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Belted Galloway Heritage Breed Cattle - 10 Reasons to Raise them for Beef

Updated on November 8, 2011
Belted Galloway cow on a frosty morning
Belted Galloway cow on a frosty morning | Source

What are Belted Galloways?

Commonly know as Belties, this remarkable old cattle breed are an excellent choice for a small heritage farm. Introducing you to the breed, I will share lots of pictures of our own beautiful animals, and reasons why we chose them. It started with a Rare Breeds Canada summary of rare cattle breeds. I thought they looked cute and the more research I did, the more I realised they were perfect for us.

The Galloways are an old breed that evolved with very little shelter on the rugged moors and mountains of Scotland. Generations bred in damp, cold, sparsely vegetated hills with no shelter has led to an exceptionally hardy but slower growing breed.The belted are the smallest and most dairy of the Galloway colour varieties, but they do come in Dun, black, red, also, with or without the dominant white belts.

The old beef farmers round here in Bruce County gave up on these years ago when "stuffing them full of grain" didn't make them mature and marketable any faster. Shame as they have so much to offer and are enchanting to look at!

Two bred Belted Galloway cows and an 8 month old steer
Two bred Belted Galloway cows and an 8 month old steer | Source
Belted galloways at the hay feeder out in the snow
Belted galloways at the hay feeder out in the snow | Source
Curious and Intelligent Steer
Curious and Intelligent Steer | Source
Emma a 6 year old Beltie cow showing off her thick curly coat
Emma a 6 year old Beltie cow showing off her thick curly coat | Source
Calf taking his first drink.  The Galloways raea a milky breed and we chose this cow because she was a good milk producer
Calf taking his first drink. The Galloways raea a milky breed and we chose this cow because she was a good milk producer | Source
Good Sized Udder after calving.
Good Sized Udder after calving. | Source
Belties are cold hardy but stay in shelter when it is windy and stormy
Belties are cold hardy but stay in shelter when it is windy and stormy | Source

10 reasons to raise Belties on a small farm - why we chose them!

  1. Belted Galloways are primarily a pastured beef breed. They are evolved to digest grass and hay, and although they will grow on corn or grains, there is no need to feed it. As a farmer, baling or even buying organic or non-sprayed hay is easier than trying to find and pay for organic grain. They are exceptional foragers and can thrive of the thinnest pickings. Studies have shown they eat more varieties of plants than any other cattle breed.
  2. Due to the thick coat, the Belties do not have the typical thick fat rind under the skin that most beef breed possess to insulated and keep them warm in our extreme cold winters. This makes for lean meat (under 2% fat) and any fat is marbled through the meat, making for a tastier, juicer, more flavourful beef. They have a high dress-out ratio - Due to the short legs and long coat, at processing they often yield over 60% usable meat for the hanging weight.
  3. Pasturing the breed easily makes for easier marketing of healthy lean delicious beef. The Linoleic fatty acid (Omega 6):omega 3 ratio of their beef is one of the most healthy at 3:1. Making it comparable to fish or chicken in a healthy diet.
  4. They are calm, docile and fairly friendly in our experience. As beginner farmers, handling them was fairly easy, and would have been way more difficult with a less accommodating or more excitable breed!
  5. They make excellent mothers - calving for the most part is done easily and both the calves born here. We have got up on a Spring Sunday morning to a fait accomplis with each belted calf newly born. This makes these a good choice for a less experienced stock raiser. Calves are strong and vigorous, nursing readily, and growing fast.
  6. They are extremely cold hardy due to their thick long coat. This makes housing them more affordable and simple. They usually just require a shelter from the wind, and studies have show them healthier in the outdoor environment in the winter.
  7. The long thick coat and thick hide is another product to bring income to your farm. I still chuckle at the rug for sale called "Larry" I saw on an Australian Belted Galloway farmers website. But he was beautiful!
  8. The Belted are the milkiest of Galloway varieties and can be used for the home farm's own milk requirements if a suitable milky cow is trained. It is believed there may be Dutch Belted Dairy come in the history way back.
  9. They are stunning and so striking with the "Oreo cookie" white band, they are instantly recognised. A herd looks fabulous in a green pasture, drawing compliments and cameras if your wanting to set up a farm gate ecotourism type operation!
  10. They are a rare heritage beef breed in North America and possess fine genes that would be a shame to lose. Preserving them is rewarding and their rarity, the herd book, standards and registration means breeding decisions are easier. Market values of beef and breeding stock may be more steady with less fluctuations than a more generic commercial cow.

A good life

As new farmers to raising beef, we named our first steer Freezer Boy, to make that final day easier. We could never have afforded to keep cattle as pets. In this day and age, rare breeds have to pay their way providing food, eggs, milk, and fibre. The more they pay their way, the more will be bred and the better the quality of the population.

At our farm we give our rare breeds the best life, care, food and space, then a clean humane end when necessary. I know others prefer vegetarianism, and that is their perogative. I hope to not offend with the next segment, but encourage full enjoyment of this fantastic heritage Beef breed.

Steaks, anyone?

Our experience with this breed has been great. We recently shipped our first steer in time for BBQ season. We had never tried Galloway beef before we got them. All I can say is, it's fantastic.

As one of those people that chefs loathe, insisting on a well done steak, I can almost pull the tender juicy meat apart with my fork. Even if you never raise these beauties, you have to try their healthy delicious meat. Dedicated breeders are all over the world, that will share Galloway meat with the public. Look them up and support this wonderful breed!

Thanks for reading! If you like our beautiful pictures of Belties, check out the Belted Galloway Gift Store with Beltie mugs, T-shirts and other beautiful gifts.

Looking forward to your comments and experiences. I am happy to add links to breeders

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      Marilyn Mitchell 11 months ago

      Just passed a small herd of these Belted Galloways driving through Coalville, Utah and was so awe struck, I had to look them up! Thanks for your article. My dad raised Simmental cattle and they weren't so docile, as I have memories of ducking under fences when being chased.

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      Adolfo 3 years ago

      These are adorable, Kris! I also wntaed to tell you- you looked so gorgeous in the sneak peak shot you shared in instagram last week- can't wait to see more photos!

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      Bonner 3 years ago

      I'm not easily imerpssed. . . but that's impressing me! :)