It Started Here
The Angus breed has sustained for the better part of two centuries, with its origins deep within Aberdeen grasslands. Today, the breed is stronger than ever, with cattle producers driving it to greater heights. These Angus breeders cover the world, bringing high-quality beef to our tables.
As we travel the world, we enjoy visiting other cattle breeders. Each farm's legacy offers fantastic stories and lessons that can only be gathered from years of experience. Some of these breeders have been raising Angus for decades, but none have been at it as long as Ballindalloch.
The Ballindalloch herd began in 1860 with some of the first Angus cattle in the world, purchased by Sir George Macpherson-Grant, the Baronet of Ballindalloch. Under the Baronet’s stewardship, this Angus herd was refined for many decades, becoming the source of the countless Angus cattle today. The Ballindalloch herd still has the oldest Angus lineage in the world.
It was most interesting to see the differences in cattle types and management in Scotland, compared to US cattle herds. Each operation is designed to best provide for its market and operate in its environment. Consumer preferences, the rural terrain, and feedstuffs differ greatly from the US, requiring unique solutions and different breeding decisions that many American Angus breeders would use.
Ballindalloch is a smallholder farm intensely focused on outputting high-quality cattle that are stout, well-footed, and ready to overcome rough and often wet terrain. Many farms, like Ballindalloch, provide sheds for animals to seek shelter under during the Scottish rains. Ballindalloch sells its bulls exclusively through private treaties, as is typical in Scotland, to the close-knit group of Angus breeders in their country.
It was incredible to see Scottish-Angus bloodlines in person. The selection of sires is predominantly focused on phenotype selection. Ballindalloch is selecting for moderate-framed cattle, differentiating progeny from their larger-stature ancestors. Still, these animals must be capable of traversing rocky, hilly, and wet landscapes. Heartiness is also extremely valuable for cattle to survive inclement weather and remain productive on grasslands without much supplemental nutrition.
Moreover, the Ballindalloch operation has a deeper portfolio than purely Angus breeding. They, like many breeders in Scotland, invest time and effort into other ventures that they find enjoyable. In their case, this included Scotch production, tourism of their historic castle, attendance at various cattle shows, hosted upland game hunting, and guided fly fishing. The operation is thriving, and we could not have enjoyed our visit more.
For more information, we highly recommend watching this short video on the Ballindalloch operation from the American Angus Association:
While traveling south of Aberdeen, we were able to pay a visit to another impressive Angus breeder, Netherton Angus. This farm is nearing its 100th year of Angus production and is now being managed by William McLaren Jr., the fourth generation of the operation. Decades of history have made this outfit one of the most influential Angus breeders of the century.
At the Netherton Angus farm, management starts with genetics. The cattle on this operation have been influenced by sires from Schaff, Nichols, and TC ranches, to name a few. The intensive breeding and smart sire selection have produced cattle with uniquely performative pedigrees. The resulting bulls are developed in covered dry lot pens until they are fit for sale, but do not let this fool you into thinking their cattle are ill-equipped for rough terrain. After weaning, heifers and cows are placed on pasture, will little supervision. The McLarens believe in their program that much.
William McLaren Sr., who recently passed, and his son William McLaren Jr. both served as presidents of the Aberdeen Angus Society. William McLaren Jr. travels internationally judging cattle shows, helping guide the cattle industry's future. William McLaren Sr. was inducted into the US Angus hall of fame and famously received the nickname of ‘Mr. Aberdeen Angus’ for lifelong support of the Angus breed.
During a visit to Kansas, William McLaren Sr. realized that Angus in Scotland could benefit from the Angus genetics being developed in the US. William McLaren Sr. was one of the first breeders to bring Angus back to Europe, transforming both his family’s herd and the breed. William McLaren Sr. also famously wrote the ‘An Angus For Me’ song that is now the unofficial Aberdeen Angus anthem:
From a small island, great things have come: Angus, Scottie dogs, and Scotch Whiskey. Needless to say, we were very impressed by the cattle, the facilities, and the people of Scotland. We wish the Scottish Angus continued success and offer immense gratitude for the opportunity to visit their stunning operations.
We look forward to visiting other Angus farms around the world, old and new, in the coming years. After all, it is a people industry, and we look forward to meeting many more of those involved in cattle production.
What cowherd should we visit next? We are all ears, so leave a comment!