a brown highland cow with the sun setting behind

Mini Highland Cows: A Comprehensive Guide for Potential Owners

There is no shortage of media coverage right now than for the mini highland cow. Everywhere you look on TikTok and other platforms, this seemingly majestic breed has captured America’s hearts. But is it even a breed at all?

Along with the popularity is a lot of controversy as found in my research.

This article will cover what exactly are miniature highland cattle, how to find them, buy them, and take care of them.

My positioning isn’t for or against raising and breeding them, but simply to help you make the absolute most informed decision before moving toward this long-term commitment.

Understanding Mini Highland Cows: An In-Depth Look

What are mini highland cows?

Unlike what you may read, mini highland cows are not the same as highland cattle. Miniature highlands are simply highland cows bred to be smaller in size by either breeding with smaller bulls over generations or cross-breeding.

Some folks will advertise their highland cattle as minis when what they mean is they are selling you the baby calf.

Where did highland cattle originate from?

A natural question. These highland cattle hail originally from the Scottish Highlands from the Hebrides Island and the Isle of Sky.

an image depicting early years of highland cows

These cows were originally smaller and hardier breeds that suited the more harsh Scottish highlands. Over time, however, they were selectively bred to be a bit larger however with more modern times we’ve now returned to the original (smaller) size that we are used to seeing.

Miniature highland cattle, however, are purposely bred to be even smaller than regular highland cattle, though the way breeders have been achieving this has been quite controversial.

Controversy around mini highland cows

From my research, it appears there are three common ways that breeders achieve these smaller sizes.

  • Purposely pulling the calves away and bottle-feeding them, resulting in stunted growth
  • Breeding them with other smaller-sized breeds like dexters, which can cause dwarfism-like problems
  • Naturally breeding them with smaller and smaller bulls over several generations

The first two are what are causing controversy and the last one is the most ethical way to raise mini highland cows if you are going to do this type of breeding at all.

Characteristics of Mini Highland Cows: What Makes Them Unique

Physical Characteristics

Highland Cows have always stood out in the crowd thanks to their double coat of hair – a woolly undercoat for insulation and a longer, wavy overcoat. This rugged look forms an integral part of the minis.

The typical shades for the coat vary between red, yellow, black, dun, white, brindle, and silver. A distinct feature setting them apart from regular cows is their set of long, sweeping horns.

a brown mini highland cow on the grass in the sun
credit ranch by the beech

Temperament and Behavior

Mini highlands are well-loved for their (typically) quiet and docile temperament. Their behavior is quite friendly and they exhibit a natural curiosity that’s endearing.

You can expect less havoc compared to larger cattle breeds as their calm demeanor translates into a lower tendency to destroy fences or become agitated. However, handling and upbringing can influence each cow’s personality and temperament.

In addition, intact bulls, especially during the mating season may show more signs of aggression so it is wise to be cautious during these times.

How Does Their Size Compare to Regular Highland Cows?

If you’ve seen a regular highland, you’d know they are still considered a large creature – typically standing about 4 to 5 feet tall, with males being larger.

In contrast, minis have a stature around 3 to 3.5 feet tall for cows, and 3.5 to 4 feet for bulls.

They can however still weigh 800 pounds or more which may come as a surprise to some owners. One could say that mini highlands are, quite literally, a scaled-down version of their full-sized counterparts.

This infographic by Hairy Heifer captures the various sizes nicely.

an infographic show size differences between mini, standard, midsized and micro highland cows

Benefits of the Compact Size

  • Requiring Less Feed
  • Requiring Less Space
  • Less Environmental Impact

Not one to be dismissed based on size, Mini Highland Cows come with a bundle of benefits linked to their compact stature. They require less space, making them an ideal choice for smaller farms, homesteads, and farmsteads. Lesser feed consumption translates to cost savings on feed expenses. What’s more, less land and resource usage means miniature highland cattle have a lower environmental impact.

