Highland cattle were imported into Australia by various Scottish migrants in the middle of the Nineteenth Century.
Chieftain Areneas Ronaldson MacDonell of Glengarry, Scotland, for example, landed at Port Albert, Victoria, in 1841 with his clan to set up a system of farming at Greenmount, on theTarra River, near the present day town of Yarram. It is claimed that they drove their Highland cattle to Greenmount preceded by a piper.
Samuel Amess, who made a fortune in the Victorian goldfields and became Mayor of Melbourne in 1869, kept a small fold of black highland cattle on Churchill Island. This island is now owned by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (Vic), which has re-established a fold of Highland cattle.
Sir William McGregor imported animals to his property "Ard Choille" on Mount Macedon, Victoria. Some of these animals were shown at the Melbourne Show. In the 1880's a fold of Highland cattle was re-established at "Ard Choille" by Tim and Helen Cottrew.
It is believed that other cattle were imported in the late 1800's into Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania but, as no new blood was introduced, the breed died out.
Recent history started in 1954 when two unrelated in-calf cows from Barbreck Fold and Islay Fold and an unrelated bull from Achnacloich Fold were imported into South Australia by Mr. A.J.R. Wood. In the 1960 Mr. Wood sold his fold to Mr. Bob Hawks of Currawong, South Australia. The fold, at that time consisted of seven cows, four heifers and two bulls.
In the ensuing years, a handful of animals were sold to South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, including those purchased by Mr. Sydney Smith of Berwick, Victoria and Mr. & Mrs. J.M. Blackwell of Lenswood, South Australia.
There were Highlanders in the Melbourne Zoo from the early 60's and two heifers in Cudlee Creek Wildlife Park South Australia in 1966.
Due to a severe drought in South Australia in 1971, Bob Hawks had to relinquish his fold, which was purchased by Mr. Jack Brown of Warrnambool, Victoria.
Many good specimens of Highland cattle remain from the original 1950's imports, thanks to the dedication of those early breeders. Many of the progeny of these animals have been inspected by the Society Inspectors Mr. Ray Starritt, Mr. Brian Alford, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald and the late Mr. Andy Sproat and approved for inclusion in the Herdbook as A and B grade animals.
In 1973 Allister and Davina Stewart (Ardvorlich) of Terang, Victoria, suggested to the Scottish Milk Marketing Board (SMMB) that semen be collected from a Highland Bull for export to Australia and New Zealand. The SMMB, in conjunction with the Highland Cattle Society of the U.K., then collected semen from Callum of Pollock, which became the foundation bull for the Stewarts' breeding up program. Starting with Jersey females each generation of heifers was inseminated with semen from a new bull.
Artificial breeding has been the major tool in the development of Highland cattle in this country. No fewer than 20,000 straws of semen from outstanding sires have been collected overseas for use in Australia.
In 1975 Mr. and Mrs. John Reid (Trelissick) of Christchurch, New Zealand, imported three cows and one bull into New Zealand. From these, in 1979 a heifer was sold to Mr. and Mrs. J.M. Blackwell, and a heifer and a bull were sold to Mr. and Mrs, K Von Bira (Macquarie), Ross, Tasmania. During the latter half of the 1970's other breeders in Australia and New Zealand started their own folds using the semen that was then available. Among the first of these in 1977 were Mr. Bob Mackay (Durness) of Scone, N.S.W. With the use of Robert the Bruce, a bull purchased from Sydney Smith, and later, artificial insemination, his fold was bred up from red Shorthorn females. Mrs Faye Taylor (Laurella Downs) of Woodville, N.S.W. also based her fold on progeny of the 1950's Highland imports.
Jim and Wendy Black (Glengarry) of Yarram, Victoria, established a fold based predominantly on Shorthorn females and in 1983 purchased the bull, Corrie McNair and four females from Jack Brown.
During the 1980's interest in Highland cattle blossomed, aided by newspaper stories, T.V. coverage and the showing of Highland cattle at various events. More live importation occurred. Mr. David Miller (Strathbogie) of Nagambie, Victoria, imported two bulls and a cow from Scotland, five females from Canada and five females from the U.S.A.
Alan Hamilton (Hamilton) of Tocumwal, N.S.W. imported two heifers from Scotland, and Jim and Wendy Black imported one heifer from Scotland and four females and one bull from New Zealand.
At the same time imported semen from various bulls, mainly Scottish, was used widely in Australia. Bulls in order of arrival in Australia were.
*Callum of Pollock, collected by S.M.M.B. and the Highland Cattle Society of the U.K.
*MacDomhnull of Douneside, collected by S.M.M.B. and the Highland Cattle Society of the U.K.
*Jock of Cullerne, collected by Allister and Davina Stewart.
*Gillie Coir of Pennygown, collected by S.M.M.B. and the Highland Cattle Society of the U.K.
*Hallmark 2nd of Trelissick, collected by Tasmanian Herd Improvement Organisation (THIO), with the permission of Mrs. Beta Von Bibra.
*Jock 26th of Leys, collected by S.M.M.B. and the Highland Cattle Society of the U.K.
*Rhomanda's Umberto, collected in Canada by Allister and Davina Stewart and imported to Australia in 1989.
*Hallmark of Balmoral, collected in New Zealand in 1975 and imported to Australia by Jim and Wendy Black in 1991.
The advent of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the U.K. in 1988 saw the imposition of stringent quarantine restrictions by the Australian Government. Imports of live cattle and genetic material from the U.K. were banned. Imports of the offspring of animals exported from the U.K. after 1982 were also banned.
No history of the development of the Highland cattle in Australia would be complete without mentioning the use of embryo transfer as a breeding tool. David Miller of Nagambie, Victoria, was the first to make extensive use of this technology in Australia. Since 1986 it has been used by a variety of people with varying degrees of success.
On the 7th of may 1988 some 60 people gathered at a public meeting in Melbourne organised by Allister and Davina Stewart to form the Australian Highland Cattle Society. The initial Committee elected at that meeting were:
President Mr. Allister Stewart.
Vice President. Mr. Jim Black.
Minute Secretary Mr. David Miller.
Treasurer Mrs. Davina Stewart.
Members Mrs. Susan Elder.
Dr. Phillip Mutton.
Mr. Ernie Hair.
Mr. Stan Schuler.