If you have just a few acres spare, these are the animals for you!
- Importance of Full blood and purity
- Belted Galloway Traits
- Some of our experiences with Miniature Belties compared to Larger Belties
- How Big are they?
- How to measure Hip Height
- Are they Dwarfs, Runts, or inbred?
- Do Miniature Belted Galloways breed true
- Where do miniature Belted Galloways originate?
- Belted Galloway’s Colours
- History of Red Belted Galloways
Importance of Full blood and purity
Belted Galloways are a very old breed developed in the harsh conditions of Scotland which has given them special traits. Here at Eagle Ridge Stud we place a lot of importance on preserving the purity of these cattle and only register animals with a fullblood classification. There is no breeding up whatsoever in Fullblood cattle, and their pedigrees show only Galloway ancestry.
This helps to ensure the genetics of our stock are as pure as possible without using animals with foreign or unknown pedigree in our breeding programs. We feel this is the best way to preserve the unique characteristics of the breed for future generations to enjoy. Just because an animal is small and has a belt definitely does not make it a miniature belted Galloway, the breed has many unique traits beyond their striking appearance.
Belted Galloway Traits
Simply put, Miniature Belted Galloways are just a smaller and more compact sized Belted Galloway, but still benefit from all the same special characteristics the breed offers. They are naturally polled, easy calving, well-doing, fertile, double coated, long lived, well muscled, environmentally friendly, adorable and tasty cattle!
* Non selective grazers– Belties are excellent foragers, and can make a meal out of less palatable plant species. This is a difference that soon became very obvious to us following our experience with other cattle breeds, and it certainly helps graze the land more evenly and not to target out certain plants. They handle our hills and rougher pasture with ease, it’s a trait not only apparent to owners of the breed, but is also reflected in scientific studies which also reveal that belted Galloways consistently outperformed other cattle breeds for the number of plant species consumed in trials.
* Polled –They are naturally polled, so you won’t have any of the problems associated with horns. Many breeds require the removal of horns using acid, burning or cutting, so it’s nice knowing that belted Galloways and their calves will never grow any horns to start with. Handling cattle without horns is also a lot safer.
* Long Lived – Belted Galloways live a very long and productive life if given the chance. A cow living 20 years or more and still calving is not uncommon in the breed. Our oldest cow currently is Rimp, an 18 year old beltie who has given us a calf every year and currently has a young bull calf at foot.
* Easy Calving – Belted Galloways are well known for their ease of calving, often accredited to their small birth weight and the mothers wide hips.
* Strong maternal instincts – Belties make excellent mothers, produce a rich and plentiful supply of milk, and tend to be very self-focused caring mothers.
* Double Coat – A belted Galloway is no stranger to being outdoors in bad weather. They have a unique double coat made up from a thick soft, warm undercoat, and long shaggy outer guard hairs. This gives them the ability to maintain their condition through winter much better, even while still nursing a calf. Having a dual hair also means they don’t require outer body fat to get through winter like most other breeds. Approaching warmer months their coats become slicker, so are perfectly adaptable to hotter climates also.
* Hardy – Belties are sometimes referred to as “the lazy man’s cattle” because of their superior self-sufficiency, resistance to disease and overall hardiness.
* Meat – As we utilise our own cattle to feed our young family, we soon realised that the beef is outstanding for being very tender, juicy and full of flavour. The breed often wins “taste tests” and is also very competitive over the hooks in competitions, making it an impressive beef breed.
* Docility – They are a gentle and docile breed that tend to be very easy to work with and handle.
* Attractive – they are also of course a very attractive breed, and have the ability of stopping traffic with people getting out of their cars to take photos.
Some of our experiences with Miniature Belties compared to Larger Belties:
* Quicker to mature – Mini belties often reach full maturity faster, with bull calves becoming active and heifers cycling earlier. You have to be careful that you don’t leave weaning too late!
* More climate resistant –We have seen the hardships that droughts can have on large herds of belted Galloways, and observed that the miniature animals tended to hold their condition much better overall through more adverse conditions. This doesn’t excuse poor management practices, but can really help with getting them through Australia’s sometimes harsh and extreme climate now and in the future.
* Easier on fences and handling facilities – We have found fences and other infrastructures don’t have to be as high or big. A lot of our fences are lower than normal and were originally built for sheep. Having said this, fencing and handling facilities still needs to be adequate and in good order. Their size also allows them to be more easily transported in a trailer.
* A better choice for the freezer – We have found an 18 month old mini steer is the perfect size for our family to handle and process for home consumption and fitting in the freezer. They can of course be processed younger or older than this depending on what you prefer. A very young animal will be more mild flavoured and tends to lack that unique flavour that develops as an animal matures. When trying our meat, many elderly people reminisce the taste to be just like the beef they remember from their past. This excellent flavour is probably also attributed to the fact that mini belties finish so well just out in the paddock, and don’t require any supplementary feeding with sound grazing practices.
* Smaller – Many land owners like the mini Belted Galloways as they are able to run more head on a smaller area. They are also less intimidating to people new to cattle and children, making them more enjoyable to work with. While it might not be obvious while they are out in the paddock grazing on their own, when you’re handling them up close and personal, their more compact size becomes obvious and certainly does make a difference.
