Friday, July 1, 2022

Angus celebrates 150-year anniversary

It is 150 years since the first Angus cattle arrived in New Zealand when nine “prize-winning” animals disembarked at Bluff on July 1 1863. These four bulls and five cows including Logie the Laird, Albert and Warrior were sourced from three Scottish breeders and had been part of a consignment of cattle that sailed from Glasgow on the cargo ship T E Millidge. They reportedly arrived in first-class condition and were thought to have been taken to a property at Edendale in Southland. Either some of these original cattle or their progeny were shifted to the 58,670ha Totara Estate in Otago in 1866.

Unfortunately, record-keeping appeared not to be a high priority for those early cattle breeders and the pedigrees and early records of the breed remain hazy.

However, the first report of Angus cattle appearing at a rural show was in the Southland Times’ Invercargill show report on December 23 1867.

Proof that the breed had made its way north was a record of Angus being exhibited at the Hawke’s Bay show in 1877.

Around 1881 the Totara Estate established a stud book and entries were back-dated to 1863, although the record-keeping was rather haphazard with some very obvious gaps.

In 1875 another two bulls were imported along with three females; one of these cows, named Tillyfour Lass, went one to rear seven calves. She obviously had a big influence on the breed at the time and was immortalised in paint. The Fraser family of Stern Angus owns a painting of her in 1884.

Further shipments of Angus arrived in NZ in 1878, 1880 and 1883.

Around 1885 the breed underwent a name change from Polled Angus to Aberdeen Angus, though it is not known why.

At its peak Totara Estate put 132 cows to the bull. From that time numbers diminished but the influence of the stud continued and numerous studs were based on its bloodlines.

Among those were John Robert’s Gladbrook Station and Marainanga herds. Both received an influx of newly-imported Scottish genetics and went on to have a significant influence on the NZ cattle industry.

Despite Southland and Otago being the initial home to the breed, the Angus Association was founded in 1916 in Hastings.

The key driver was John MacFarlane whose stud, Waiterenui, founded 1915, is one of the few older studs (along with Turihaua from Gisborne, founded 1906) still playing a major part in the industry.

Angus is now the most common cattle breed in the country.

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