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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
And the historical significance of the tour?
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.