Skip to Content

11 Disadvantages Of Highland Cattle!

Over the last few years, highland cattle and in particular, highland cows have been seeing a spike in their popularity due to their reputation as a low maintenance, hardy breed of cattle that are relatively easy to keep.

Although this is correct for the most part, we have noticed a number of people adding a herd of highland cows to their farm only to realize that there are a number of disadvantages of highland cattle that they were not aware of.

Although highland cattle can be an excellent addition to a farm, there are a number of potential issues that you do have to factor in prior to purchasing your highland cows.

As we have noticed a number of people specifically asking about the disadvantages of highland cattle recently, we have decided to publish this article specifically focusing on the disadvantages of highland cows.

Please note, as we are specifically focusing on the disadvantages of highland cows in this article, it may seem overly negative when in actual fact, we are huge fans of the cows and in the right situation, they can be an excellent addition to a farm.

With the majority of people out there only focusing on the advantages of highland cows, we wanted to try and specifically focus on the negatives for this article though to offer somewhat of a wake-up call for some people.

Health Issues

One of the main disadvantages of highland cattle is that some of their bloodlines do have some relatively serious health issues that can make that particular bloodline unsuitable for farming.

There are a number of breeding programs in place that are strictly followed within the United Kingdom to try and minimize these issues for future calves but highland cattle that are bought and sold outside of the United Kingdom do not need to be registered to one of these breeding programs slightly increasing the chances of these health problems occurring in the cattle.

Relatively Low Milk Yields

Although the low milk yields of highland cows is not always a disadvantage depending on your reasons for owning them, they do tend to produce considerably less milk than a standard dairy cow.

A highland cow will produce around 2 gallons of milk each day while lactating while a standard dairy cow will produce around 6 gallons of milk per day on average.

Getting three times the milk per cow pushes the dairy cow well ahead of the highland cow when it comes to dairy production and being a clear disadvantage for the highland cow if you are looking to add new cows to your herd as a dairy farmer.

Slow To Mature For Beef Farming

Another disadvantage of highland cattle is that they do tend to be slow to mature for beef farming with something like an Aberdeen Angus taking a maximum of around 15 months to be ready for harvesting.

Highland cattle can take as long as 36 months depending on the conditions with the average being around 25 month usually being the average for highland cattle.

Unless the conditions of your fields specifically require the hardy nature of highland cattle then there are a large number of other species of cattle that will mature for beef farming considerably quicker.

Meat That Is Easy To Overcook

Although highland cattle do tend to have the advantage of their beef usually having a better taste with a nicer texture, their beef can easily be overcooked spoiling these two advantages.

Most people presume that you cook highland cattle beef in the same way you would cook any other beef and although the beef cooked in this way will be edible, it really does ruin the unique taste and texture.

Highland cattle beef tends to have a range of cooking temperatures and durations for optimal taste depending on what you are trying to cook too so a quick Google search for what you are using the beef for is recommended to double-check the times and temperatures for your meal.

Very Low Heat Tolerance

One of the main disadvantages of highland cattle is that they tend to have a very low heat tolerance compared to other cattle due to their long coat.

This is something that is often overlooked with people realizing that their farm is in a location that is simply too hot to keep highland cattle with their milk production falling even lower than it currently is.

On the flip side of this, highland cattle tend to be excellent for colder farms though as the breed were developed for farming in the rough, highlands of Scotland.

Unpredictable Temperament

Although highland cattle do usually have a similar temperament to other cattle for the most part, they can definitely be unpredictable at times, especially if they are pregnant or there are young calves around.

Although you should always keep your wits about you around cattle, this really is essential for highland cattle and although it is rare that they will intentionally try to harm humans, they may randomly thrash around to try and keep you away from their young resulting in injury.

Tends To Hate Confinement

Depending on your situation and how you plan to farm another potential disadvantage of highland cattle is that they can be problematic when confined for long periods of time.

Stress and anxiety levels can start to spike with milk yields falling as a direct result of keeping the cows in confinement.

If you do live in an area where you will have to confine your highland cattle for prolonged periods of time then another species of cattle will probably be a better option, especially if you are a dairy farmer.

Horns Present A Very Real Danger

It is a little known fact that it is actually the female highland cows that have the larger, longer horns where as the males tend to have shorter horns that point vertically.

This is why the unpredictable temperament of highland cattle can be such a problem due to the female cows kept for dairy farming having such large horns.

Although de-horning cows is very common in the dairy industry, the laws governing how the dehorning must be done as well as increasing costs of veterinarians to do the process is resulting in more and more people leaving the horns on their cows in some situations.

Long Hair That Can Gather Mud And Hide Parasites

Although the long hair of highland cattle is one of their most distinguished features, it can be problematic in warmer areas as it helps to cause the cow to overheat.

Another disadvantage of the long coat of highland cows is that they can build up large amounts of mud with ease making it easy for parasites to take hold.

Although most farmers will take precautions to protect their cattle from the more common parasites in their area, the long coat of highland cattle really can make this a pain to do in bulk if you do keep large numbers of highland cattle on your farm.

Problematic Hooves That Require Maintenance Often

Depending on the weather conditions in your local areas, the hooves of your highland cattle can require considerably more maintenance than that of other types of cattle.

This pumps up your costs for maintaining the herd when they already underproduce when it comes to beef and milk.

This is why the majority of successful farmers who keep highland cows will only have them on farms that are not suitable for other types of cattle due to their local weather conditions being so cold and wet offering a way to still keep these fields profitable.

Low Re-Sale Prices

After the initial boom in highland cattle a few years back and the word getting out about the various disadvantages of highland cattle amounts experienced farmers, the prices for their calves have fallen dramatically.

At the time of writing, the price of a highland calve is lower than it was before the boom with other cattle calves prices increasing at a steady rate offering another disadvantage for keeping highland cattle.


That brings our article going over the various disadvantages of highland cattle to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you better understand the potential downsides of keeping highland cattle and although they are an excellent breed to keep on farms with cold, wet weather, they are not really suited for warmer climates with other types of cattle almost always being a better option for serious farmers looking to maximise the profit from their land.