Image courtesy of Sinclair Aerial Survey
Learn more about the Champion Herd and Flock
Nestled on the cliffs of Caithness lies the farm belonging to the Trust
History of Longoe Farm
Longoe Farm was purchased by the Queen Mother in 1958. It is situated on the exposed but picturesque shores of the Pentland Firth, and is linked to the Castle by a cliff-top track and strip of rough grazing. It has the debatable advantage of being one of the most northerly farms on the British mainland, with unparalleled views across to Hoy and the Orkneys. Just to the west lies Dunnet Head, the very northernmost point on the mainland.
Over the years, more land has been added to bring it to its current size of approximately 100 hectares. A further 25 hectares of rough grazing / hill land is also rented. The soil type is a heavy clay loam. In the interests of self-sufficiency, barley and oats are grown, wrapped silage is made along with some hay.
Winters can be long in Caithness with cattle being housed from the end of October until the third week of May to avoid cutting up the heavy land. Due to the coastal position of the farm, snow and frosts are not a big problem, but there can be constant exposure to cruel northerly winds, at times seemingly all the way from Iceland. These winds can salt blast the fresh growth of grass, flatten a promising crop of barley, and sculpt what few trees that survive to a permanent 45 degrees list. However, despite the short growing season, Caithness is a good livestock rearing area with very few health problems.
Over a number of years, the farm stock have enjoyed success in the show and sale rings. However, nothing could have been achieved without the continued keen interest, understanding and encouragement of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother over the years. Although Her Majesty handed everything over to her Trust in 1996, she continued until her death to take a great interest in her farm and its pedigree livestock.
Aberdeen Angus Herd
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother had a long association with the Aberdeen Angus breed of cattle from her early days at Glamis Castle and became joint patron of the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society with King George V1 in August 1937. She remained as patron until her death in 2002 - a total of nearly 65 years of dedicated service to the breed. His Royal Highness Prince Charles is now patron of the Society.
The breed's raison d'etre is its ease of management and superior beef quality, offering flavour, taste, succulence and unbeatable eating quality and thus - not surprisingly - it is known as the premium beef breed. it is well marbled with fine threads of fat interwoven through the lean. This ensures tenderness when cooked and brings out flavour and succulence. Aberdeen Angus cattle mature early under natural conditions to achieve a perfect balance of fat and lean with a small proportion of bone, coupled with the ability to grow and finish on grass and home-grown feeding to produce a completely natural product.
The Castle of Mey Aberdeen Angus Herd was founded in 1964.
The breeding policy is to produce cattle of size, character and quality with the genetic capability to pass on these attributes to their offspring, and thus hopefully satisfying the requirements of the commercial beef producer.
Over the years the herd has produced some notable cattle. In 1987, semen from the American sire 4S Pondeosa was used. His first crop of calves were most impressive and contained the heifer Castle of Mey Evening Star 44th. At Perth in February 1990, the first sale in the new mart, she won second prize and sold for the top breed price of 5,000gns. She went on to become the great grandmother of the bull Rawburn Elysium, one of the best breeding bulls in the breed.
Another star was Castle of Mey Princess 12th, the show cow that did so well in the early 1990s. She began her show career by winning Breed Champion and Interbreed Cattle Champion at the 1989 Caithness Show as a two year old heifer. At the 1991 Royal Highland Show, she was Reserve Female Champion and winner of the Tangier Trophy for the best animal bred by exhibitor. She then went on to be Interbreed Cattle Champion at the Caithness Show, and also Reserve Interbreed Champion at the Black Isle Show. In 1992, she won second prize cow at the Royal Highland Show, Reserve Interbreed Champion at the Caithness Show, and Reserve Breed Champion at the Black Isle Show. In 1993, she was Reserve Breed Champion at the Royal Highland Show, winner of the Tangier Trophy and a member of the Interbreed Team that came Reserve that year.
One of the best bulls from the herd was Castle of Mey Elscot, sired by Geis Gambler. He sold for the highest breed price of 8,000gns at Perth in October 1996 to A Fraser & Son, Newton of Idvies, where he bred extremely well. His first nine sons sold for around £7400, and he had sons working in seven pedigree herds at one point.
The herd numbers 40 breeding females. The best few male calves are kept for bulls but the majority are castrated and sold through Dingwall Mart.The best heifers are retained as replacements with the remainder being sold privately for breeding or sold store at Dingwall.
North Country Cheviot Flock
The Queen Mother was also patron of the North Country Cheviot Sheep Society and established the Longoe flock in 1960. To quote Her Majesty from the foreword in the 50th Anniversary edition of the Flock Book - ‘…as it was considered to be the best breed of sheep. I have seen no reason to change my opinion over the years as it is still the best all round breed with it's ability to thrive on all kinds of ground and in all weather conditions.'
The North Country Cheviot is an intelligent, tough, resourceful sheep combining thriftiness and healthiness with prolificacy and strong maternal qualities.
Sheep from the flock have won the Breed Champion award nine times at the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston near Edinburgh. The most famous wins, however, came in 1991 and 1996. In 1991 the shearling ewe, Longoe H3, not only won the Breed Champion award, but also went on to win the Supreme Interbreed Sheep Champion out of 2,500 sheep entries as well as the coveted Queen's Cup – thus her daughter’s trophy was presented to the Queen Mother by her granddaughter, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, who was visiting the show. In 1996, at the 50th Anniversary Show of the North Country Cheviot Society, there was a record 245 entries. The winner of this prestigious show was, Longoe Majestic, a shearling ram.
Another "star" of the flock was the ewe Longoe S53. She won the Interbreed sheep title at the Caithness Show three times in succession - 1998, 1999 and 2000 - a feat undone before by the same animal! She also won the Breed Champion at the Royal Highland Show in 2000.
In 2006 a Hill North Country Cheviot flock was established which is run alongside the Caithness type Cheviots. At the Dingwall Hill Cheviot ram sale in 2017 the two-shear ram, Longoe Transformer, sold for £3000.
The flock numbers 110 ewes The best tup lams are selected with a view to selling as shearling rams and two-shears at the breed sales in Quoybrae, Lairg and Dingwall marts. The best gimmers are kept as female replacements with the remainder being sold in as seed-stock for pure and commercial producers at Quoybrae, Lairg and Dingwall.