risk of infections.

highland calf

If you get the mini highland cattle their small size makes them great small farm animals for homesteaders that are looking for dual-purpose animals that do well in cold climates.

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