- Belted Galloway cattle originated from western Scotland, a region whose weather is strikingly similar to Ireland’s own damp climate! This makes Belted Galloways perfectly suitable to the wet, cold winters and the boggy soft terrain of Irish farms. Their long, curly outer-coat is ideal for rainy weather, as its coarseness deflects moisture from the animal’s skin. They also have a soft undercoat to keep them warm in colder temperatures. The head of the Belted Galloway has long hair around its ears, preventing frostbite in a case of an extreme Irish freeze.
- Common nicknames for these cattle are ‘Belties’ or even ‘Oreo Cows’ due to their peculiar resemblance to the popular treat!
- The most marketable Belted Galloways are often considered as those who are completely black, with no white markings anywhere on the feet or chest etc., except of course for their strikingly distinctive white belly!
- The Belted Galloway, primarily used in beef production, is a genetic strain of the original Galloway breed, which are much bigger than the belted variety. Belted Galloway bulls weigh about 850kg and cows usually weigh up to 675kg, while original Galloway bulls can weigh up to 1000kg. If a smaller-framed animal would suit your farm better, with regards to foraging needs or acreage, then the Belted breed may be for you!
- They’re naturally polled, which can be an attractive trait for farmers that aren’t keen to go through the distressing process of dehorning their herd. As well as this, polled cattle can be safer for livestock who live in close proximity to each other.
- Belted Galloways have been bred to thrive on low-quality pastures in upland areas of Scotland, meaning that they can adapt to whatever level of foraging is available to them.
- Since regular Galloways are totally black, the Belted cattle are supposedly the result of crossbreeding with a Dutch cattle type called Lakenvelder. These cows look quite similar to Belted Galloways, as they also have a striped white mid-section. The Dutch Belted cattle are primarily used in dairy production, and are quite rare nowadays.
- Belted Galloways are often used as dairy cows due to their docile nature and compliance with the process. Many farmers find them very easy to handle, which is a bonus for small farms with only the one worker!
- Although a popular breed, the USA actually considers it to be a ‘watched’ breed which is recovering from extreme losses. During the foot and mouth scandal of the last decade, many of the cattle were affected and subsequently slaughtered. However, in the UK the breed is no longer considered a ‘rare’ breed, as the cattle managed to sufficiently recover in numbers.
- Their calving process is relatively free of complications, and calves often weigh about 27kg at birth. Belted Galloway dams have quite high fertility, meaning they reliably have one calf each year, with the likely possibility two calves per year!
- The dams also have strong mothering instincts, which is a plus for farmers who worry about the safety of vulnerable calves. Any nearby predators can be warned off by protective Belted Galloway dams; however, as with every breed, this kind of aggression should be treated with caution, and extra care should be taken around a volatile dam and her offspring. In the case of bulls, visitors should always be wary of the danger! Have a look at our article on Bull Safety to remind yourself of the right practices.
- Genetically, Belted Galloways are quite healthy! They have a strong resistance against pink-eye, and congenital problems like dwarfism are almost unheard of in the breed. This kind of durability with a high immune system is a desirable trait for farmers wishing to keep a healthy, sturdy herd.
- These cattle mature slower than their other European counterparts, however. This can be considered a drawback by farmers wishing to complete the beef production process in an intense, shorter time period.
- Breeding should never be attempted before the Beltie cow has reached two years of age! The slow maturity means that early breeding before the cow is fully grown would result in difficult calving.
- Beef from Belted Galloways is low in saturated fat and well-marbled, making for excellent meat-eating quality. Marbling, the presence of thin threads of fat throughout the meat, is believed to greatly enhance flavour and tenderness. Their conversion of grass to muscle is also considered excellent, as they require the least amount of feed per kilogram of weight gain compared to most other breeds, according to German research.
- The yield from Belted Galloway carcasses is high, with the average carcass dressed weight standing at more than 60% of live weight. Since their warm coat means that there is no need for excess fat insulating the body, it results in just 2% fat content in finished beef.
Post by Grace Treston
Editor of THAT’S FARMING