In a busy couple of weeks in and out of the office, Barrie Turner has taken the opportunity to take in a number of visits and events around the country. See below an account of where the Society’s CEO has been in recent weeks:
Visit to Idvies Herd
Graeme Fraser kindly rang the CEO to let him know that the Idvies herd was hosting a visit from 18 Norwegian Farmers on Sunday 29th July and if he was available, was more than welcome to attend. Duly arriving at the prescribed time, a welcome coffee and sweetmeats were kindly offered from Mrs Fraser. Two coaches turned up on the farm and eighty (yes, 80! Not 18!) Norwegian Farmers arrived. It later emerged that the actual number was 92 and they had been over in Scotland for 5 days with various farms and tourist destinations on the agenda.
Mainly from the west coast of Norway, the slight but steady rainfall, very welcome for the recovery of the grass at Idvies, was a mere drizzle to the Norwegian visitors, as talking to some of the visitors they have 2m of rainfall in a year. It was interesting to note that the overall opinion of the group was that the cows were big compared to the Aberdeen-Angus that they have in Norway. I suppose that is understandable that with the rainfall of that magnitude the smaller type suits their conditions more. A further demonstration that there is a type of Aberdeen-Angus that will fit all circumstances and the first rule of thumb is to look out the kitchen window at the land and make the decision on size and type to suit the conditions on the farm.
A look round the pastures at the cows and calves and a field of young bulls left the Norwegians wanting to take one in each boot of the bus! A big thank you is extended to Graeme and Alastair for inviting Barrie for a long overdue visit to Newton of Idvies and for the warmth of the welcome received by the whole family.
Border Union Show – Kelso
The CEO stopped off at the Border Union Show to call in for a break on the way Northward and meet some of the breeders showing cattle. It was really pleasing to see the Aberdeen-Angus breed shown in the numbers that were there at the show. Barrie says he knew that he was getting close when he stopped in Jedburgh to fuel up and could hear the dulcet and unmistakeable tones of James Playfair Hannay on the microphone! Speaking of the visit, Barrie says:
‘’Big thanks to meet Jim Ford as the first person I bumped into who treated me to lunch – oh apologies, he took me to Scotmid where I enjoyed a beef roll before going up to the livestock lines and seeing the rest of the exhibitors! It was an exceptional day for Andrew and Emma Hodge taking all the breed honours and also being crowned Champion of Champions this year.’’
This was another opportunity for the CEO to meet faces old and new and shake hands with the people at the coal face of the industry and share a few thoughts and ideas. Full results visit here: http://www.buas.org/show/ResultsCattle-2018.pdf
Black Isle Show
Following a brief introduction to the members at the Highland club AGM, the CEO took a trip north on the way to Caithness to take in the Black Isle Show at Muir of Ord. A tremendous turnout of Aberdeen-Angus with a great field to challenge Judge Neil Wattie. A scorcher of a day saw an excellent attendance with a great deal of interest from the farming community and the public during the Aberdeen-Angus judging, and the results posted on an as it happens basis. A chance to use the facilities in the new club caravan and indulge in the legendary hospitality of the very active Highland Club who the CEO thanks very much for the way that he was received and also for the kind hospitality that was on offer. It was also the chance for Barrie to meet more new faces, exhibitors, farmers and other interested parties in the Aberdeen-Angus breed, and collate some further great ideas on taking the breed and the brand forward.
An added bonus of the visit to the Black Isle show was that the South West Scotland Aberdeen-Angus Club had chosen this as the destination for their club visit. It was great for the CEO to have the opportunity to meet some of them as he had been unable to attend any of the events in that area. We can recommend this as a really good destination if any other clubs would like to visit, good cattle, a warm welcome, excellent hospitality and a really great all-round agricultural show.
Ranald Pottinger Isauld Herd visit
Next up on Barrie’s visits was a tour of the Aberdeen-Angus herd at Ranald Pottinger’s Isauld herd in the shadow of Dounreay Power station, a Pedigree Aberdeen-Angus breeding herd with a very commercial outlook on life. Having had the experience of farming our continental cousins, Ranald is a great advocate of the Aberdeen-Angus breed and this is plain to see from the look that the cattle had following a challenging winter and summer that we have had this year. The 220 cows are outwintered all year round and Ranald is always reviewing his practices and breeding policies to fine tune the enterprise with the benchmark of output of kilos per acre as the barometer. A move to reducing the size of the cows in the herd has been a project for the last two or three years, Ranald’s view is that, why keep a big cow when a smaller one takes less to keep? The smaller cows in the herd had really outstanding calves at foot and it is to no detriment of the milking ability of the breed. A self-confessed avid studier of breeding cattle and family lines and traits, he makes decisions of the choice of cattle on output tailored to his farm. He is very forward looking and is not afraid to try anything given some theoretical thought behind what he is doing. A top class, well-bred herd of cattle that as Ranald says is there to put food in the mouths of his family. It was also great for Barrie to meet Annette and the family and be treated to lunch which was extremely welcome. Thank you all for your hospitality!
