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European Angus Study Tour has beef farming excellence on the curriculum

6th July 2013

Award-winning cattle, prize-winning beef, animal husbandry, feeding practices and even a little bit of history was ‘on the curriculum’ for the first ever European Angus Cattle Society Study Tour which was held at the weekend (Saturday 6th July).

More than 30 Society members and friends boarded a luxury coach and headed off to County Antrim to visit the farms of Mike Frazer, owner of Bruces Hill Farm Shop near Ballymena and Ivan McMullan, European Angus beef scheme member in Carnlough.

 The tour started with a visit to Bruces Hill Farm Shop where tea, coffee and refreshments were served along with the shop’s award-winning Dexter meat in the form of burgers.

Host Mike Frazer outlined how he got involved in farming and explained his thinking behind the various breeds that he works with, which includes Angus, Simmentals, Charolais, Dexter and Belted Galloway cattle.

In addition to its pedigree herds Mike explained that Bruces Hill also runs a  bull stud and a large commercial cattle herd where the development strategy is to put an Angus bull to Simmental/Limousin cross cows.

“We also have half a dozen pedigree Limousins and we were hoping for a Limousin bull this year because we intend seeing for ourselves what the Limousin Angus cross on its own is like but we didn’t get any bulls – five heifers,” explained Mike. “But we are definitely interested in looking at the Angus and the relationship with the Limousins that we have.
“For me it is all about being able to sell quality meat in the shop.”

Mike also outlined his thinking with regards to erecting Northern Ireland’s only cattle roundhouse at his Edenvale farm. With the roundhouse the central opening in the roof ensures a continuous updraught of air working in a similar way to a very large chimney and combined with the latest cattle handling design concepts creates an environment for content and healthy cattle.
“We are very strongly into the welfare of our animals and it is a tremendous asset,” said Mike. “People look at the roundhouse and think it is all about the roof but we would argue that the major advantage is the excellent handling facilities it provides.
“Pie-shaped, there is a big round handling facility in the centre and one man can easily manage 150 cattle on his own.”

Mike explained that when it comes to cattle testing procedures upwards of 300 cattle can be put through the roundhouse in little more than a morning.
“Starting early we can have it all wrapped up before 3.00pm in the afternoon,” said Mike.

From the Farm Shop the Tour went to Edenvale Farm in Kells to view the roundhouse along with some of the cattle including one of the few Speckled White Park bulls in Ireland, which Mike has recently acquired.
Providing further insight to the roundhouse facilities at Edenvale was farm manager, Stephen Buick and Mike’s son, David.

From Kells the tour headed to Carnlough and Grove Farm, home of European Angus beef scheme member, Ivan McMullan.

Ivan has been working with European Angus cattle for six years now with 85% making up his 180 herd. He was introduced to European Angus by Society Secretary Harry McGaffin who sold him his first EA bull back in 2007.

“I have stuck with them ever since,” explained Ivan. “I am finding that I am getting the growth with them and with the bonus that is being provided through Hannan Meats in the European Angus Beef Scheme, they are working for me.”

With the sun shining the views from Grove Farm were outstanding on the day but as Ivan explained the winter months can be extremely challenging.
Ivan discussed his plans for extended grazing in the future and outlined how he combated the silage shortage this year by importing Norfolk straw.

“I noticed that when the cattle went on to it they showed improvement and that was with the meal only being upped by 20 to 30%,” said Ivan. “It put a bloom and a gloss on them and that is something I will look at doing again.”

The Study Tour is something that the European Angus Cattle Society is most definitely interested in doing again.

“The trip to Bruces Hill, Edenvale Farm and Grove Farm proved extremely informative and as a Society we will certainly look at setting up other farm visits in the very near future,” explained Society Secretary, Harry McGaffin. “For me it demonstrates the level of expertise and the quality of beef farming we have locally and we don’t necessarily have to travel outside of the Province to gain practical tips and acquire knowledge.
“We can all learn from one another.”

And the historical significance of the tour?
That was the explanation for the Bruces Hill name given by Mike Frazer on the day!

For the record: In 1315 Edward Bruce brother of Robert the Bruce came to Ireland at the request of the Irish Lords and on the 10 September, at the Battle of Tawneybrack, close to Kells, Ballymena, Edward conquered the army of Richard De Burgo, the Norman Earl of Ulster. The maps of the area, even today, still recognise this battle, detailing Bruces Hill and the Hospital Lane where the wounded were reputed to have been laid after the battle. Both are on the Edenvale Farm.
As well as Edenvale Farm the Bruces Hill Cattle Company own Glenwherry Hill Farm also in County Antrim and Holly Tree Farm in Templepatrick.

Members of the European Angus Study Tour Group pictured outside the roundhouse belonging to Mike Frazer at Edenvale Farm in Kells.

Pictured at Bruces Hill Farm Shop are, from left, Robert Steenson, (Armagh) Harry McGaffin, (Gilford) Mike Frazer, Bruces Hill Farm Shop, Tom Moorehead (Ballymena) Michael McGrath, (Banbridge) Aaron Meeke (Dromara) and Brian Radcliffe (Banbridge).

At Edenvale Farm are, from left, Ivan McMullan, Harry McGaffin, European Angus Cattle Society Secretary, Tom Moorehead, David Frazer and Stephen Buick, Farm Manager at Edenvale.

Taking time out to relax during the European Angus Study Tour are, from left, Hazel Campbell from Crumlin with Mary, Robert and Ruth English from Lisburn.

Two members of the Study Group take a closer look at the European Angus cattle on Ivan McMullan’s farm in Carnlough.

Here’s looking at you! European Angus study tour group members prepare for a closer look at cattle on Ivan McMullan’s farm in Carnlough.

Bruces Hill Farm Manager, Stephen Buick outlines the benefits of the roundhouse at Edenvale to the European Angus party who paid a visit to the farm on Saturday.

Pictured inside the roundhouse at Edenvale Farm are, from left, Pascal Devine (Lurgan) Marcellus and Anthony Clarke, (Ardglass) Darren Clarke (Ardglass) Colin Cultra, Ardglass and Declan McGrath, (Annacloy).

Bruces Hill Farm manager, Stephen Buick (right) explaining the benefits of the roundhouse to Robert Steenson (Armagh) and David Lester, (Keady).

At Edenvale Farm are, from left, Aaron Meeke, (Dromara) Michael McGrath, (Banbridge) Brian Radcliffe,(Banbridge) Pat Ward, (Saintfield) and Hugh Dickson (Moneyrea).

Michael McGrath (Banbridge) and Pat Ward (Saintfield) discussing the Norfolk Straw that Ivan McMullan introduced to his farm for dry feeding during the silage shortage.

Carnlough beef farmer, Ivan McMullan prepares his cattle for viewing during the European Angus Study Tour which took place on Saturday.

Ivan McMullan (left) with farm visitors, Colin Cultra (Ardglass) Anthony Clarke (Ardglass) and Declan McGrath, (Annacloy).

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