Herd Profile: Tofts Aberdeen-Angus – James and Debbie Playfair-Hannay

Herd Profile: Tofts Aberdeen-Angus – James and Debbie Playfair-Hannay


The Tofts Herd is managed by James along with his wife Debbie, father Patrick and son Robert, as part of their family farming business Playfair Farms at Morebattle Tofts, Kelso in the Scottish Borders, and is one of the herds which will be visited during the World Angus Forum. James is a Past-President who currently sits on the Council for the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society and makes up part of the World Angus Forum Organising Committee. Prior to the much-anticipated herd visit, we’ve been lucky enough to speak with James to find out a bit more about the Herd, its history and what delegates can expect during their visit to Playfair Farms.

The Tofts Herd is rich in history, being first established in 1947 by R J (Hamish) Roberton, grandfather of James Playfair-Hannay. In the early days, foundation females came from Broadleys, Clashfarquar, Hyndsidehill, Heads, Lethen and Mungos. Today, still in the herd are Polly Perkins and Polly Prides from Polly Perkins 4th of Clashfarquar, Evergay from Evergay of Broadleys and Princess from Princess Margaret of Charterhouse. In its early years the herd bred Elite of Tofts which sold for a record price at St Boswells of 1,800gns in 1955, to Sir Torquil Munro, Lindertis, where he was reserve champion at The Royal Highland Show and supreme champion at the Royal Show in England. He was then exported to Angus Valley Farms, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA. He was followed across the Atlantic by Philanderer of Tofts, who was sold to T A Bradley and Dr W Johnson, Avon, Illinois, in 1959. Both these bulls featured in the American Angus Sire of the Year Awards, making Tofts the only British herd to have two sires on the list in one year.

The Playfair-Hannays are firm believers that to continue farming in this part of the world, cows must be economical to keep, fertile to breed, structurally sound to last and above all else, productive, rearing a calf every year for 10 years. To this end, the Tofts Herd has recently imported embryos from New Zealand’s oldest herd living in steep hill country using the Turihaua donor cows along with Te Mania herd sires. The first calves have now been weaned and will be on display during the World Angus Forum. They include heifer calves by Te Mania Quantum and Tuwharetoa Regent out of the Turihaua Eclypta, Jolliment and Merry Maiden female lines. They live by their herd strategy of converting grass and forage into beef, and this has created a herd of functional cows producing commercial prime beef cattle that kill out 322 kg R4L at 17.5 months.

When we were speaking to James about the upcoming World Angus Forum, he said:

‘’We really can’t wait to welcome the World Angus Forum to the UK and in particular to Morebattle Tofts. Having travelled to many of the Angus strongholds around the world over the years and having been made so welcome, making many friends in the process, it will be good to repay some of that hospitality.’’

James has previously led the UK delegation to the World Angus Forum in the USA, while also having attended World Forums in New Zealand, Argentina and Australia, as well as World Secretariat in Mexico, and we’re sure all delegates travelling to our shores will look forward to hearing more about the Tofts Herd, James’ stories from Forums and travels gone by and seeing some of the great animals on display.