Alex Sanger and I joined the European Angus Forum tour in Lisbon airport early Thursday morning (19th May). Three days of the mainland tour had already happened and some breeders headed home leaving the remainder, plus some new arrivals, to head into the five-day Azores leg. By all accounts some superb large herds of cattle had been observed on the mainland, including arguably the largest herd of Red Angus on the European continent numbering some 150 cows – a very impressive herd apparently. Everyone spoke very highly of the well organised forum so far, so we had a lot to look forward to.
We flew to Faial island just over 1000 miles west of the mainland and touched down at Horta airport. It was straight onto coaches and a short drive to Debbie Neve’s herd. The Neve’s herd was a small group of cows set up in 2008 with some Irish imports and contained a lot of good medium sized cows nursing some young calves. Farming in the Azores is a lesson in maximising your resources with few acres available for grazing, so cattle are intensively grazed behind electric fences to create small paddocks within small fields of no more than 2-3 acres.
We were told of the Azores PGI label for their beef (similar to the Scotch status) which means only cattle raised and processed in the Azores can qualify; including these Aberdeen-Angus now fully integrated into their new herds.
The second herd visit was to Emanuel Araujo’s to view another good group of medium sized functional cows grazing steep herb rich pastures as well as a good young home bred bull haltered up in a pen. Cattle in this herd could be traced back to 2009 and imports from the Lisduff and Rosemead herds, as well as some from Denmark.
The day finished with a visit to the UNESCO island vineyards – an amazing collection of small walled gardens, each measuring no more than 300 square feet and containing a few vines sheltered behind 3-4 foot high walls created from the volcanic rocks. Temperatures hover around 20-25 degrees and its easy to see why so many tourists travel to these beautiful islands to which our breed of cattle has adapted so well.