Downsides of mini highland cows

While there is much to be desired, there are some things you should look out for though compared to their upsides are quite minor

  • Careful of their horns: despite their cuteness, horns are serious business and the highlands will not hesitate to use them if they feel the need. Treat them with the respect they deserve.
  • Careful where you sell them: If you want top dollar for your mini highland, don’t take them to the typical cattle events. You’re better off selling these off in private sales. Most farmers that go to the larger events are looking for large breeds and not minis and their offer price will reflect this fact.
  • Substantial budget and care needed: while it is true, they require less land and expense, often the new owners of these breeds are surprised at just how much work it is to take care of cattle. This venture shouldn’t be taken lightly, it takes serious money to raise cattle.

Average Lifespan of Mini Highland Cows: Years of Companionship

Cherished for their beauty and temperament, mini highlands are not just an attraction but rather a long-term commitment. On average, they live for around 18 to 20 years. However, well-cared-for individuals have been known to trot into their mid-twenties. Note, though, that in some instances, they may live considerably less due to factors such as environment, nutrition, and disease.

How to Research, Purchase, and Plan for Mini Highland Cows

Similar to buying any type of cattle, you’ll want to be prepared. Especially with miniature highland cows because there are a lot of scammers out there, let me tell you.

a brown mini highland cow
credit rolling 7 mini cattle

High-level preparation

Before starting, do some preliminary planning:

  • What is the purpose of purchasing mini highland cattle: are you looking for mainly dairy or are you looking for a duel purpose, meaning you want to sell them for meat as well? While you can milk minis, they are generally sold for beef as the primary purpose.
  • How much acreage do you have? For a typically mini highland cow, you’ll need at least 1 acre of land. The more the better of course. Also, cows are herd animals, so they’ll do best when there are at least 2 or more grazing together.
  • Professional Support: Do you have access to a veterinarian who specializes in this breed that you can quickly call up if medical issues arise? Short of this, are there other support lines you can tap into for help?
  • Zoning: does your farm have all of the required zoning and other local regulations? If this is your first time setting up this venture, you’ll want to do your due diligence before committing to this financially.

Where can I buy legitimate miniature highland cattle?

You can find mini highland cows for sale by simply doing a quick Google search for your local seller. You’ll see that there are plenty of websites ready to sell you miniature highland cattle.

But not so fast, how do you know they are legitimate or that they have bred them ethically?

Here are some good indications that you probably found a good seller

  • They are patient: Are they telling you to be on the waitlist, or better yet, some sellers won’t even sell you a highland until you visit their farm.
  • Will they buy back the cattle: though rare, some owners have been known to buy back their cattle.
  • Discuss proper handling: Do they talk about proper handling and management of the mini cattle?
  • Qualify their Buyers: Do the sellers ask you questions to qualify you as a potential owner? Some sellers won’t sell to single-cow households.
  • Beware the “micro mini”: Ethically breeding the highland cows to a smaller size may be ok depending on your stance, but exploiting highlands by intentionally causing chondrodysplasia is unethical.
  • Allow for interviews: If the buyer is willing to get on a video call or meet you face to face, this is a very good sign they are on the legitimate side of things.
  • Ask for past customer testimonials: ask if they can put you in touch with a past buyer so you can ask them a few questions. It’s like a testimonial or review for a product but with a real buyer.

These are just some ideas to ensure you are not getting a quick one pulled on you. Ultimately, you want to use your gut and if you see red flags, just move on to the next potential seller.

How much are miniature highland cows?

The range for mini highlands starts from $2,000–$10,000 typically, though we have seen some as high as $15,000. The range is mainly based on sex, age, and condition.

a screenshot of a website showing the pricing of micro and mini cattle
just one example of a website of pricing I found for miniature highlands

This goes back to understanding the original purpose or objective of why you want to buy mini highland cows in the first place.

Post Purchase

After you purchase your highland cattle, you’ll want to make sure that you have the proper transportation in place to deliver them to the homestead.

And of course, you’ll need to have already had the property facilities in place well before even the point of sale.

