BYGONE DAYS: Farmers pay visit to world famous herd of Scottish cattle on trip

A visit by Ulster farmers to the world famous Bargower herd of Ayrshires in Scotland was no longer a dream, reported the News Letter’s agricultural correspondent William Warren during this week in 1961.

Saturday, 11th September 2021, 11:00 am
Rathkenny brothers Norman and Bertie Kerr take life easy at the Glenravel Festival Country Fair in August 2009. Pictures: John McIlwaine/Ballymena Times/Farming Life archives
Rathkenny brothers Norman and Bertie Kerr take life easy at the Glenravel Festival Country Fair in August 2009. Pictures: John McIlwaine/Ballymena Times/Farming Life archives

A party of more than 120, who had been joined by eight breeders from Eire, had travelled across to Scotland the previous Wednesday.

The owner of the herd, Mr Bertie Drummond, had judged the Ayrshire cattle at the Royal Ulster Show at Balmoral Show in May 1961 and the visit to his noted herd, “one the most valuable in the British Isles”, would remain a talking point for a long time to come, reported Warren.

COACH TRIP

Donal and Liz O’Loan shelter from a shower at the Glenravel Festival Country Fair in August 2009. Picture: John McIlwaine/Ballymena Times/Farming Life archives

From Stranraer, after the short sea crossing from Larne, the party made the 50 mile journey by luxury coaches along the winding coast road to Leigh Grange Farm, Maybole, in the 
heart of the rich Ayrshire countryside – “or rather the Burns Country”, noted the News Letter’s correspondent.

There was a stop for a luncheon at the Burns Memorial Hotel at Alloway, where the Irish visitors were met by Mr Drummond.

William Warren wrote of the Scottish herd owner: “Mr Drummond runs two farms – Bargower (216 acres), which provides the herd prefix, and Leigh Grange (300 acres). Most of the stock of the 500 Ayrshire, including 200 cows are at Leigh Grange.”

The visitors were impressed by the housing and layout of the model farm at Leigh Grange. “Extensive byres, calf and bull pens are designed so to save labour and at the same time provide the maximum comfort for the animals,” noted Warren.

Hughie Dobbin and Anthony McDonnell at the Glenravel Festival Country Fair in August 2009. Picture: John McIlwaine/Ballymena Times/Farming Life archives

MAIN INTEREST

But it was the Ayrshires, some of whose progeny were famous in many parts of the world, that came in for close scrutiny during the trip.

Warren wrote: “The fact that many Ulster herds have been improved by Bargower blood made the visit doubly interesting.”

The tour began with a visit to the milking herd in a 12 acre field of rich pasture. One of the first animals to catch the eye was a choice heifer which had calved at two years and nine months.

Mark Haughey, Michael McDonnell and Ryan Forde sit on a Ford Dexta tractor at the Country Fair at Glenravel Festival in August 2009. The tractor had special significance for the boys as it used to belong to their grandfather Arthur McDonnell. Picture: John McIlwaine/Ballymena Times/Farming Life archives

Warren wrote: “With plenty of size, grand dairy conformation and a wealth of breed characteristics this choice heifer is in the five gallon region at a high butter fat.

“Mr Drummond aims at having his heifers calving down at around two-and-a-half years.”

AMAZING MEMORY

The Irish farmers quickly spotted different outstanding cows and soon learned the pedigrees of the animals from Mr Drummond, who displayed an amazing memory for details of the sires and dams of the different families.

Paul and Wendy McDonnell and their children Sarah and Ryan with their pen of champion Kerry Hills at the Glenravel Festival Country Fair in August 2009. Picture: John McIlwaine/Ballymena Times/Farming Life archives

Mr Drummond was also impressed by the visitors’ knowledge of the Bargower animals.

In another field, of more than 30 acres, one of the cows was the dam of three high-priced bulls – 2,200 guineas, 2,000 guineas and 1,900 guineas – which Warren noted as “an indication of the high reputation of this herd”.

Warren added: “Mr Drummond sold an Ayrshire bull for 9,000 guineas – still the world record for the breed.”

Next the Irish farmers visited the young stock. “There are promising bunches of heifers, already displaying the general high quality of the herd,” wrote William Warren.

YOUNG BULLS

Among the bulls calves – “more than 50 will be sold at the annual Bargower herd in November” – were some “outstanding young animals”.

Warren wrote: “They are in fine bloom and some of them are expected to make high prices because buyers will be there from overseas as well as from all parts of Britain.”