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Breeding Fine Livestock in Angus Glens is a Family Affair

Crossing Limousin with British Blue genetics is proving to be a winning formula for the Hood family at Glen Clova – producing calves with the confirmation they like.

Rory Hood and his wife Hazel run four farms – one owned and three tenanted – in the Angus Glens, above Kirriemuir.

They also rent seasonal grazing and 100 acres of stubble turnips.

They run 100 spring calving cows, more than 1,000 breeding sheep and 2,000 store lambs.

Rory’s father Donald started work as a shepherd when he left school and began buying and fattening lambs around the same time.

In 1983, Donald took on the tenancy of Middlehill, and Rory says the rest is history.

After leaving school at 16, Rory completed two years at SRUC Craibstone, near Aberdeen.

Here he met his wife Hazel, and they married in 2006.  They have three children Frankie 15, 12-year-old Heidi and Hunter, six.

Married life began at Glenarm where Rory’s grandparents Dave and Peggy Black had previously farmed on the same estate as Rory’s dad.

As Dave slowed down, Rory and Donald took over his tenancy and now farm the 1,300 acres on Airlie Estate, along with one full-time worker.

They bought the 500-acre Whitehillocks in 2017.

`Rory started building up the suckler herd as soon as he left school but his passion for British Blues started after seeing the cattle Hazel’s late father Alistair Smart was producing.

Rory said: “It’s taken me years to get our herd where I would like it to be but there’s always room for improvement.”

The husband-and-wife team prefer a smaller, beefier-type cow that’s easy to flesh for outwintering.

Rory adds: “Our cows aren’t massive as that doesn’t suit the type of farm we have.

“I’m a great believer that a cow will only grow to the size of the place.”

Rory bough his first British Blue bull from Borderway, Carlisle, in 2008, and has kept British Blues ever since.

The half-bred British Blue replacements are bred with a Limousin and then the Limousin heifers are put back to the British Blue.

The Hoods run three British Blue bulls – Topside Ninja, Topside Ronnie and Luce-water-Lord-of-the-Rings.  The two Limousins are Frogmore Othello and Norman Real Deal.

All the bulls are noted for their easy-calving traits.

Heifers are bulled at two years old, left to grow naturally, and calved at three years.

The heifers are calved around now before the cows start in mid-March.

Weather permitting, heifers and cows are outwintered as long as possible to save on straw bills.

Rory says: “We try to breed muscly, good-shaped cattle that will sell well in the store ring.

“We’ve always found the Blue-Limousin cross to be docile and easy to work with.”

The best heifers are kept and the rest are sold store at 18 months.  Stots are also sold store with the best ones going at 12 months, while the rest are sold at 18 months, between United Auctions, Stirling, and Caledonian Mart at Stirling.

Surplus heifers are sold with calf at foot.

The Hoods also lamb 700 Blackface sheep and 300 Mule/Texel crosses, with 100 Blackies kept pure as replacements and the rest tupped with the Bluefaced Leicester and sold as Mule gimmers.

“As with the cattle, we try to work with the breeds of sheep suited to the place, predominantly the Blackface ewe for hardiness and their excellent crossing ability,” says Rory.

“We lamb outside, apart from 30 early lambers which belong to Frankie.  And depending on availability of keep we buy between 1,000 and 2,000 stores lambs to fatten.”

Rory also has a business, running a plunge mobile dipping service which starts getting busy in September and lasts until February.

He says: “Dipping has increased dramatically over the last few years..”

But it doesn’t stop there.

When the family bought Whitehillocks, it came with a farmhouse and cottage.

Being situated in a beautiful location and close by many walks, Hazel saw the opportunity to diversify.  She turned the properties into holiday houses, which have proved very popular, letting over 40 weeks of the year.

And, if time allows, they like to show sheep at local shows with their children.

All of them help on the farm, as well as show, but Frankie is the driving force behind it.

“He’s just sheep daft,” says Hazel.

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