There is possibly no more distinctive breed of cattle in the
UK than the Highland, which has grazed the rugged uplands of Scotland since the
early 18th century. The Highlands reputation as a resilient animal which yields
outstanding beef has led to folds (the traditional name for Highland herds)
appearing not only across the country but throughout Europe, the United States
and New Zealand. Their characteristic appearance, with their thick wavy coats
and sweeping fringes, has seen Highlands grace photographs, calendars and
paintings in a manner unlike any other beef breed.
Although always popular amongst enthusiasts, Highland beef
has largely been a niche product, and rarely available in large retail outlets.
Dovecote Park’s Highland scheme was set up for Waitrose in 2007 – making
Waitrose the first supermarket to offer Highland beef. The aim was to bring
festive shoppers a unique and different Christmas option - the lean, full
flavoured sirloin, fillet or fore-rib providing a perfect centrepiece for the Yuletide
Dovecote Park producer Robert has supplied us with Highland
cattle every Christmas since the very beginning of the scheme, “I knew that
they have a good reputation in the industry.” He says of his decision to supply
Dovecote Park, ‘especially with the relationship with Waitrose and because of
that quality, we wanted to support them as much as we could.
It’s a simple
relationship we have, and it works very, very well. I like to deal with people
as much as I can, and communications with Dovecote are very strong – I like
that Mark calls in to see us rather than a telephone call"
Originally a third generation dairy farmer, Roberts holding
once held Yorkshire's third highest yielding herd of Holsteins, which were sold
in 2005. He first began working with Highlands, following a long interest in
"We always went on holiday to Scotland we always liked
them, and I thought they’d be something different – I always like something
different. We bought our first Highlands in 2002, just to go in the field next
to the house as a present for my wife for her birthday, never ever thinking we
would develop into what we’re doing now. Over time, we got a few more and a few
more, and we began to think we could actually make a business out of these -
then in 2005 we decided to sell the milk cows completely. Now we cover the
entire North of England and we’re one of the biggest Highland producers in the
country – it’s nice how it has worked out!"
The independent nature of the breed has led to some
detractors to see them as unpredictable and a challenge to work with, but
Robert dismisses this idea, claiming that; ”If you spend time with them and
handle them, they’re absolutely fine.
They are very intelligent, Highland
cattle, more intelligent than lots of others. The more you handle them, the
better they are, everybody says how quiet ours are and it’s because we handle
them a lot."
Alongside supplying Dovecote Park and selling beef through
his own farm shop, Robert is also heavily involved with the Highland Cattle
Society, which has kept herd records and promoted the Highland breed since
“It brings everything together” Robert says of the Highland Society, “Yes,
we’re in charge of the herd book and everything else, but it’s also about
promotion of the Highlands – our presence at the three major shows – Yorkshire,
Welsh and Highland – we always have a stand which we use to promote the breed.
We also can use the shows to promote Dovecote Park. I'm a judge, I've judged
all over the world, and again, whenever you’re judging, they give you a
microphone, you’re telling the public about Highlands, and what’s good about
them, so you can promote them in that way”.
Our Highland beef is available by special order for
collection or delivery at Waitrose between 20th and 24th and the 28th and 31st
December, with a selection of Highland product available on shelf as well. For
those thinking of having beef this Christmas, why not buy and
experience the quality of our finest Highland for yourself!