Aberdeen-Angus Cattle

We saw some good cattle across the country – mostly 7-9 frame Continental breeds in Shetland, Orkney, and the mainland.  .  Nearly all in excellent, fat condition – a nod to excellent grass and forage management and the occasional feed wagon.  All the cattle on the islands are stabled for the rainy winter season and, rightly so.  Cattle that large and heavy would not be able to walk in the paddocks if the ground became any soggier than what we saw – they’d sink into mud to their knees.  They are then fed hay and silage primarily with the subsequent manure being hauled out and the barn cleaned sometime the following year and spread back out on the grass paddocks.  We saw NO evidence of confined animals on feed (CAFO’s).  However, there may have been a few since we learnt later on the mainland, that grain finishing (barley and oats) would be done inside a barn.

Although there is a special breed that has been adapted for the conditions on the Shetland Islands.  The Shetland Cattle, like the Shetland sheep,  are considered primitive (unimproved) and smaller than more conventional animals.  We actually did see maybe a dozen head of these cattle all over the island – most of those at a farm whose specific purpose is to preserve native Scottish livestock.  The Shetland cattle are fine looking cattle, but smaller carcasses don’t fit the box.  The Shetland Sheep are increasing being crossed with Cheviots for a crossbred ewe, then covered with a Texel ram for fast growing, larger terminal lambs.

Wednesday the 8th, we spent the entire day on a farm walk and enjoying a lovely lunch with Geordie and Julia Soutar on a sunshiny warm day on their Aberdeen-Angus Farm, Kingston Farm,  just outside Forfar. Geordie and Julia have spent 20 years searching out the old genetics of Aberdeen Angus and producing them enough to help move them off the endanger of extinction list! These Angus cattle are like nothing i’ve ever seen in the US unless they are of these bloodlines. Yes, we were in the same pasture with the famed Jipsey Earl!

Most all the hay is finished being put up since we’ve been here.  Here’s an interesting note – although the round bales here are slightly smaller than ours, they are very compact – we guess them to weigh around 800-1000 lbs.  Anyway, Geordie Soutar put up 300 bales off 18 acres!  He also ended up with 95 bales of silage (individually wrapped). Although we saw a LOT of silage bales from Shetland to Orkney, and all around the mainland, Geordie doesn’t like them because of too much plastic packaging to deal with.  The reason he did was the late cutting of hay and it has just been raining too much of late and it simply wouldn’t dry.  Instead of having all his animals in one mob (he has about 50 cows), he has them in separated in paddocks for various breeding reasons  SO, he manages to not ever deworm because he changes the pastures every 4 years. Vining peas, potatoes, turnips, perennial rye.  He plants, then harvests the peas and potatoes, then ploughs down and seeds to clovers and ryegrass.

Wild cattle! Not!
Wild cattle! Not!

Geordie is planning his paddocks to be ready for a sale put on by the American Angus Association in 2017 – it’s the first time the American Angus Association has had a sale off the North American continent.  He will only have about 40 animals for sale – it will mostly be semen and embryos.  Plus, he can only sell live animals in the UK.  Kingston Farm cattle are 4-4,5 frame score and mature cows weighing 1500!  They are meat machines.  No grain is fed and the photos show them in working clothes with calves by their sides.  It is interesting to note that he does not expose heifers until 18-20 months as he believes that yearlings are too young to breed and he gets the return back on the other end.  His cows regularly produce every year until ages 15-16 and animals finished on grass alone have excellent marbling and cover in 18-20 months.  So, whether it’s genetics, good feed, or waiting ’til later to breed or a combination of all, he’s got a great programme going here.

No, she isn't in a feedlot - there has been torrential wind and rain the previous three days.
No, she isn’t in a feedlot – there has been torrential wind and rain the previous three days.

Culloden Moor & More!

Arriving by divine providence and safety from the train depot in Inverness to our Open Views guest house is definitely a miracle.  It all seems a blur to me now and I still have to get back to the depot somehow on the 5th!  Nevertheless, we were not meeting our host until 4:30, so we went back to the Culloden Moor Battlefield site.  We had visited this three years ago, but when we were on a tour bus and it arrived too late for us to enjoy the new visitor centre which gave a lot more information regarding the slaughter of so many Highlanders during this botched campaign.

We met our Open Views host and were settled in shortly, then drove her back to Tesco, where we did a bit of shopping and she caught the bus home.  Back to the house, fixed supper, and settled in for the evening.

Wednesday, we took a long drive about.  Visiting Forres, home of the Falconer Museum,  a tribute to Hugh Falconer.

Falconer Museum, Forres, Moray October 1, 2015
Falconer Museum, Forres, Moray
October 1, 2015

No relation to me, but I had to have a photo in front of museum carrying my maiden name!

Then around and through the country to drive through Dallas, Moray, Scotland.

Dallas in Dallas, Moray October 1, 2014
Dallas in Dallas, Moray October 1, 2014

Beautiful country of course, through and around back to Inverness and our home.

Thursday, we had a blast with tree hiking at the RothemurchusTreezone and quad bike trekking on Rothiemurchus Estates in Aviemore.  No photos of the tree hiking because the boys made me carry the camera and, of course, i was way behind, they left me in the dust!  Yes, they managed the entire course nicely, BUT, I, too  made it through both courses and never slipped off any obstacles.  Okay, now two days later, I’m still sore!  But, it was fun – I’d do that again.  The quad trekking was well done with an engaging and friendly guide, but it was not what I expected.  I had hoped for a tour of the farm, etc, but instead we just sped along the streams and track as one would do if they were just riding four-wheelers for fun.  We had beautiful weather for this outing.

Nathan on the Quad at Rothiemurchus
Nathan on the Quad at Rothiemurchus

Afterwards, we took the time to drive as far as we could to the top of the Cairngorm Mountain range.

Toyoto Argo at the top of the Cairngorm Mountains October 1, 2014
Toyoto Argo at the top of the Cairngorm Mountains October 1, 2014

We purchased enough food at the Rothiemurchus Farm Store to cover our meals for the remainder of our stay.  The beef was from grass-finished Scottish Highland cattle raised on the estates as well as the venison.  Other items were produced by local families.  All very good.  More expensive for sure than Tesco or the Co-op, but I like to support local community efforts when I can.  I’m going to admit it – I like haggis!

Friday and Saturday, we pretty much rested in our guest home.  I was pretty sore through my chest, arms, and shoulders even into Saturday!  We took a few short exploratory walks around the area, but pretty much lazed about.  We did go to the petrol station and fuel up so i wouldn’t have to worry with it on our departure Sunday morning.  Also,  tried with no success in finding accommodation for the remainder of our trip.   Even this time of year, some areas of Scotland are packed!

Clava Cairns, Culloden 2 Oct 14
Clava Cairns, Culloden 2 Oct 14

We set off early enough Sunday morning to catch our 9:59 am train to Aberdeen.  The boys are usually frustrated with me because I tend to arrive early and then we wait – in this case, nearly an hour, however,  stuff happens to cause delays, so I’d rather have a cushion of time before scheduled departures.  There was very little traffic this Sunday morning, so we drove straight on in with no mishap this time.  We took photos of the car, locked it, and threw the keys in the boot and off we went.  No problem collecting our rail boarding passes at the kiosk and the train was spot on time for Aberdeen.