A Scottish farming family carefully devised a “celebrity boot camp” style training regime for the Luing bull they reared on their West Lothian farm, ahead of his day of stardom in London city centre.
In advance of the bull’s appearance in London today (Thursday February 27th) the McNee family who bred him on their 1500 acre Woodend Farm, near Armadale took time to acclimatise the bull to the sort of sights and sounds he might encounter in the city – very different to his usual quiet life on the farm.
Andrew and Lorna McNee and their three children, Alastair (8), Beth (5) and Faye (six months), made the trip to London with the 20 month old bull “Benhar Piper” as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the Scotch Beef PGI brand and the quality assurance and traceability behind the world-famous label.
As well as being the first trip to London for Piper, who weighs almost one tonne, it was also the first time in the city (and on a plane) for the three young McNee children, who joined their parents during the visit which also aimed to highlight 2014 being the International Year of Family Farming.
Andrew is the fourth generation of the McNee family to farm and he currently runs the upland unit with his father, Roy. The family have 250 beef cows on the farm which ranges from 650 feet to 1000 feet above sea level. Around 150 of the cows which make up the McNees’ herd are pedigree Luings (pronounced Ling) with the remainder being Simmental cross Luings.
Andrew’s father and his grandfather, Bob, purchased their first Luing bull in 1966 at a sale at Oban and the family have stayed loyal to the breed ever since.
“The Luings are tremendous mothers as well as being very hardy and great foragers and produce a very good calf in upland conditions. They are very good at looking after their calves and the cows are low maintenance,” said Andrew McNee.
The breed is also renowned for being comparatively docile and good-natured – but, despite that, the family were taking no chances and spent a great deal of time training Piper with a programme of “boot camp” style acclimatisation ahead of his big trip to the London city this week.
“Typically Piper would only see the occasional tractor or two during his tranquil daily life and so we’ve been careful to work with him to make sure he enjoys his trip and is as relaxed as possible in the London hustle and bustle,” explained Andrew McNee.
“We’ve had friends and family visit the farm so he gets used to groups of people and we’ve been making sure he’s used to flapping bags, loud noises and scarves. One thing we’ve discovered he’s not too keen on is umbrellas so we’ve been really keeping our fingers crossed for a dry day!”
While steps have been taken to ensure he enjoys the public attention during his day in the city, one unknown was how he would react to the paparazzi during his day of celebrity stardom in the city.
To ensure Piper had a comfortable trip he was transported south with a bovine travelling companion and had a good opportunity to rest in the well-bedded, low emission articulated lorry provided by hauliers, the MacTaggart Brothers, based at Castle Douglas.
Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, the organisation which works on behalf of the Scottish beef, lamb and pork industry and is running the current Scotch Beef PGI campaign in London, said farming families like the McNees formed the bedrock of the livestock industry in Scotland.
“Family farms are at the heart of the Scottish livestock industry and we are keen to encourage people to understand more about the stockmanship skills, handed down from generation to generation, involved in breeding first class cattle and producing our world-famous beef,” said Mr McLaren.
“Farming families throughout Scotland like the McNees play a very valuable role as custodians of natural Scotland as well as taking a huge amount of pride in producing top quality livestock.”
The McNees’ trip to London comes just ahead of a very busy period on the farm, with half of their cows due to calve in the coming weeks. The bull the family chose to take to London, Benhar Piper, was the joint sale topper at the recent Luing sale at Castle Douglas, where he sold for 6000 guineas (around £6300).
On his return from London Piper is bound for his new home in Duns in the Scottish borders when he will have his first experience of romance when he joins a select group of pedigree Luing ladies!
Caption: Andrew and Lorna McNee and their three children, Faye (six months), Beth (5) and Alastair (8), with “Benhar Piper” who were in London today as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the Scotch Beef PGI brand and the quality assurance and traceability behind the world-famous label.