140 years of top bulls and top prices at Perth

1 February 2002

140 years of top bulls and top prices at Perth

Foot-and-mouth devastated breed sales last year. In this

pedigree special, we find out what is planned for Builth

Wells ram sales, and examine the art of breeding pedigree

cattle and sheep. But first a trip down memory lane as

Claire Powell charts the history of Perth bull sales on the

eve of this years event. Edited by James Garner

THE thoughts of British beef cattle breeders will be concentrated on Perth bull sales, Europes largest breeding bull sale, when they start next week.

The history of these sales, which this month will see over 1000 pedigree beef cattle from nine breeds, stretches back almost 140 years to 1865 when nine Shorthorn bulls were sold at Perth mart. The top price was £30.10s.

This event grew rapidly and soon included Aberdeen-Angus cattle. By the end of the 19th century bull buyers from the extensive cattle ranching countries of the world were travelling to Perth and lifting prices.

In 1906, Broadhooks Champion, a Shorthorn from Lord Lovat, broke the four-figure barrier when sold to The Argentine for 1500gns.

From then on, as the bulls became smaller to comply with the type sought by overseas buyers, the prices grew larger. By 1956 the top price was 17,000gns and in 1959 the 20,000gns barrier collapsed when the Angus, Elevate of Eastfield, made 25,000gns.

Overseas buyers were a major force in the 1950s and 1960s. They bought at the Hereford breed sales, then travelled north to purchase Shorthorn and Angus bulls. At the export peak, around 60 bulls a year of the three breeds would travel to Argentina.

In 1963 a 13-month-old Aberdeen-Angus bull, Lindertis Evulse, from Sir Torquil Munro, clocked up a record price which still stands – 60,000gns, paid by Black Watch Farms of America.

En route to America, Evulse was quarantined in Ireland where sadly he was found to be infertile.

For over a century, the Angus and Shorthorn breeds dominated the Perth sales. Between 1865 and 1977 a total of 71,433 bulls from the two breeds passed through Perth, grossing £10,943,515.5s.0d.

These were nostalgic times, with many bulls arriving at, and leaving, Perth by train until the late 1960s. Southern-bred bulls gathered at Oxford railway station to travel north. After the sales, teams of bulls held up the Glasgow Road traffic as they were walked back to the railway station.

The bulls used to be shown outside on the cobbles of Caledonian Road, alongside the mart, but the heavy snows of the winter of 1947/48 prompted the introduction of undercover showing.

In the mid-1960s "exotic" animals were introduced to the Perth bull sales, most notably Simmental and Charolais bulls. They started an invasion, which has since been dominant. This month, numerically the three largest breeds are Charolais, Limousin and Simmental.

At first foreign bulls were not warmly welcomed, but few could ignore them, particularly after two Simmental breeders took a Simmental bull to the Angus Breeders Dinner in the Station Hotel. The revolving door had initially thwarted them, but the trio eventually made it into the "do", where the four-legged member of the group received immense respect.

The last sale to be held in the Caledonian Road mart was in Oct 1989. Built in 1875 on the outskirts of Perth, it had become engulfed by the spread of the city.

On the last day of the sale, the mart overflowed with people eager to savour, for the last time, the unique atmosphere developed over 100 years of trading.

And they received a special treat – a new Charolais world record. When the supreme champion, Maerdy Director, from Welsh vet Esmor Evans, took his turn in the sale ring, the great and the good of the Charolais breed all appeared, with bidding clearly on their minds. The hammer eventually fell at 56,000gns to Wiseton Estate, Doncaster.

This was, and still is, the second best ever Perth price, but Charolais enthusiasts point out that because Lindertis Evulse was infertile Maerdy Director is the top-priced working bull.

New mart

In February 1990, the new Perth mart, alongside the A9 dual carriageway, was opened. Already history has and will continue to be made in this mart.

This months sales will see the first ever consignment of Angus cattle from Argentina. These cattle arrived in Scotland a couple of years ago as embryos, flushed from cows on Horatio Gutierrezs farm near Buenos Aires. Some are descendants of the hundreds of Angus cattle exported from Perth to Argentina decades ago.

Thankfully, the British livestock business is getting back on track. This months Perth will represent the first major pedigree sale in almost a full year. And there is little doubt that more history will be made. &#42

Shorthorns and Aberdeen-Angus were the main breeds in the early days of Perth bull sales.

A packed ringside in the old mart during the 1950s.

The highest price bull ever sold at Perth is the Aberdeen-Angus bull Lindertis Evulse, which made 60,000gns. Sadly, he proved to be infertile.

The last sale day at the old Caledonian Road mart – but what a day as Charolais breeders bid 56,000gns for Maerdy Director – a breed world record.

See more