If you stopped your average person on the street, and asked them to name a cattle breed, chances are they’d say Aberdeen-Angus.
While in top-notch restaurants across the world, when chefs want to impress customers, it’s Aberdeen-Angus steak they put on the menu to showcase their skills.
While the breed is possibly the best known in the world, what many folk don’t realise is that that’s because of the hard work and dedication of one north-east farming family – the Massies who have Blelack Farm which is close to the village of Logie Coldstone and not far from Aboyne.
The farm, and stock – Aberdeen-Angus, Charolais and Shorthorn herds – are currently for sale and on the market with CKD Galbraith in conjunction with United Auctions.
Their story begins in 1967 when Neil and Helen Massie moved to Blelack from their original farm near Kintore. The family had outdoor pigs and ran a commercial suckler herd at Blelack before establishing the renowned Angus herd in 1970.
Foundation females were obtained from the noted Candacraig and the Balavil herds and some imported blood from Canada, most notably from the Coldstream herd.
Graeme Massie, 49, said: “The herds were both started by my father and he spent the best part of 30 years going back and forth to Canada sourcing genetics to help improve our Aberdeen-Angus cattle. At one time they weren’t selling at all well as Continental cattle had come in and the Angus was considered far too small.
“He used to fly over live animals to start with, then regulations changed so he began taking over semen and embryos. He and a few others were passionate about the breed but I recall at certain times mum asking why he bothered so much as, on occasion, he’d go to the sales and nobody would touch Aberdeen-Angus.
“Initially some of the traditionalists thought the cattle coming in from Canada were too big but father felt they were facing a choice – either improve the breed or face the possibility of it dying out as the way it was, it couldn’t compete with the larger Continental cattle.
“He stuck with it over the years and it’s paid dividends. It’s become one of the few brands that’s instantly recognisable and you’ll see it everywhere from supermarkets to restaurants. You could stop someone on the streets of Birmingham and ask them to name a type of cow and I bet they’d say, Aberdeen-Angus.”
A familiar name in the cattle world, the Massies often win championship prizes at shows across the country and achieve top prices at bull sales.
“We’d a farm sale two years ago when we sold an Eyrie for £32,000, and in February this year sold a reserve Charolais champion for £9,600 which was great. As a farm we’ve had more champions with our Aberdeen-Angus sales than any other breeder in the breed’s history.
The Blelack prefix has achieved the highest number of champions and reserve champions at Perth and subsequently Stirling Bull Sales totalling some 12 Angus champions, and has won the Aberdeen-Angus championship at the Royal Highland Show on no fewer than three occasions.
“Looking back over the years, some of the best memories relate to the people we’ve met through different breeds, socialising at the sales and agri events when different generations of the family would be involved,” said Graeme.
Neil, 79, is still active and comes to the farm every day for an hour or so to help Graeme out, but with his 18-year-old twins, Jack and Hayley, showing no interest in taking over the farm, he’s decided to sell.
“It will be a sad day when the final hammer comes down, and ideally we’d like to see somebody buy the farm and stock as one lot, but if that doesn’t happen the farm will go on the open market in the summer, while the herds are booked into the United Auctions in Stirling on November 21.
“I feel that if I’m ever going to do something else, apart from farming, then now’s the time to do it. I’ve got a house in Aboyne with my girlfriend Vicky, and will give myself a bit of breathing space and see how the wind blows.
“I’ll not say goodbye to farming, though, as I’m going to keep about 120 acres of land, outwith Blelack, and in the future will start up small pedigree Aberdeen-Angus and Charolais herds using embryos from the Blelack herds.”
Bloodlines from Blelack can be found in most of the leading herds in the UK. Latterly the family has established a Beef Shorthorn herd which has already enjoyed success in both the sale and show rings including senior champions at the Beef Shorthorn Sales in Stirling.
The Blelack prefix and the herds of Aberdeen-Angus, Charolais and Beef Shorthorn are offered as a going concern by separate private treaty with the farm. This represents a unique and exciting opportunity to buy three herds which are long established and have a consistent record of producing top-grade bulls and females at the Stirling Bull Sales. In addition a management package for the herd could be available to a purchaser.
The farm, near Aboyne, stock and 449.87 acres of land, principally Grade 3 (2) by the James Hutton Institute, is up for sale. The farm offers a mix of arable and grazing ground, with an area of well-sheltered, free draining, permanent pasture for overwintering cattle.
The asking price, which is not being revealed but which will vary depending on what the purchaser wishes to buy, includes a five-bedroom farmhouse; a trio of three-bedroom cottages; a one-bedroom flat and an extensive range of farm buildings to provide housing for more than 400 cattle.
The farm sits in one of the most beautiful and unspoiled areas of Scotland and comes with land capable of producing exceptional crops of grass and spring barley. The farmhouse, Rose Cottage, sits in an attractive position a little way to the east of the farm steading and has wonderful views over its own land and towards the hills in the distance.
Simon Brown, of CKD Galbraith, said: “Blelack is situated in one of the most beautiful and unspoiled areas of Scotland and the farm has been producing top class pedigree cattle for more than 45 years.”
David Leggat, United Auctions’ executive chairman, said: “The sale of Blelack and the herds of Aberdeen-Angus, Charolais and Shorthorn cattle together with the world renowned ‘Blelack’ herd prefix presents a unique opportunity for anyone wishing to enter the pedigree cattle breeding business at the highest level as the herds have a consistent record of producing top grade bulls and females.”
The start of the stock heading off took place at the weekend, when the farm’s autumn calving Charolais went under the hammer at Carlisle.