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Highlands are hardy breed

By Staff | May 15, 2015

A HIGHLAND COW with a crooked horn, the result of an injury when she was a calf, watches along with her dark-colored calf. Highlands come in a variety of colors, said breeder Linn Reece, because their genetics have not been manipulated.


NEW PROVIDENCE – There are no yaks in Linn Reece’s pasture southeast of New Providence, as some people have asked, but he said travelers like to stop and yack about his Highland cattle.

Reece, who operates Honey Creek Farm in southern Hardin County, has bred Highlands for 15 years and believes he’s one of a small handful of Highland breeders in Iowa.

All of his bulls and heifers, 42 noses in all, are registered with the American Highland Association, based in Denver, Colorado.

Growing up around cattle all his life, his family milked Shorthorns during his formative years. Reece said he wanted to have cattle again once he moved back into the county.

-Farm News photos by Larry Kershner LINN REECE looks over a portion of his Highland herd in rural New Providence. He has Highlands grazing in several pastures around his Century Farm homestead on County Road D55 in Hardin County.

A former wildlife conservationist with the Department of Natural Resources in Indiana, Reece said he returned to Iowa in 1990s, where he worked with conservation districts.

His family Century Farm is where he keeps the bulk of his Highland cow/calf herd, while his steers and young heifers are at Honey Creek Farm 1.5 miles away.

Reece said he researched the Highland breed prior to buying his first two bred cows in 1999.

He said the breed is a good fit for all of his pasture and hay ground. He has no row crops.

The Highlands live on a grass diet, no antibiotics, except for usual vaccinations as calves.

A BRED HEIFER, on the left, and Linn Reece’s newest bull share a pasture. Reece said the bull is not ready for the herd yet, so keeps him isolated with a bred heifer, since Highlands are social animals and get lonely if left by themselves.

“They are a real hardy breed,” Reece said. “These guys can survive in all types of weather. They are tough.”

He said because they have two layers of hair, they can survive extreme winter conditions. Likewise, because of the two layers, their meat is lean.

“They don’t need the fat,” Reece said. “They only have intermusclar fat.”

He said a mature, 30-month-old steer will weigh roughly 1,050 to 1,100 pounds and dress out above 60 percent.

“They don’t need a lot of trimming,” he said.

Linn Reece Mug

The meat is high in protein and iron, Reece said of his grass-fed cattle. “It’s all natural.”

His finished steers he sells privately to local customers. His heifers he sells at breed auctions.

Honey Creek Farm is still the home of its foundation bull – Marsh Creek Victors Williams – that Reece bought in 2000.

That bull and a 19-year-old cow are in his personal hall of fame and will be allowed to live their days out at Honey Creek.

Reece purchased a new young bull for his herd this year to keep herd genetics from getting too close.

He said he’ll move that bull out in about three years to populate some other herd, while purchasing a new one and keeping new blood lines coming into his herd.

“It’s interesting and fun for me,” Reece said, “to see our pedigree at the shows.

“Honey Creek is showing up, and we’re just getting started.”

Because the breed will eat a wide range of forage, Highlands are often used to to clean out underbrush in bottom lands and are used for Savannah restoration.

“And with their horns, they can break through that brush,” he said.

He refuses to poll his cattle, even though some breeders don’t like the large horns older Highlands possess.

“To me,” he said, “they need their horns.”

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