York Show Features Long-Haired Cattle of Scotland
Though you may not see the shaggy-coated cows on every Nebraska farm or ranch, breeders say the Highland is a more popular kind of cattle than many realize.
A dozen farms came to compete in the 2015 Cornhusker State Highland Classic - four from Nebraska, and the rest from as far as Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New York.
Eddie Mackay wears a touch of home, a plaid kilt, as he shows the cattle raised on his Michigan farm.
“Spent my young life working as a farmer in Scotland so I could afford to become an engineer, and then I spent the rest of my life working as an engineer in America so I could afford to become a farmer,” Mackay says of his background.
Though he grew up with dairy cattle, Mackay chose to breed Highlands, the long-haired cattle also native of Scotland. He takes them to a half dozen shows each year, including the Cornhusker Classic in Nebraska.
“It’s a special event to come out and participate in this show in York,” says Mackay.
That’s because his friend, Dr. Dave Demuth, a long-time family physician in York who raised his own Highlands, started the Nebraska show in 2007.
“He was kind of a farm boy at heart, and when we moved out to an acreage on the west side of town he wanted animals for the boys, we have three sons and a daughter,” says Deborah Demuth.
She says her husband chose Highlands because they usually don’t need assistance when they give birth, and since he might be off delivering a human baby, he needed easy calvers.
Dave died just after the first show in ‘07, but his family and fellow Highland breeders keep it going, sharing their friendship and passion for the stock which producers seven colors of hide.
“That’s what we’ve tried to do with the show is we’re really trying to promote the breed, and to promote the advantage of Highlands for crossbreeding,” Mackay says.
Alun Garton raises Highlands in Scotland. He says he’s come to York about every other year to judge the show. He says Highlands have qualities that fit Nebraska’s terrain and climate, as they shed their coats to stay cool in the spring, and graze rough ground other cattle may avoid.
“They put on a very dense coat during the winter which insulates them from the ice so they’re always, if you put your hand underneath the coat, the skin is actually warm, so they’re an easy breed to keep,” Garton says.
But breeders say the best part is their beef - they produce big ribeyes, and, because of their hair, little back fat.
“The beef is very lean, nice marbling through it and not a very high fat content,” says Garton.
Breeders say Highlands have a big presence each year at the Western Stock Show in Denver.
The Demuth family is planning on putting the classic together again in York around this same time next year.