One of the most surprising things the FW party saw in Morocco was a traditional cattle ranch. There in the rolling hills of the Atlas mountains was a 25,000 acre ranch running the best looking beef cattle we saw during the entire tour.
It had been set up in 1970 by an American as a demonstration unit for Moroccans to follow. The original owner had chosen three breeds from which to create a suitable hybrid for the conditions. Santa Getrudis from Mexico; Brahman from India and Beef Shorthorn from Britain. The hybrid, which has long since stabilised into a distinct breed that needs no further crossing is a bit like a South Devon in colour and shape but with a small hump on the shoulder that obviously came from the hot weather breeds.
The farm carried about 3,600 head of cattle including the mother cows, 150 bulls and the calves from two previous breeding seasons that were kept in a beef lot similar to those found in the US.
They were slow maturing, typically taking three years to reach slaughter condition but they lived almost exclusively on grass and silage with no concentrate. And the land was cheap so the economics were probably OK.
The ranch is now owned by a banker based in London, we were told. Yet more surprising evidence of the links between Morocco and Britain. But sadly Moroccan farmers have not copied the American example. Most other beef cattle we saw on our travels looked like the sort of animal suitable for burgers. These ranch cattle were the only ones that looked capable of producing juicy steaks.