Out and About with John Buglass

...Estate Manager of the Glen Lyon Estate who established a Luing herd in 2004 which goes from strength to strength.

Out and About with John BuglassThe hills of Glen Lyon were once abundant in cattle. Home to the Campbell Clan, the marauding Macgregors would try to rustle a few head and later the main drove road from Rannoch to Crieff passed through these lands. Latterly however the hills have become home to thousands of sheep.
When Iain and Janet Wotherspoon bought Glenlyon House in 2003 the hill ground carried 1,200 blackface sheep. They consolidated the estate with the later purchase of Balnacraig, Drumcharry and Culdaremore and the estate is now 7,500 acres in size. A further 5,000 acres at Farleyer has two tenants. In consultation with the Heather Trust, who found the hill overgrazed and sour, we decided to remove the sheep and replace them with hill cattle.

Much consideration was given as to which breed to introduce. We run Limousin on the low ground and Janet's family have a pedigree Charolais herd in East Lothian but we had limited experience with hill cattle. Iain wanted a breed that would forage well and that would improve the environment and perhaps help the grouse numbers. Janet wanted an aesthetically pleasing herd that would complement the beautiful scenery, reminiscent of a Victorian painting, and I wanted a hardy breed that was fertile, good tempered and easy to handle and calve. Luing appeared to tick all the boxes.
In October 2004 we bought our first Luing cattle at Stirling, 10 heifers from Wooplaw in calf to Wooplaw Commanche. They were welcomed back to their new home at Glenlyon House with great excitement and they settled down well. In order to develop the herd, the estate had to bid strongly at competitive sales to acquire the quality required and in February 2005, 11 bulling heifers were bought at Castle Douglas from Buckholm, Wooplaw, Ettrick and Luing.

To date the herd stands at 80 heard. All the cows are out-wintered on big bale silage and fed cattle cobs two weeks before calving. Over the last three calving seasons I have only had to call the vet once to assist in calving a heifer. All female stock had been kept until this year when eight in-calf heifers were sold to Northern Ireland. The steer calves are overwintered and sold as stores but we are hoping to finish some steers for the estate owned Fortingall Hotel - and our new online venison sale venture, Glenlyon Gourmet -

With the removal of the sheep, although we still have a lowland flock of 600 cross ewes with all lambs finished and sold live, and the introduction of the Luing we have seen a great improvement in the heather and the environment. Also with extensive tree planting to provide winter protection for the cattle there has been a marked improvement in wild flora and fauna. The cattle have proved to be all that was required of them and I am looking forward to developing the herd further.
The hills of Glen Lyon are once again home to beautiful cattle. It's a lovely place to live and work and if you are passing by, come in and see us.