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Highlands in Iowa

By Staff | May 6, 2011

Christine and Randy Batz, as well as their five children, Brock, Ethan, Allison, Jackie, and Sarah, find the Highland cattle easy to be around. Allison, a freshman, can even rub the belly of one of their herd. The couple has found that the breed calves easily and has a good temperament.

SAC CITY – When Randy and Christine Batz were looking for a cow-calf herd in 2006, they found cattle a bit different from what most Iowa cattlemen would expect.

It all began when Randy’s dad ran into an old classmate at a school reunion. The classmate, who is from Iron River, Wisc., had five head of Highland cattle for sale.

Soon after, Randy and Christine made the trip north and came back with five of the unusual long-haired breed.

The cattle, which are most popular in Oklahoma, Montana and Missouri, originated in Scotland, a fact that the couple found interesting as Randy has Scottish ancestry in his background.

In the beginning, there were black Kyloe versions from west coast islands off northern Scotland and red from the remote Highlands.

Looking over material they’ve gathered about Highland cattle, the Batzes belong to The American Highland Cattle Association and have recently attended meetings in Missouri. “It's a fun breed,” Christine Batz said. “We've enjoyed learning about them.”

Over the years, colors have expanded to additional white, yellow, silver, dun and brindle. All are long-haired, making them a stand-out breed in an Iowa pasture.

Due to calving and adding seven more from the same Wisconsin herd, the rural Sac City couple now has 17 head in all.

“We expanded our pasture,” Randy Batz said. “We’ve taken out some cropland to make room for our growing herd.”

The Highland cattle have become increasingly popular due to their low-cholesterol meat. “The demand for grass-fed, leaner beef has grown,” Batz said.

The meat, which requires slower cooking as it’s not marbled like Angus beef, has been well-received. They are a slow-growing animal, taking approximately three years to get to market weight.

“With five children and milk being the price it is,” Batz said. “We just may begin to milk them in addition to selling the bulls for breeding.”

Both have been surprised at the strange diet of this breed that originated from brush land. “We sow timothy, brome and rye into the pasture,” Christine Batz said. “We found, though, that they just as much like to eat cornstalk bedding as good alfalfa. They’ve even eaten my raspberries.”

The Batzs, who both have livestock backgrounds dating back to childhood, are still learning about the breed.

“We belong to the American Highland Cattle Association and attended a regional spring convention in Branson last month,” Christine Batz said.

“We’ve learned a great deal from seminar speakers, but mostly from meeting others who raise (the breed).”

Educational topics have ranged from rotational grazing to help cut costs to using feed high in vitamin E to increase the shelf-life of the meat.

Randy Batz concedes that Iowa is still getting used to the idea of Highland cattle.

“We’d like to have our kids show them at the fair but the organizers don’t know what class they are in.”

All-in-all, the Batz family has enjoyed the new experience.

“They are an easy-going breed,” Christine Batz said. “They calve easily and are a lot like a pet.

“My daughter Allison can even rub the tummy of one of the larger ones. It’s something to see.”

Contact Doug Clough at douglasclough@gmail.com.

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