Message from AHCA President

April 2019

Hello AHCA Members,

On behalf of the American Highland Cattle Association, I am reaching out to inform you, a valuable member of our association, of some recent happenings. As many of you know, our mission at AHCA is to preserve the integrity of the breed, maintain an American breed registry and assist members in creating value with their animals. It is these very things listed in our mission statement that our AHCA Board of Directors (BOD) is committed to protecting and thus why I felt this communication to our membership imperative.

On February 25, 2019 the AHCA BOD received a letter from the Heartland Highland Cattle Association (HHCA) stating their intent to create their own registry. The letter, which some of you have received, stated this new HHCA registry would be ready to go live on April 1st of this year. Upon receiving this, a number of AHCA board members, the AHCA Pedigree Committee and some individual members with knowledge of this grew quite concerned about the timeline and intent of this. As a board we were left little time to react as our next scheduled meeting wasn’t until April 16th, after the new HHCA registry was set to go live. That said, a special meeting of the AHCA BOD was called by 3 members, as allowed per our bylaws, and due to a unanimous vote of approval we were able to expedite the timeline of this meeting. This special meeting of the board was held on March 28th.

I’ll try to best outline the actions that came from this meeting and also share some thoughts, directly quoted from our Pedigree Committee, which will help explain the differences between the two registries. “AHCA’s registry started in 1948 from Highland cattle that traced directly back to imported purebred animals from Scotland. Since that time, in order to protect the integrity of the breed, only purebred cattle out of AHCA registered parents can be registered in our herd book. We have over 58,000 head of these purebred cattle with traceable lineage. We speak to members every day that are interested in maintaining the value of their AHCA pedigreed cattle and therefore register and transfer so that those genetics are safeguarded and that value is protected. To that end, we are concerned about HHCA’s new registry, the existence of which just recently became known to AHCA by way of a letter from HHCA, indicating their intent to begin registering grade cattle of questionable lineage as of April 1, 2019.

Unfortunately, AHCA was unaware of HHCA’s plans to implement its new registry until shortly before its date of inception. By that time, the HHCA had already posted its handbook, describing the rules of its new registry on its website. In short, HHCA plans to register Highland-type cattle in its new registry based on appearance alone, and will allow “grading up” of animals to establish its main herd book. These cattle will be represented as “registered Highlands” even if they do not have a proven pedigree or any assurances of genetic purity. The model they are using as a registry is akin to a “recovery” process for building a registered herd when there are insufficient purebred or registered animals available. The registration of cattle that appear to be purebreds based strictly on photographs without traceable pedigrees isn’t the equivalent to the established and proven registration methods required by AHCA. Unfortunately, crossbreds can definitely appear to be purebred to even the most discerning eye. To further confuse the issues, HHCA will accept AHCA registered animals directly into their HHCA herd book, allowing a mixture of both purebred and graded up cattle in the same registry. Keep in mind that AHCA is the only recognized national herd book for Highland cattle in the USA.”

It was precisely these concerns that prompted members of our board to call this special meeting. At this meeting held via teleconference on March 28th, we first invited Clint Deardorff (HHCA’s regional representative on the AHCA BOD) to share the details of this new registry, the reasons for it and then field questions from the board. Next, the Pedigree Committee brought forth their concerns and also fielded questions from the board. At this point everyone on the BOD had the opportunity to voice their opinion, therefore, before taking any action all were allowed the opportunity to speak. The meeting concluded with AHCA asking HHCA to suspend opening its registry until an appointed group of AHCA board members could first meet with HHCA board members to have further discussion on the matter and report back to the AHCA board. This was done with a rather lengthy motion that was amended to include several specific asks should HHCA not suspend the launch of its registry. I haven’t included the motion and subsequent amendment due to length, however, for the sake of transparency the board is making all of this information available upon request.

As a follow up to the meeting, I sent Clint an email requesting that he share the passed motion with the HHCA board and report back, as their response would dictate our next move (per language in the motion). Clint took this information to HHCA and on April 1st reported the following statement to the AHCA BOD. “Due to the fact that the AHCA Pedigree Committee does not describe or offer any common ground for discussion on their recommendations, and that all five statements threaten the HHCA, the Heartland Highland Cattle Association Board of Directors has voted unanimously to recall it's regional director and sever its affiliation with the American Highland Cattle Association as of April 1, 2019.”

AHCA is saddened by all of this as we have many members who are also members of HHCA. It is our hope that these breeders continue to be members of AHCA as well as continue to register cattle with AHCA even though the HHCA has decided to sever its affiliation with AHCA. Ultimately our board overwhelmingly voted in favor of protecting the integrity of our herd book and viewed this alternative registry as one that could lead to confusion and harm amongst breeders and buyers. With that said, we also remain committed to our membership and would encourage anyone with questions or concerns about this to reach out to me, our office or any member of our board. I apologize for the length of this communication, but given the potential magnitude and the fact that it happened so quickly, I felt it necessary to keep everyone informed.

As I said above, the following materials are available to any member upon request. We, as a board representing our membership, feel it 100% necessary to remain as transparent as possible in regards to all issues, including this one. Please contact the AHCA office if you would like any of the following information provided to you.

  1. Meeting minutes from the March 28th AHCA BOD Meeting
  2. Audio recording of the March 28th AHCA BOD Meeting
  3. A copy of group email correspondence amongst board members in regards to this March 28th AHCA BOD Meeting

Sincerely,

Josh Gregg
President