Pedigree Hereford breeding has become a way of life for the Anderson family who are currently preparing to make the journey down to Agri-Expo. Erika Hay reports.
Hereford cattle have been around for more than 200 years and are enjoying a resurgence at the moment, as producers look for economical, easy-care cattle which can produce beef from grass.
Far away from the breed’s heartland in south west England, Audrey Anderson runs the well-known Panmure herd from her small farm at Easter Knox, near Arbroath, Angus.
Easter Knox has an enviable situation – it is about 110 metres (360ft) above sea level and overlooks some of the best arable land in Scotland, known as The Golden Mile on the east coast.
On a clear day, Mrs Anderson can see the Bell Rock lighthouse 11 miles away from her living room window.
The 20-hectare (50-acre) holding of Easter Knox is all down to grass, however, and supports the small pedigree herds of Herefords and Charolais which Mrs Anderson manages with the help of husband Neil and daughter Abbie, with advice from her father Alex Cant.
Mr Cant founded the herd in 1970 with the purchase of his first Hereford heifer for wife Jessie. This one was quickly followed by the purchase of Cheviot Lily, which turned out to be a great show cow, winning Angus Show five years in succession.
But it was another two Cheviot heifers from Dennis Wilson’s herd at Primside Mill, Kelso, which were the foundation of the Panmure herd.
All cows in the current herd can be traced back to two females – Cheviot Plum, which was bought for a mere 420gns at the Primside dispersal; and Cheviot Blessing, bought for 270gns in Edinburgh.
Mr Cant says: “At the time, the traditional smaller Hereford was fashionable, but I chose heifers with scale and big bones and it has paid off in the long run.”
Mrs Anderson has continued the trend of breeding strong, modern, commercial cattle.
She has been responsible for the herd since 2006, with all the herd tracing back to Plum and Blessing.
Panmure 1 Blessing G6 won the Royal Highland Show in 2014 with twin calves at foot and was sired by Romany 1 Distiller, winner of the Scottish National Hereford Show in the same year.
Bought privately in 2008, Distiller has been an influential bull on the herd, siring Panmure 1 Gino and Panmure 1 Goliath, out of two Panmure 1 Plum cows. These went on to break the breed record price for Hereford bulls twice at 8,100gns and 8,300gns, respectively, at the last sale to be held at the old Hereford market.
Previously, the herd held the record price at Hereford of 6,000gns for Panmure 1 Admiral by another influential bull bought from Fraser Sangster, FS 1 Versace.
Mrs Anderson says: “We lost the breed record, but were delighted earlier this year, when two Solpoll bulls, sired by Panmure 1 Henry, sold to a new record of more than 10,000gns.
“The McMordies, Northern Ireland, saw Henry as a calf at the farm and immediately wanted to buy him. He clicked very well with their cows and we are delighted for their success.”
The main stock bull at the moment is the privately purchased Hawksbury 1 Volcano. Mrs Anderson says he was bought to put some size in the cows and it is doing so very well.
So far most of his calves have been heifers, but the first two bulls sold off him made 4,000gns and 5,000gns.
The junior bull, Dendor 1 Leota, is the most recent purchase and was spotted by 23-year-old daughter Abbie when she was working as a lambing assistant in Wales during a break from studying at vet school.
Miss Anderson has always been keen on the cattle and has her own fledgling herd of two Charolais, but she is sure to keep the Panmure Hereford prefix to the fore.
The attention to detail across three generations is what has made the herd so successful and, in 2006, it won the ultimate accolade of UK Hereford herd of the year.
The team were surprised but delighted to achieve this award.
Mrs Anderson said at the time: “We are small to be in the large herds category and we are so far away from the stronghold of the breed in Hereford, Shropshire and Wales that we were extremely surprised to win.”
Mrs Anderson has shown calves at Agri-Expo since the start of a Hereford class in 2009, when she won with Panmure 1 Fred by Solpoll 1 Brigadier out of a Plum cow.
She has also shown with success at the Scottish Stars of the Future Show at Stirling.
She says: “Bringing calves out for these winter shows gives us a good opportunity to get them trained at an early age. But the best thing about them is getting Herefords out among other breeds and in front of non-Hereford breeders who can see the advantages of them. It is a great shop window for us.”
As chairman of the Scottish Hereford Breeders’ Blub and a member of council for the national society, Mrs Anderson believes the breed should be doing all it can to promote itself.
She says: “We keep saying Herefords will come back and they are – registrations are up and the demand for females is strong.”
She says the natural easy-calving, easy-fleshing attributes of the breed are what many beef producers are looking for and she tries to breed modern, commercially appealing cattle for today’s market.
“We keep Charolais and Herefords together and it is always Herefords which finish first.”
This year, there are two Panmure Hereford bulls and a heifer heading to Carlisle for Agri-Expo. They are all sired by Volcano with both bulls from Blessing lines and the heifer out of a Plum cow.
The small herd of 11 Charolais cows are run alongside the Herefords. Established in the mid-1990s, Panmure Charolais have had some success already, selling bulls to 7,500gns for Panmure Denzel at Carlisle.
A recent purchase includes the 10,500gns bull Thrunton Firecracker, bought at Carlisle, with one of their bulls at Stirling in February for 5,000gns. Two more will be sold at Stirling in October.
What started as a hobby for Mr and Mrs Cant has become a way of life for their daughter, and with the third generation also keen, the future of the Panmure Herefords looks to be in good hands.
DAY-to-day management of the herd is carried out by Mrs Anderson, with local part-time staff when husband Neil is away working off-shore.
Cows are in-wintered on home-grown silage and calve in the first three months of the year. Youngstock can also be housed for winter in the new purpose-built steading which has made life easier since 2014.
New buildings include bull pens and a handling system which has made it easier for Mrs Anderson to move cattle on her own, although she has never had a problem with the temperament of any of her stock.