HOLD THEIR OWN: Carolyn Keans with her award-winning cow at the Allora Show said she believed the breed to be fantastic “all-rounders”.
HOLD THEIR OWN: Carolyn Keans with her award-winning cow at the Allora Show said she believed the breed to be fantastic “all-rounders”.

’Teddy bears’ of cattle to become industry’s saving grace

KNOWN as the teddy bears of the cattle world, the popularity of Highland cows for pet and tourism purposes has risen over the past few years, but this Leyburn farmer believes the breed could be beef’s saving grace in drought.

Carolyn Keans, who displayed her cattle in the Allora Show’s stud beef entry at the weekend, first decided to enter to showcase how well her head coped on drought-affected land.

Before this weekend’s dose of wild weather, the president of the Australian Highland cattle Society president (AHCS) said her property received just 38ml in 12 months.

Despite this, the quality of her cattle hadn’t faltered during that time.

“They’re drought resilient because they’re foragers and they like to graze all over the paddock so in the drought we’ve just had to do hay feed,” she said.

“They don’t have any sort of special feed need so they’ve been able to perform on whatever hay has been available.”

Unlike her husband, Mrs Keans didn’t come from a farming background and entering the farming business in 2014 didn’t come easily.

The couple turned to non-traditional farming methods to survive, including the breeding the rare cow

“My husband is very big into natural sequencing so that’s what we’ve been doing, putting in levies and mulched down,” she said.

“When we feed out our cows, we roll round bales straight out into a line so we’re mulching at the same time.

“We’ve bounced back really good with this rain and you can see the benefit of this type of farming.”

Mrs Kearns said many Southern Downs farmers were missing out on a burgeoning enterprise because they were unaware of the breed’s “all-rounder” capabilities.

“They will never be your commercial breed or compete against your Herefords but they have their own market.” she said.

“Their marker is you can have any type of Highland enterprise. For me, I do a bit of tourism, I do a bit of private beef market, I do some pet marketing and I do shows. They have something for everybody.”

Boasting her rising AHCS numbers, Mrs Kearns said she had seen two to three new members every month over the past couple of years.

“I do think it is an outlier in the drought,” she said.

“All our members have been drought affected, everyone is just feeding hay and they’re all managing to hold their own.”

It was this resilience which she hoped would signal the next bigger stage of the breed’s demand.

“It is an industry that’s been around for 40 years in Australia and all the hard work of establishing the industry is done and now the new wave of people are coming into the industry and taking the next step and that is to get them better known in the beef industry,” she said.

“If we are going to go into the future, there has to be a place for all businesses to fit in somewhere along the food chain.”