Choosing a heritage breed cow for your homestead

It’s been a few days of having our beginning herd home here on Blueberry Acres and we’re learning that much like every other animal, cows have their own unique identity and personality.  Maureen (the little one) is highly curious about our barn cats.  She is quite nosey and it’s obvious that she wants to explore the cats with smell and probably taste since she licked the wooden fence post that one of our barn cats, Peter had sat on just seconds prior.  Pia (the pregnant one) is a little more cautious.  Apparently we are her third farm and she is a little more apprehensive about us and the situation in general.  She doesn’t seem to display the same amount of “ooooh a cat!” as Maureen, and I suppose that is ok.


But, beyond these specific personality traits, our decision to build a herd of Belted Galloways was a strategic one.  We knew we wanted to concentrate on a heritage or less common breed.  Here are some of the things that we discovered specific to this particular heritage breed:

Temperment:   Generally speaking, these cattle are more docile.  They are not overly aggressive and as a result, we believe that they will be very well suited to our small hobby farm.

Size:  Galloways are typically smaller than your average Angus cow.  Maureen was born in 2011 and the top of her head doesn’t even come to my shoulder (and let’s not lie-my shoulder isn’t that far off the ground) which makes her a little easier to handle.  In addition to just having less body mass, this also makes them easier and cheaper to transport.

Feed:  Galloways are excellent at processing food/grass where some breeds will desire more specific grasslands, Galloways are genetically predisposed to make the most of the grassland that they have due to their heritage.  In addition, Galloways have been known to consume about 75% of what a typical Angus would take in but still produce the same amount of meat.  However, that is not to mean that they produce lower quality beef.  Quite the opposite, as Galloways are known for…

Beef:  High quality, lower fat meat is the by-product of both their genetic makeup as much as the fact that most Galloway producers (like us) are either grass-fed and/or grass-fed AND finished.  We’ll be in that later category-grass all the way.

Adaptable to varied conditions:  Given that this breed started in Scotland, I don’t think I would recommend them for a farm in Hawaii, but in the diverse Missouri climate, they are well-suited as they will produce a double coat in the winter to protect them from harsh winds and weather.

So, for us, this breed just became the best of the best in terms of value, disposition, and meat quality.  As our herd grows, we will eventually begin breeding ourselves as well as selling meat products.  As our herd grows, we may add an Angus or two just to see what a Beltie/Angus cross is like, but we will also make sure that we do our part to preserve the lineage of this amazing breed.  The breeder that we purchased our girls from also sold us some ground beef and it was FANTASTIC!  We know that building a herd is going to be slow going for this uncommon breed, but we think the investment will be well worth it.  After all, isn’t homesteading all about the journey and not the destination?  Happy Homesteading!

This post also appeared on Modern Homesteaders.  We love the info there-go check them out!


7 thoughts on “Choosing a heritage breed cow for your homestead

  1. Very cool! The herd we used to get our raw milk from was Dutch Belted, and the milk was great. I have also looked into Scottish Highland cattle for up here in Michigan, once we get some property that is. I will be following your herd closely. Definitely about the journey, but hopefully the destination is cool too!

    • We have talked about milk cows, but honestly-we just don’t think we can handle being tied to the udders (twice a day is what we have heard) at this stage in the farm. But, that may change in the near future! Thanks for the comments-we’ll keep you posted on our little herd!

    • You know-I don’t know for sure. We aren’t planning to milk these cows, so we haven’t done extensive research but from what I have seen online, as a breed, they are intended to be more for beef production than milk production. Sooo…you could probably milk them, but you might not get much. I’d be interested in hearing if anyone has milked their Belties with success!

      • I’m just thinking; as a homesteader, how much cows milk do we really use in a day? I mean, many dairy breeds produce a crazy 10 GALLONS each day. That’s not uncommon. I dunno about you but I go through MAYBE a gallon a week in milk form and another two or three in the form of other dairy goods. Ten a DAY would have me litterally drowning in it! That’s why people prefer goats, usually.

        But if one could milk a quality beef cow that forages for, say, a gallon a day (1/10th what a dairy cow milks out for) it might make a beef cow the best homsteading cow around! It’d give you enough to turn into quality cheese for sale, and fufill all your home needs as well!

        Just a thought!

  2. How neat, thanks for the information! I’d love to have a milk cow someday, but it will be many more years before we could make that happen.

    Thanks so much for checking out my blog and leaving the comment. It made me laugh out loud, your five year old trying to drink out of the chickens’ water! Hilarious!

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