Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother had a long association with the Aberdeen Angus breed of cattle from her early days at Glamis Castle and became joint patron of the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society with King George V1 in August 1937. She remained as patron until her death in 2002 - a total of nearly 65 years of dedicated service to the breed.
The Aberdeen Angus Breed
The Aberdeen Angus breed evolved during the early part of the 19th century from the polled and predominantly black cattle of North East Scotland, known locally as the doddies
. From those early beginnings, the breed was refined and expanded not only throughout the UK but also to other countries worldwide including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, USA, South Africa and South America, especially Argentina.
The breed's raison d'etre is its ease of management and superior beef quality, offering flavour, taste, succulence and unbeatable eating quality and thus - not surprisingly - it is known as the premium beef breed. it is well marbled with fine threads of fat interwoven through the lean. This ensures tenderness when cooked and brings out flavour and succulence. Aberdeen Angus cattle mature early under natural conditions to achieve a perfect balance of fat and lean with a small proportion of bone, coupled with the ability to grow and finish on grass and home-grown feeding to produce a completely natural product. Demand for quality Aberdeen-Angus beef is soaring and this represents an unparalleled opportunity for commercial beef producers to produce a product which the market requires and for which it is prepared to pay a premium.
The pedigree herds, such as this one, remain the foundation of the breed and the example of the early pioneers is still being followed with selective breeding with a view to constantly improving the stock. Stock control and management of a pedigree herd requires a high degree of skill and additional labour, but this programme is of vital importance to maintain the standard of the breed and achieve success in the show and sale rings, which remain the best advertising place for such a remote herd. This herd is the most northerly herd on the mainland of Britain, but - despite this - attracts visitors from all over the world.
The Castle of Mey Herd
The Castle of Mey Aberdeen Angus Herd was founded in 1964. The foundation females were purchased from Oykel (Evening star), Lethen, Belladrum (Eodesta and Eodima), Plurenden, Rowley and then, later on, from Ashley (Etrilla and Ellena), Classlochie (Elegance), Balavil (Princess), Newhouse (Edwina) and Nightingale (Eyebright).
On 20 October 1970, when Her Majesty opened the new Society Headquarters in Perth, the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society kindly presented Her Majesty with the heifer calf, Queen Mother of Clackmae, bred by Will Hogg at Earlston. This calf became the founder member of the 'Queen Mother' family. Two females, a Blackbird and a Beauty were direct imports from Canada.
In 2000, Her Majesty, on the occasion of her 100th birthday, was presented with an in-calf heifer,
2001 also saw the birth of three embryo transplant heifer calves - members of the Jay Blackcap and Erica families from the Leachman Herd in USA, and in 20003 a Rose heifer calf from the Kaharau Herd in New Zealand.
The bull calves which don't make the selection process are castrated and sold fat through the Aberdeen Angus Producers scheme. The remaining bulls are either sold at the Perth spring and autumn sales, at the local spring sale, or sold privately off the farm. The selection process is based on conformation assessments, temperament, weight records and EBV values. The best heifers are retained as replacements with the remainder being sold in-calf at Perth or privately. Those considered not good enough for sale as breeders are sold fat through the scheme.
The breeding policy is to produce cattle of size, character and quality with the genetic capability to pass on these attributes to their offspring, and thus hopefully satisfying the requirements of the commercial beef producer.
Artificial insemination is carried out on some of the herd, using the best available semen, either imported directly from Canada and America or from imported Canadian bulls. Cows and heifers are articially inseminated starting in the second week of July as they come into heat naturally. Excellent results are obtained with 85% of cows settling to the first heat. This is due to a combination of factors: dedicated heat detection, 22 hours of daylight at that time of the year, but, probably, mostly due to the very flexible hours and cheerful disposition of the local AI inseminator, Willie MacKay. This is a great asset when working with valuable semen.
Semen from the following bulls have been used over the years: Wilmo Powerhouse, Royal Connection 48P, Burthlene Patriot, Kinnaber Mr Steakhouse, Double A Willie Boy 2S, 4S Ponderosa (USA), Perryville Roscoe 17N, Windover Justifier 17T, Sunset Acres Bang, Scotch Cap (USA), Craven Pie Tar 33U, TLA Northern Samurai, Geis Gambler, Nichols Super Systems R43 (USA), and more recently the American sires Ankonian Elixir 100, GDA Universe 726G and SAF 598 Bando 5175.
In 1987, semen from the American sire 4S Pondeosa was used. His first crop of calves were most impressive and contained the heifer Castle of Mey Evening Star 44th. At Perth in February 1990, the first sale in the new mart, she won second prize and sold for the top breed price of 5,000 gns to White Horse Associates. Also at that sale, Castle of Mey Eodima 22nd, a Double A Willie Boy 2S daughter, won first prize and sold for the second highest price of 4,000 gns to W Reid of the Swifts herd.
Royal Connection 48P, a former stock bull in the Ty-Isha herd, is the sire of Castle of Mey Princess 12th, the show cow that did so well in the early 1990s. She began her show career by winning Breed Champion and Interbreed Cattle Champion at the 1989 Caithness Show as a two year old heifer. She was not shown in 1991, as she produced twin heifer calves by Windover Justifier. At the 1991 Royal Highland Show, she was Reserve Female Champion and winner of the Tangier Trophy for the best animal bred by exhibitor. She then went on to be Breed Champion and Interbreed Cattle Champion at the Caithness Show, and also Breed Champion and Reserve Interbreed Champion at the Black Isle Show. In 1992, she won second prize cow at the Royal Highland Show, Breed Champion and Reserve Interbreed Champion at the Caithness Show, and Reserve Breed Champion at the Black Isle Show. In 1993, she was Reserve Breed Champion at the Royal Highland Show, winner of the Tangier Trophy and a member of the Interbreed Team that came Reserve that year.
Castle of Mey Elscot, sired by Geis Gambler, sold for the top herd price and highest breed price of 8,000 gns at Perth in October 1996 to A Fraser & Son, Newton of Idvies, where he has bred extremely well. His first nine sons sold for around £7400, and he had sons working in seven pedigree herds in 2001; most were sold privately.
In 1985, the herd became EBL accredited, which opened an export market. In 1986, the first two heifers were exported to Denmark followed by three heifers the next year. In 1988, a batch of eight heifers was exported to Denmark, and one of these, Castle of Mey Edwina 4th (Kinnaber Mr Steakhouse ex Edwina), went on to win in the show ring in Denmark, and was used as the Danish Angus breed representative in the 1993 World Forum magazine.
In 1990, the bull calf, Castle of Mey Elation (Burthlene Haulin' Oats ex Elegance 9th), was exported to Belgium just before the BSE ban came into force.