A history of champions

7 July 2017

Toby Kirkwood welcomes the inaugural straw sale from the Ballindalloch herd's prize-winning Aberdeen Angus bull.

Last year's seminar at Murrayfield for those involved in the agricultural sector, hosted by Galbraith, far exceeded our expectations in terms of attendance and the volume of business it generated.

It was of particular interest to me since I am focusing on agriculture as one of my specialisms within the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors' APC (Assessment of Professional Competence). As part of this training I have been fortunate enough to observe and help the team working with the historic Aberdeen Angus herd on the Ballindalloch Estate, Speyside as they embark on a new initiative.

The Aberdeen Angus breed is recognised worldwide for its high-quality meat, which commands a premium price.

The Ballindalloch herd has been in continuous existence since Sir George Macpherson-Grant began improving the breed in the 1860s, and it continues to thrive under the careful stewardship of Guy Macpherson-Grant, his mother Clare Russell, and farm manager David Johnstone. The herd, currently 35 cows plus followers, has some of the oldest surviving bloodlines of Aberdeen Angus in the world and is a passion for the family.

Although the herd can be said to date from 1860, it had already been recorded by the famous cattle breeder, William McCombie, that Ballindalloch was perhaps the oldest herd of polled cattle in the north.

He noted: "It has been the talk of the country since my earliest recollection and was then superior to all other stock".

Sir George and his brother built up the herd with great dedication and skill, producing the world-famous lines of Erica, Jilt, Pride, Georgina, Lady Fanny and Rose. The Erica and Pride lines are still prominent in the herd to this day. Since David Johnstone's arrival at Ballindalloch, the profile of the herd has been considerably raised with a careful selection of breeding stock purchases leading to increasing success in the show ring and the sale of home-bred bulls, both privately and at bull sales.

Ballindalloch Earl N397

This summer, for the first time, semen will be available for sale from Ballindalloch Earl N397, the family's prize winning home-bred bull. Ballindalloch Earl was the Aberdeen Angus calf champion at Nairn, Black Isle, Keith and Grantown Shows in 2013, the Aberdeen Angus calf champion at Stars of the Future 2013, and bull calf champion at the Black Beauty Bonanza 2013. Ballindalloch Earl's semen will be showcased during the World Angus Forum, to be held in the majestic grounds of Ballindalloch Castle on June 29 and sponsored by Galbraith.

Cattle breeding is increasingly done by artificial insemination, with semen being sold through advertisements in the farming press and travelling sales reps. Good quality semen sells for £30 to £100 per straw.

I have been given the opportunity to help promote the first straw sale from Ballindalloch's prize bull and I feel very privileged to be involved. The sale represents an excellent opportunity for farmers to take advantage of heritage bloodlines at a reasonable price. Equally, herd managers will be able to introduce new genetic traits into their herd without the need to acquire a specific bull for a specific characteristic.

Also this year, an Aberdeen Angus tourist trail has been established to celebrate one of Scotland's most lauded products. It includes heritage sites, farms, farm shops and restaurants whose menus feature Aberdeen Angus beef.

Toby works in the Energy Team, primarily in Wayleaving and Consents for the utilities department. 

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