native Scotland, the fundamental purpose of Highland cattle throughout the past
seven centuries has been that of a beef producing animal. However, in recent
years, Highlands have maintained their popularity primarily due to their unique
looks and distinctive personalities. Still, the versatility of Highland cattle
has been well-known by their breeders for years. Their adaptability to adverse
grazing conditions has made them an attractive beef animal to raise in harsh
environments around the world.
past thirty years, it has been the “hobby farmer” that has been the primary
driving force behind the proliferation of Highland cattle in the United States.
Now that there are over a thousand folds of Highlands in the U.S. alone, this
breed must be redirected towards the beef industry in order to experience
continued growth of market share. The Quality Highland Beef Program (QHBP) is
designed to support this market share growth by assisting producers in
developing local beef markets which in turn, underpin demand for the purebred
The QHBP is
a national promotional campaign that is available to individual breeders who market
their beef on a local basis. We have combined this promotion with guidelines
that create a natural product that is
consistent and high quality beef product. The advantages for the individual
breeder go far beyond selling beef; they also include reducing the number of
marginal bulls and demonstrating to other potential breeders that Highland
cattle are beef animals with more than just a “pretty face”.
important aspect of the QHBP is the contract agreement that breeders are
required to sign, guaranteeing their desire to follow the product quality
guidelines that will ensure a certain consistency of Highland beef produced
from California to Maine.
certifies that any beef marketed by him or her under the Quality Highland Beef
Program (QHBP) has been raised and finished in accordance with the
recommendations and guidelines provided by the American Highland Cattle
Association and as outlined below. The producer maintains full responsibility
for the product and for the interpretation and application of the Association’s
certifies that any beef marketed by him or her and which uses the QHBP logos,
etc. has been raised and prepared as follows:
animals are purebred or at least one-half Highland: steers, spayed
heifers, heifers, cows, bulls.
animals have been raised and handled in a humane manner and in accordance with
Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) or similar guidelines.
3. No added
hormones, anabolic steroids or sub-therapeutic feed antibiotics have been
applied/fed to the animals.
in a finish program will be slaughtered between 14 and 36 months of
age. Surplus or aged animals (greater than 36 Months) will meet the
standards of items 1, 2, and 3 herein and will only be eligible for sale as:
Tenderloin, ground beef or processed (hotdog/sausage etc.) products.
minimum carcass weight is 450 pounds.
will be aged a minimum of 14 days or otherwise in accordance with buyer
guidelines or requests.
7. That the beef product is natural and does not
contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, or chemical
preservative, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient; and that the
product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed. (Minimal
processing may include: (a) those traditional processes processes used to make
food edible or to preserve it or make it safe for human consumption, e.g.
smoking, roasting, freezing, drying, and fermenting, or (b) those physical
processes which do not fundamentally alter the raw product and/or which only
separate a whole, intact food into components parts, e.g. grinding meat.
health records including vaccinations, inoculations, brands, anti-parasitic,
etc. will be kept on all animals marketed as QHB.
9. AHCA will
retain the QHB Committee to direct, along with the AHCA Board, the allocation
of funds raised for further development of the QHB program and its promotional
sold as open should not be bred and animals sold as steers should be completely
collected pursuant to QHB Membership shall be utilized by AHCA for research and
promotion of Quality Highland Beef and related products. This may include
animal research, diet research for stock, product prep and related
activities. Funds that are co-opted with other monies are encouraged.
contract shall automatically renew upon the producer’s payment of QHB dues each
year. Producer shall agree in the contract that said automatic renewal of said
contract shall be under the latest terms and conditions, as approved and
adopted by the Board of Directors of AHCA. Said producer may request a copy of
said contract prior to paying said dues or review it on the AHCA web site.
Payment of said dues creates a presumption that producer has reviewed the QHB
Policy and Contract and agrees to abide by them.
There are a
variety of feeding programs that will allow breeders to meet the conditions of
the QHBP agreement. A great deal will depend on where the Highland cattle are being
raised and under what conditions. It is not the intention of the QHBP to
micro-manage the feeding programs of Highland breeders. It is assumed that
producers will use the most economical and readily available feed resources in
PRODUCING QUALITY HIGHLAND BEEF
important link in the QHBP is you, the producer. Your management and production
skills will determine the quality and wholesomeness of the beef you raise. AHCA
has provided a set of guidelines, an outline, within which you will produce
Quality Highland Beef (QHB). It is your job to uphold these guidelines and
produce the finest beef available.
production can sometimes be more of an art than a science. Knowing which
management practices to utilize or when an animal is finished just right is
often a skill that cannot be taught. However, there are certain practices you
can follow to help ensure an excellent well-finished product. Below is a short
list of tips and suggestions to help you in producing QHB.