Taking Care of Mini Highland Cows

Dietary and Nutritional Needs

Miniature highlands, like their larger counterparts, are herbivores. Their diet primarily consists of grass, hay, and healthier options such as grain or pellets. Not all feeds are created equally, and it’s essential to certify that the feed you choose covers all necessary nutrients for your mini cow to thrive.

This is where I would recommend you speak to a professional or at least take a look at forums like this to get a sense of what others are doing if this is your first time raising miniature cattle.

From my research, you can expect your minis to eat around 3% of their body weight per day. So if you had an 800lb mini, it would eat 24 pounds of feed each day. This is an important number to plan for as it will make up a large portion of your budget.

In the winter you can also expect this number to go up as they require more feed to maintain their health. And of course, as with any mammal, they will need fresh water all day.

Proper Shelter and Fencing

Like us, a highland cow doesn’t want to bake in the sun all day in the summer and needs insulation from the cold in the winter.

Ensure that your homestead has proper barn shelter to protect them from the freezing cold and adequate shade for the hot summer months. They may be miniature cattle, but they still need our support year-round.

As for fencing, you’ll want fencing that is 4–5 feet high and is sturdy enough to withstand their horns as they are bound to run into the fencing and as they mature, they may inadvertently take down the fencing with their playful nature.

Grazing Space

While we love staring at their furry coats, you want to ensure that mini highland cows have enough space to naturally graze. As mentioned, previously, you’ll want at least 1–2 acres per heard of mini highlands.

a women wearing blue walking on homestead with cow

The Importance of Regular Veterinary Care

Regular veterinary care isn’t simply a good idea – it’s a necessity for all cattle owners. Even if your mini cow appears perfectly healthy, regular check-ups can help prevent potential health issues that may go unnoticed by the untrained eye. Preventive care has universally proven to be most effective in securing the health of animals over time.

Common Health Issues and Preventative Measures

Despite their robust nature, miniature highland cattle are prone to certain health issues. Familiarity with these problems and their signs will allow an owner to take swift action, thereby reducing the impact of the health issue on the animal.

One common issue post transportation is that they may run into respiratory issues due to the changing temperature, dust, and pressure throughout the journey. This may even turn into full-blown Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD).

Regular vaccinations and routine health checks are integral for catching common health issues early and ensuring a long, healthy life for your Mini Highland Cow.

Budgeting for Your Mini Highland Cow

Putting it all together now, these are the things to consider when it comes to budgeting for miniature cattle.

  • The cost of the miniature highland cattle
  • Transportation costs back to your farm
  • The daily feed costs including additional vitamins and supplements during winter months
  • Housing costs including the barns and fencing
  • On going annual veterinary and health costs
  • The costs and equipment to essentially run a farm and full beef operation or at least a plan of how you will deal with production

The business side of Mini Highlands

adult and baby highlands stand next to each other on the grass. credit etsy

There are mainly three options to generate revenue to keep your homestead going.

  1. Sale of calves: The birth of healthy calves can lead to substantial returns. Selling these calves can help cover ongoing expenses and potentially generate profit.
  2. Milk production: though not the primary reason that most owners decide on mini highlands, this is still an option as you can milk them. Also, various dairy products like cheese or butter can be made and sold, adding to the economic value.
  3. Meat production: typically the primary reason for these animals, beef production will likely be the bulk of your revenue if you are running a regular farming production business. The quality of beef from the highlands is high and typically low fat content.

Wrapping Up Our Highland Adventure

Potential mini highland cow ownership is seductive, thanks to their charm, reduced resource requirements, plus potential profit. However, the need for earlier vet interventions, sourcing reputable sellers and regular maintenance could prove challenging.

Remember, the value of this guide goes beyond information – it equips you for a successful venture into mini highland cow ownership. Use it not as the end, but as the beginning of a richer understanding of this unique adventure.

Now, put what you’ve learned to work. Explore your profit options – selling mini moo companions or banking on their wooly charm. Start the conversation with local farmers, join online forums, and ask questions. It will be the sure fire way to know whether this adventure is right for you.

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