21 February 1997

New trend in Highland trade

THE Highland Cattle Societys spring fixture at Oban last week saw a top bid of 8000gns on a day when trading revealed a new trend.

The resounding success of the societys own beef marketing scheme, and the on-going promotion of the breed as a suckler cow, paid handsome dividends at the event. Five commercial buyers secured foundation females and one added a bull to his list of new purchases.

"This is a most encouraging trend," said Hamish Wilson, breed society secretary. "It is the type of commercial rationale that will ratchet up the whole market for Highland cattle and will give the breed a new-found stability."

Most of the new suckler men buying cattle claimed between five and eight animals. "Our established marketing scheme can now provide all the support and back-up required to sell Highland beef. But as well as that, we are seeing very commercially minded farmers starting to look seriously at the breed.

"Long living, hardy and healthy Highland cows at reasonable prices are looking a good proposition. And even if Highland bred beef doesnt earn a premium but generates the same income as beef from other breeds, then it must be more profitable because the costs of production are significantly lower," added Mr Wilson.

The 8000gns bid came for the first bull in the ring, the red two-year-old Hector Ruadh of Meggernie from Mrs J M Malin of Meggernie Estate, Aberfeldy, Perthshire. A son of Iain Ruadh 2nd of Shenavallie, he took the bull title under judge Mr Andrew Morrow, Lanarkshire. Buyer was Ewan Cameron who runs the Glen Nevis fold at Fort William.

The entry of nearly 360 head was the biggest in living memory, but it enabled pedigree buyers to be selective. Tordarroch Estate, Inverness-shire drew 5000gns for their Jan 1995-bred red bull Alastair of Fourmerk. This son of Stiabhan of Lawers went to Mrs P G Heriot Maitland, Perth.

Aonghas of Balmoral, a yellow bull by Campbell Og of Dalriada from the two-year-old section and consigned by HM The Queen, made 2500gns to D Settrington, Beverley, Yorks.

The Netherscales fold from Cockermouth, Cumbria owned by D Hodgskiss made the highest female bid paying 2200gns for the champion, the red-coated heifer Ellen of Bemborough offered by Miss Mary MacLean from her Balure fold at Oban. The heifer was in-calf to Rory 2nd of Peel.

AVERAGES: Nine yearling bulls £377; 18 two-year bulls £1440; 10 aged bulls £811; 43 yearling heifers £468; 33 two-year heifers £483; 52 three-year heifers £797 and 18 cows £695. (Oban UA)