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

As a homesteader, I have a lot of experience with cooking and raising chickens, managing the various plants in my garden, and DIY.

Belted Galloway cow on a frosty morning.

Belted Galloway cow on a frosty morning.

What Are Belted Galloways?

Commonly known as "belties," this remarkable old cattle breed is 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 the 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 have 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, and 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

Belted galloways at the hay feeder out in the snow

Belted galloways at the hay feeder out in the snow

10 Reasons to Raise Belties on a Small Farm

  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 them. 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 on 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 breeds possess to insulate and keep them warm in our extremely cold winters. This makes for lean meat (under 2% fat) and any fat is marbled through the meat, making for a tastier, juicier, more flavorful 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 ratios 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 are 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 and hardy due to their thick long coat. This makes housing them more affordable and simple. They usually just require shelter from the wind, and studies have shown they are healthier in the outdoor environment in the winter.
  7. The long thick coat and thick hide are 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 farmer's 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, that they are instantly recognised. A herd looks fabulous in a green pasture, drawing compliments and cameras if you're 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 fewer fluctuations than a more generic commercial cow.
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

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

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 by 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 prerogative. I hope to not offend with the next segment, but encourage full enjoyment of this fantastic heritage beef breed.

Good Sized Udder after calving.

Good Sized Udder after calving.

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

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!

Curious and Intelligent Steer

Curious and Intelligent Steer

More information on Belted Galloways

© 2011 Skeffling

Marilyn Mitchell on April 21, 2017:

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.

Adolfo on December 16, 2014:

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!

Bonner on December 14, 2014:

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