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These ‘udderly’ adorable Highland cows are stealing the spotlight in Manitoba

The cows at Highland Bullrush Acres in Manitoba’s Interlake region are ‘udderly’ adorable’ – a part of a heritage breed of cattle ‘moo-ving’ up in popularity right now thanks in part to TikTok.

When Fran Wilkinson calls her name, Gracie the Highland cow comes running across the field eager for her favourite treat – oranges. Gracie is one of about 50 Highland cows Wilkinson and her partner Clarke Childs have at their small cattle-breeding farm northwest of Komarno.

Gracie the Highland cow getting an orange from Fran Wilkinson at Highland Bullrush Acres. (Source: Danton Unger/CTV News Winnipeg. Uploaded Jan. 16, 2024)

The hardy heritage breed of beef cattle originally from the North Highlands of Scotland are known for their massive horns and their thick, shaggy coats – so they feel right at home in the harsh Manitoba winters.

“First of all, they’re absolutely beautiful to look at,” said Wilkinson, who bought a few of the cows for Childs as a birthday present, eventually launching the Highland Bullrush Acres.

However, it’s not just their looks that attracted the couple to the Highland cows. In an area of rough Interlake land that typically wouldn’t be ideal for a cattle pasture, Wilkinson said the Highland cows thrive.

A Highland cow at Highland Bullrush Acres. (Source: Danton Unger/CTV News Winnipeg. Uploaded Jan. 16, 2024)

Standing about half the size of a typical Angus, these stocky Highland cows also require less hay – meaning the costs to care for them are not as high.

Recently, the couple said they have seen demand for these cows jump, and that could be thanks to TikTok. Videos of Highland cows are all over the social media platform, some gathering millions of views.

“People love them. They just love them. They love the calves especially,” Wilkinson said. “There’s a lot of people wanting them as pets, you know, because they are beautiful and cute.”

Childs said it’s driving up the market for Highland cows. He said they recently sold a single cow for more than $20,000 – about triple what they used to get five years ago.

“Throughout Canada, USA, even back in Scotland, there seems to be a big demand for them now,” Childs said.

A Highland cow at Highland Bullrush Acres. (Source: Danton Unger/CTV News Winnipeg. Uploaded Jan. 16, 2024)

It’s a popularity boost the Canadian Highland Cattle Society has been enjoying.

“We have been gradually growing, but the last five years we have been doing a lot better,” said Paul Thibodeau, president of the society based in Quebec.

According to the Canadian Livestock Records Corporation, there are 339 registered highland cattle farms including 17 here in Manitoba. Thibodeau said while they are seeing an increase in Highland cattle farms – they tend to be smaller homesteads.

“Basically where people are coming back to growing their own food, making their own meat.”

Manitoba Beef Producers President Matthew Atkinson said the Highland breed could bring some benefits to the mainstream cattle industry through breeding.

“Getting those genetics out there to other folks so it could be incorporated back down across in a commercial setting,” he said.

While still a bit of a novelty here in Manitoba, Wilkinson and Childs said they believe the Highland cow craze will continue to gain momentum.

A Highland cow at Highland Bullrush Acres. (Source: Danton Unger/CTV News Winnipeg. Uploaded Jan. 16, 2024)

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