Toplines and tales

Podcast about all things to do with livestock showing, past and present, including interviews, discussions and general chitchat.

For a relatively little known breed these days, the Southdown holds a massive place marker in history, not just as a terminal sire, but as the father of dozens of other breeds, worldwide, including the Suffolk, Dorset and Hampshire, in fact most sheep with the word ‘Down’ in their title. It has also evolved many French breeds, such as the Charollais and Berichon. My guest Jonathan Long is the current breed society chairman, and shares the history of this great breed with us.

My guest Clive Davies and I discuss the merits of Robert Bakewell,  possibly one of the most influential livestock breeders in history, not just for what he bred but for his pioneering ways and the legacy he left from his experimental methods. As well as creating the Leicester sheep and the Shire horse, he will be most remembered for developing the Longhorn breed of cattle.  

This week in another special episode, my pals and I single out a handful of influential absent friends that have passed during the year 2021, each one of them a legend in the livestock industry, and raise a dram to them. Namely, Donald Biggar, Harry Sleigh, Alistair Houston, David Dick and Jack Ramsay. 

Happy New Year from Toplines and Tales

Welcome to our Christmas party where my guests, Rob, Scotty and Fletch add a bit of festive cheer. After some of my poor attempts at stand-up comedy, we get into a quite serious discussion about the meat on our supermarket shelves, and the ethical ways of the retailer. Thankfully this digresses into some more chivalrous stories of shenanigans at the Royal show, including big Shanksy and an ostrich as well as Fletch’s covid turkey! Eventually we get around to listing the top ten breed CEO’s with some hilarity, as the party drink flows.

********warning, contains strong language ***************

This week Suffolk Society chairman Mike Weaver and myself discuss the history of the Suffolk sheep breed. From its initial cross-bred form in the mid 18th century, through to the larger heavy boned sheep of the 1980s, the breed climbed to the top of the sheep through a steady evolution. We discuss those breeders that took the sheep to an extreme, and some of the animals that contributed to that as well as more recent times.

Our guests this week are breeder Rosemary Hunter and the historian and aficionado Angus Mackay. With their incredibly in depth knowledge of history we learn of the early origins of the Highland breed across Scotland. Namedropping the Dukes of Argyll and Athol as well as numerous Earls we learn of the role that the aristocracy had to play in the development of pedigree stock in the north, making this one of the most fascinating historical podcasts to date. We highlight a few specific sires from the 1920s that shaped the breed, to the changes in fashion and through to the massive export drives around the globe. Then latterly the marketing of succulent beef from this ancient breed.

Happy Birthday to us!

In a special one year anniversary episode this week we hear highlights of the 1st 6 episodes of Toplines and Tales, re-edited together, listening to some great stories about the Royal Smithfield Show in London from a dozen different exhibitors.

I am joined by Galloway breeder Peter Hunter Blair as we discuss the origins of the breed and how the polled black cattle evolved in south west Scotland over a few centuries, particularly on their carcass merits. Once again the Biggar’s from Castle Douglas feature in the breeds development and we hear about the huge export trade around the world, and then the reciprocal imports when new blood was needed, as well as the gold rush days when the German’s came shopping in the late 80s. As always, we also look at some influential herds and animals that have shaped the breed to what is today.

In part 2 of this breed, Marion, Nigel and myself cover from the halcyon days of famous Aberdeen Angus bulls, breeders, and prices before we move on to the not so glory days of the breed, and take a close look at those breeders who not only stuck in there but set on a mission to reshape the breed to the position it once held.

Along with two great guests, this week we have a fantastic look at the history of the Aberdeen Angus breed, from its humble (Humbie) beginnings in the northern hills to a selection of a few men who took it on themselves to make this a breed to be reckoned with across the world. We look at a few families that shaped the breed and move on through some great breeders up to the 50s & 60s and the beckoning of that boat to South America.

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