The Dunlouise herd of Aberdeen-Angus cattle is unique in the way it was established. Ewan Pate reports.
Living history rarely comes in a tangible or as fascinating a form as it does with the Dunlouise herd of native Aberdeen-Angus cattle.
Founded in 1995 at Kingston Farm, near Forfar, this unique 50-cow herd truly deserves to be described as native and not only because it is based in Angus, right in the heart of the land of breed’s founding fathers but also because of its intriguing bloodlines.
Herd founder Geordie Soutar, then a grain merchant on Forfar, had started his career working with Forfar auctioneering company Scott and Graham and spent those early years working with cattle. This, plus a keen interest in the history of his home county, encouraged him to start a pedigree herd with a difference.
Rather than seek out the best of the modern Aberdeen-Angus he resolved to do something far more challenging; he would seek out the very few cow families which had never been crossed with North American bloodlines.
With wife Julia and children, Duncan, now a design engineer with Jaguar Land Rover, and Louise, a vet in Yorkshire, firmly on board, the search began and quite a task it turned out to be.
Mr Soutar says: “I have a complete set of Aberdeen-Angus herd books going back to Volume One of 1850 and breed enthusiast Bob Anderson gave us helpful advice. Out of about 110 cow families we reckoned only nine had never been crossed with imported genetics and eventually we were able to find examples of each.”
The search took the Soutars all over the UK and involved some prolonged negotiations. Some of the cows were old and some had been incorporated into commercial herds, but eventually the task was complete and with all nine families represented the basic building blocks of the new herd were in place (see panel) and the Dunlouise prefix, named after the children, was chosen.
The herd has, since then, been closed apart from the judicious use of selected semen, some of it 50 years old, from appropriate native Angus sires. The result is a functional herd of very traditional looking black cattle. With mature cows weighing about 650kg, these are much smaller deeper cattle than the modern Aberdeen-Angus.
The ability to produce meat from grass and winter fodder alone without any concentrates is central to the Soutar philosophy.
It would be a mistake to think of this as a hobby herd or as history preserved in aspic. Breeding heifers, embryos and semen are all sold around the world. Live heifers are consigned to Germany on a regular basis and Dunlouise sires have made their mark on the ranges of North and South America, as well as in Australia.
Probably the most successful bull produced to date has been Dunlouise Jipsey Earl E161. One producer in the Australian state of Victoria currently has 900 heifers in his herd sired by sons of Jipsey Earl and the American Angus Hall of Fame last year awarded the bull its Pathfinder Award for producing daughters meeting rigid requirements for easy calving, regularity of calving and exceptional weaning weights.
The Dunlouise herd will be on display on Monday, June 26, when the Soutar family celebrates 22 years with the native Angus cattle by holding an on-farm sale.
With a catalogue produced by the American Angus Association, Smithville, Missouri, the sale promises to be an event with a difference. Not only will be presentation of data be different, so will the cattle.
It could well be 50 years since there was has been such an offering of traditional native Aberdeen-Angus including maiden heifers, in-calf heifers, young cows and probably a selection of young bulls and embryos.
Mrs Soutar says: “This will be a commemorative sale that will celebrate the history of this iconic breed.”
Other local businesses will be attending on the day and Mrs Soutar has designed a bespoke Dunlouise tartan which has been made up into a variety of items.
One of the very best and rarest families in existence in the breed, the Jipsey family was founded in the Dunlouise programme with the mother and daughter pair, Jipsey Nova of Cannahars and Cannahars Jipsey Yoko Y485. Yoko’s daughter, Dunlouise Clova CO95, produced Dunlouise Jipsey Earl E161 which has generated worldwide semen sales. The Jipsey family originated at The Spott at the top of Glen Prosen in Angus, with Old Jip (965) born in 1862 bred by Arch Whyte.
Every female of the Erica family in the Dunlouise herd stems from foundation cow Ejeta of Templehouse. Ejeta traces back to Emily (332) born in 1852, sired by Old Jock (1) bred by pioneer breeder Hugh Watson of Keillor in Angus. Emily was the dam of Erica (843) sired by Cupbearer (59) bred by the Earl of Southesk, Kinnaird Castle, Brechin, Angus, and sold to Sir George McPherson-Grant of Ballindalloch. Sir George McPherson-Grant played a huge part in making the Ericas the largest and most sought after family in the Aberdeen-Angus breed.
The Cherry Blossom family was established here with Cherry Bee W9 of Champagne and her daughters who are full sisters, Champagne Cherry Bee B117 and Champagne Cherry Bee AO46. Champagne Cherry Bee B117 is the dam of the Genex/CRI sires Dunlouise Cortachy Boy D137, Dunlouise Commander Bond F176 and Dunlouise Cup Bearer H283. This family is the only branch to survive of the Craigo family. These originated from a mating of Young Craigo with Craigo (260), bred by Captain Carnegie of Craigo, Montrose, Angus.
This family stems from Karen of Boghall, the very first native female bought for the herd. Her son Dunlouise Kinsman was the first native Angus bull to have semen marketed in the US. This family traces back through the famous Lola Montes (208) which was bred by William McCombie of Tillyfour and Queen Mother (348) to Queen of Ardovie born in 1836 and bred by W. Fullerton of Ardestie, Angus.
This extremely rare family comes from Ruby 5th of Newcroft which was acquired at 11 years of age. The original Ruth of Tillyfour was a daughter of Beauty of Tillyfour 2nd (1180) bred by Hugh Watson and bought with her daughter Miss Watson (987) at the Keillor dispersion in 1861 by William McCombie, also considered one of
the fathers of the breed.
The Eulimas are a tribe of the Erica family which have been in the capable hands of the Goodson family in the Scottish borders for many generations. These trace back through Enchantress (981) and her daughter Eugenie of Ballindalloch (4170), to Emily (332) bred at Keillor by Hugh Watson.
The matriarch Miss Burgess (1198) was bred by Alexander Burgess, Slack of Ballindalloch in 1861, the sire being King Charles (236), and the dam was an unregistered polled cow. One of her granddaughters, Maid of Aven, was a prolific show winner, being first at the Highland Show in 1881 and had an honourable mention at the Great Paris Exhibition of 1878.
The Nells of Aldbar could be accepted as the oldest family in the breed; the line can be traced back with considerable assurance to the original black polled cattle that were at Aldbar Castle, near Brechin, Angus in the middle of the 18th century. They were known as the ‘Sheriff’s breed’ from the fact they were the favourites of Sheriff Patrick Chalmers 1777-1826, owner of the estate.
Although the foundation cow of this family, Pride of Aberdeen (581), was bred by William McCombie of Tillyfour in 1857, the family actually traces back through Charlotte (203), Lola Montes and Queen Mother (348) sired by the famous Panmure (51) to Queen of Ardovie (29), bred by W Fullerton, Ardestie in Angus.