Small World, Big Bull


On Feb 4th, at the Stirling Bull Sales, Andrew Jones of Coull farm Islay bought a new Aberdeen Angus bull called Idvies Primer. He purchased it from Alastair and Graeme Fraser, who run the oldest established Aberdeen Angus herd in the County of Angus. The herd includes the much admired bull Idvies Pink Peugeot and the 2018 February Bull Sales Overall Champion, Idvies Ferrari.

Now, Andrew had already heard of Graeme’s farm – the Idvies of the moniker – by repute from a neighbour in Islay. The World Angus Forum had heard of it too. They made the farm a destination on their tour of the UK in 2017, during which, according to Graeme, “the main focus was udders, feet and legs which did not disappoint.”

Andrew had seen some posts on social media about the animals Idvies were putting up for the sale. He made tentative enquiries, as the Coull herd is raised for meat, not for pure pedigree. He was delighted when, on the day, Primer – weighing in at just about a tonne with character like the old style Angus, fine conformation, good locomotion – came within the budget. Then, Andrew says, “It turned out we had quite a lot in common.”

Besides the cattle, Andrew has nearly 1000 sheep across Coull farm and his father’s land, and he has 72 acres down to malting barley. All this barley is destined for Bruichladdich for the Islay Barley series, including some winter crop for the first time this year. And up in Forfar, besides their 60 head of pedigree cows, Idvies also grow malting barley, 140 acres, with which they supply Bairds Maltings in Inverness. And Bairds Maltings supply Bruichladdich. Soon, Graeme and Andrew were exchanging experiences about barley varietals.

Graeme is also quietly a collector of whisky. When hosting the delegates from the World Angus forum at Idvies, he was in need of refreshments for them. Through the Bairds connection he contacted Bruichladdich, and our own Lynne McEwan obliged. In Graeme’s words, she appeared in Forfar with a “boot-full of various expressions of the Laddie”. These were enjoyed by all, “in particular the Uruguayans, who said they had never tasted such good whisky!”

Back in Islay, Primer is settling in well. He’s in a shed with gravel floors and straw bedding, while Andrew’s other bull, a Limousin, roughs it on concrete in the bull pen. Primer shares his accommodation with the orphan lambs and “no one can get out of the shed without giving him a scratch on the ear.”  Hopefully, this gentle disposition will be passed onto his calves; by comparison the Limousin’s tend to “climb the walls”. Primer has a few choice cows in with him now, so before the year is out, all being well, there will be new black progeny in the herd at Coull to raise a dram to.

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