* Rarer – A push for bigger and taller cattle (particularly for feedlots) over the last few decades has seen a rise in larger and leggier styled animals which has also had a marked effect on Belted Galloways in Australia (already a minority breed). This has made the genetics of the older styled and often labelled “traditional sized” animals sometimes harder to find and somewhat a niche market.
How Big are they?
Miniature Belted Galloways are by no means the smallest breed of miniature cattle available today but are still very efficient and a commercially viable beef animal. For belted Galloway cattle to be classified as miniature they need to adhere to a height limit requirement. Currently the Australian Galloway Association has set these limits for fully grown animals at 125cm for Bulls and 120cm for cows. All of our cattle here at Eagle Ridge Stud are well within the limits, as we exclusively breed miniature sized stock.
How to measure Hip Height
The most common method to measure hip height is to use an adjustable right angled measuring stick. These measuring tools can be purchased or handmade. Measurements are taken from the ground to the spine above the hip as shown below.
For registration purposes, measured heights of younger animals can be compared to a chart supplied by the Australian Galloway Association. Mini Height chart from AGA
Are they Dwarfs, Runts, or inbred?
Miniature Belted Galloways are definitely not dwarfs, in fact dwarfism has not been recorded to have ever occurred in Galloways or the Belted Galloway breed. They are naturally shorter framed due to their genetics, which is most likely a result of ancient farmers selection of breeding stock and the cattle’s necessity to evolve and adapt to the harsh environmental conditions present in their Scottish homeland.
Runts occur in all livestock, usually a small and weak animal, most likely resulting from of a lack of nutrition causing a stunt in growth. As with purchasing any animal, it’s important to look at the management practices of the breeder and judge accordingly. Additionally a well bred and grown mini beltie will have excellent proportions and conformation, be very meaty, and are far from weak! They are little powerhouses that thrive.
Miniature Belted Galloways currently have a good amount of diversity in their gene pools and I haven’t noticed any issues or problems leading to inbreeding. Registered stock traces back to many different herds and certainly don’t lead to one source or bloodline. They are now well established and have a widespread and devoted following.
Do Miniature Belted Galloways breed true
Our stud has bred hundreds of miniature calves to date, so we can say now that without a doubt, yes they do breed true. Our cows have wide hips and give birth to small calves, so calving is a breeze. Bulls don’t need to be related, but should to be from a proven miniature line of small calvers. While there is always the chance of stock growing over the miniature height limit, it has not been our experience; we don’t have any standard sized belted Galloways as we haven’t seen any occur in our herds.
Where do miniature Belted Galloways originate?
The trend by the cattle industry has been to increase the size of cattle worldwide; this has left a need to preserve the genetics of smaller framed animals, which are referred to as “miniature” in Galloways. Belted Galloways have always been traditionally a comparatively small breed, giving birth to very small calves, so much so that miniature sized animals have always been with us and can be traced back throughout the herds in Australia, particularly from the earlier imported stock where the smaller size was very widespread. While the name “miniature” might not the most logical term used to classify these practical sized cattle, it is the classification that was first given to them in 1996 when their now unique size was first allowed to be recognised in the Australian Galloway herd book. They are also often referred to as “classic sized” and “traditional styled” Belted Galloways, due to being a style of animal that was prevalent in the past, a style that is stocky, thick set, significantly shorter, deep bodied, meaty and with a shaggy coat. This is probably what most of the early cattle used to be like before the push for taller and leggier animals which are more suited to modern day intensive farming (feedlots). Often when I have spoken to some of the older breeders of Belted galloways in the past about the size of particular animals from yesteryears, they have admitted that, had some of these animals been alive today, they would be classified as miniatures. Below is a photo which illustrates the breed’s small size in 1947, a cow which would easily blend into a miniature herd today.
The first belted Galloway cattle arrived in New Zealand in 1947, imported by a Wairarapa breeder. This hardy breed from south-west Scotland, with a distinctive white belt around its middle, can thrive in rough, cold hill country. Galloways are smaller than Angus and Hereford cattle…
Alexander Turnbull Library
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa must be obtained before any reuse of this image.
Belted Galloway’s Colours
Belted Galloways come in 3 different colours; Black, Red and Dun. Based on cattle registrations in Australia, black is by far the most common colour, followed by Red which have seen a rapid rise in popularity, and Dun which has the least number of registrations for belties. Miniature belties are typically black belted, with red and dun belted being very rare at present, although this may change in the future.
History of Red Belted Galloways
Red belted galloways trace right back to the breeds beginnings in Scotland, however, when the original herdbook was first created, there was a strong preference for animals to be only black in colour. Despite not being able to be registered in the early days, because red coat colouring is recessive in cattle, red belted animals have continued to occur in black belted herds throughout history in both Scotland and across the globe.
In Australia Dr Robert Maddern of Budawang Belted Galloway Stud set out to breed fullblood red belted galloways in the 1980’s. He discovered that a fullblood belted bull bred by Mark Grimshaw called Midfern Jonah had sired some red calves when used in a herd of Herefords. After purchasing this bull and with the knowledge that Jonah was a red carrier, it was then just a matter of time before red belted calves where born after using him over Bobs black belted stud cows. Midfern Jonah was not a tall bull, and his pedigree has also helped to continue the red colour in some of today’s miniature belted galloways, including our own herd.