Breeding – Here, the most important thing to remember
is to use high-quality Highland cattle.
Calving to weaning – This is a good time to select
your prospects for the QHBP. As a purebred producer you might, for example,
plan to keep the top 10-20% of your bull calves as herdsire prospects and
market the remainder as QHB. Remember, any animal that is to end up as QHB may
not be given any growth hormones or stimulants at any point during its life! At
this time, those bull calves that are not kept as breeding stock should be
castrated. While castration may be done to older cattle as well, increased
stress and weight loss may result. At weaning, calves should be wormed and
vaccinated. Check with your local veterinarian for an appropriate health care
schedule suitable for your area. Finally, be careful when giving injections to
your cattle. Improper handling and administration of injections can cause
lesions and scarring that will affect quality of the meat. The National
Cattlemen’s Beef Association has worked hard through its Beef Quality Assurance
Program to develop and promote proper injection procedures. Contact your state
or local cattlemen’s organization for more information.
Weaning to finishing – During this time, it is
important to first determine the desired age and weight of your animals at
finishing. Some animals will, of course, need to be heavier. A very
general rule of thumb is that a steer will be finished at its dam’s weight,
however, this can vary. Smaller framed cattle should finish in the
900-1000 lb. range while larger frames will be heavier. The time frame will
depend on your philosophies, available feed and the animal’s ability to gain.
Once you have determined these factors, make sure the animal’s nutritional
needs are met. Extension agents and feed /mineral dealers are good sources to
help you select an economical, nutritionally-balanced program. Also, maintain
and thoroughly document a proper herd health program to ensure performance.
Finishing – When your animal is within 100-200 lbs. of
the desired slaughter weight, it is time to “finish” it. Finish is to
help ensure a degree of marbling and finish to the beef. Marbling adds flavor
and juiciness to the meat. A small amount of external finish is necessary to
enable the carcass to hang. Make sure you either weigh your cattle periodically
or have your feedstuffs tested to make sure the animals are able to gain the
required amount. In the end, the animal will appear fleshy and the brisket
should be filling out. Unfortunately, determining when cattle are finished is
one of the aforementioned arts. It is not the purpose of this program to
dictate how you finish your cattle. Producers must decide what system works for
them based on available feeds, etc. Below are some methods already in use:
quality pasture. Cattle can gain over 2 lbs. per day on good quality grass,
legume, annual or a combination of such pasture systems. Some producers and
consumers prefer forage fed beef. External fat on grass fed carcasses can have
a yellowish tint which does not affect the flavor. In some areas of the country
this can be a seasonal product that coexists with the flush of fall and spring
plus 1-10 lbs. grain. This system works well particularly with poorer quality
pasture. The supplemental grain changes the yellow fat to white. This system
requires more time and management.
hay plus 1-20 lbs. of grain. Unless you have extremely high quality hay, this
alone will not give you the required gains. Supplementing with grain or silage
choice corn silage plus limited hay.
Slaughtering and packing – Here, years of hard work
directed towards the production of a high-quality product can be wasted with
poor procedures. A good idea to prevent this is to first investigate the plant
that you are planning to use. Is it state and/or federally inspected? Will they
hang your carcass for the required time? Will they cut and wrap the meat well
and to your or the buyer’s specifications? When you are satisfied, make your
appointment to drop off your cattle. Make sure the loading and hauling process
is as easy and stress free as possible. If an animal is frightened, has been
chased all over the pasture, etc., the quality of the meat will suffer.
the key to good management. Good management is the key to producing great beef.
Utilize available resources, extension agents, feed experts, other producers
and cattle organizations to learn as much as possible.
There are a
variety of ways in which Highland beef producers can sell their product,
ranging from carcass to boxed beef. The QHBP provides marketing tools, which
include 3” peel-off sticker logos, meat cut posters and brochures. These can be
purchased from AHCA for a nominal fee. The 3” peel-off sticker logos are
designed to be used on individual meat packages and/or point of purchase
displays. The posters and brochures can also be used in displays or given to
potential customers. Your only limitation in marketing is your own creativity.
This policy was updated by the Board of Directors on
June 17, 2016 and all changes are effective immediately.
Click here for the QHB Contract