Visit to the Inkstack Herd of Mike Tait
There was also the opportunity to visit the Inkstack herd of past council member Mike Tait, who heads up the enterprise on the family farm which is slightly more inland than during the previous visit. This revealed another great example of the flexibility of the Aberdeen-Angus breed which fits into a multitude of circumstances. Inkstack is a pedigree Aberdeen-Angus herd that revolves around fields alongside a long straight road through the farm, and at the end of the road there is the bulk of the herd in a field of permanent pasture that is on pure sand. It has been a challenging summer on this field, but the cows and calves looked extremely well, and it is on this piece where the cattle are outwintered. A portal steel building sits at the gate of the field and Mike stated that they put this up for shelter in the winter, but it is very seldom used by the cattle. Mike studies the available options for new blood lines and family traits and looks for what he knows will work for him. Mike has retained stock on the farm through home bred heifers and only buys new lines in through bulls and AI to maintain diversity within the herd. There is also a smattering of Red throughout the herd, about the extent of the ribbon around the Black Magic box!
For the first time in a few years, a couple of fields of arable silage have been sown a mixture of Barley, Oats Peas and Lucerne. They looked very well, and the year has suited both the crop and also Mike, as it will be the saviour of the reduced grass yield this year owing to the weather. The heifers with calves at foot also looked extremely well, another demonstration of the varied breeding programme that Mike runs in the herd, in the quest for the animals that will work on the farm. A cup of tea and a scone with Mike’s Mother and Father and an introduction to some of the extended family was very welcome, so thank you all for the hospitality and the opportunity to see another example of the diversity within the Aberdeen-Angus breed.
A chance meeting with Benjie Mackay – Skitten Herd
A chance meeting with Benjie Mackay from Wick lead to a further herd visit while in the area and the CEO was treated to a tour of the four farms that are run by the family. Benjie’s home farm is based on the land next to Wick airport and is situated on the ground around the former RAF Skitten. A “Ring Road” around the farm provides a hard standing “motorway” around the farm where a radial paddock system is in operation and is home to a part of the 400 plus cows commercially run here. The small nucleus of Aberdeen-Angus pure and registered cows provides some pure-bred stock and is a bit of a hobby for Benjie. The commercial herd has been graded up to virtually pure by selection from the progeny yearly that goes back to Aberdeen-Angus sires. The herd, in the terms of Benjie himself, will be now 15/16th Aberdeen-Angus.
Shelter plantations are evident on the farm and the cows stay outside all year round, sheltering from the worst of the weather in them. The relics of the military presence on the airfields in terms of shed buildings and bomb stores also offer shelter, and it can honestly be said that there is not a bit of the legacy of buildings and structures on the airfield that is left unutilised.
Three further farms are nearer to Wick and also the sea, with the cattle having access right down to the shore in some parts. It had been hoped that a year or two ago a Farm Walk could have been staged at the farm, but the weather has hampered this to date, however if we can sort it out it will be a really good venue to see a virtually pedigree Aberdeen-Angus herd run on a purely commercial basis. Another great example of the durability of the Aberdeen-Angus breed and its ability to adapt to its surroundings and be a highly productive and easily managed breed. Thanks to Benji for sparing the time to take the CEO round the farm, and next time it will perhaps be more conducive and timed better to allow for a visit to the “Farmers Arms”!
Having been on the highland tour up in Caithness, the trip back down to the lowlands offered an opportunity to attend the renowned Turriff Show for the CEO. The show itself is a huge event for the area and was blessed on the day with particularly good weather. An excellent selection of Aberdeen-Angus Cattle were forward for judging under the careful and experienced eye of Russell Taylor from Moncur Herd of Aberdeen-Angus in Perthshire. The results at the show were posted on an as it happens basis, with the champion for the Breed going to Kincardine Castle Flying Starlet – A J R Farms. The cow went on to take the Native breed champion a great accolade for the breeding and showring skills of the Reid brothers. The North East club caravan was in situ with President, Past President and the hard-working N.E. club secretary Janelle in action, treating the guests to teas coffees and butteries. Ken Howie then took to the helm with the barbeque where Aberdeen-Angus Steak rolls were provided to the gathered members and guests.
There was a good show of cattle and the opportunity for the CEO to meet with visitors to the stand from both within and outwith the breed, and have some debate with breeders of our continental cousins about the advantages the Aberdeen-Angus breed offers. The good news is that there were quite a few that had already dipped their toes in the water and were going a bit further this year.
A trip down the cattle lines to meet some of the other new faces lead Barrie to meet Sandy Rhynie who passed on a few thoughts and shared his enthusiasm for Aberdeen-Angus and the Society with the CEO. Barrie would like to thank you all for the opportunity to meet you and let him share his enthusiasm for what he, and all of us believe to be the best breed in the world.