The first Hereford bull arrived at Solitude in 1952 to run with dairy heifers and the first championship came in 1958 at the bull sales organized by the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society and held at the Balmoral Showground's in Belfast.

My first recollection of a Hereford was the third stock bull Bellair Peter, affectionately known as Big Peter - a very placid individual on whose back I often got a ride. From these early days the herd grew to about 40 cows and became the only enterprise on the farm for a time. Herefords were gaining in popularity in Northern Ireland and by 1968 there were 18 Solitude bulls forward at Balmoral Spring Sale, out of a total entry of 215. Bulls were sold young then from 10 to 14 months and I remember the effort necessary to prepare and show this our biggest ever batch at one sale- and they were all sold.

In October 1967 BC Eric was purchased in Hereford from Bob Carrington for 750gns, the top price of the sale. Foot and Mouth struck before he could be shipped and he didnít arrive until the autumn of 1968. Herd name was now modified to Solpoll and cow numbers reached fifty.

BC 1 Eric was used across the whole herd, a sire of influence had arrived and remained until he was twelve years old.

†††††††††† In 1976 my father travelled to Canada for the World Hereford Conference and returned impressed with the cattle. At the 1977 February Sale in Edinburgh, Brian Walling had an imported Canadian bull for sale, Battledore Challenger 669G. At 3800gns, he cost a lot of money but he was certainly a good investment, twice N.I. Bull of the Year and three times Sire of the Year.

†††††††††† At this time size and height were becoming more important and the Challenger sons were topping the sales at home and in Edinburgh. In 1981 Prospect topped the February event at 4200gns and Pioneer, after winning the N.I. Bull of the Year award, was Champion at the October Sale, selling for 10,000gns. Having already used Pioneer and taken semen from him, he bred us top selling bulls for the next few years. He also went on to be Reserve Champion at the Royal Show, Champion at the Three Counties and the Royal Welsh and Reserve Bull of the Year in 1982.

Our last trip to Edinburgh was in February 1983 with two Challenger bulls winning both the Champion and Reserve.

†††††††††† In the summer of 1981 we went to Canada in search of our next sire and managed to purchase for $10,000 our first choice at the Remitall Sale. Remitall Noble 11N grew into a big muscular bull and in 1984 he won the Interbreed Beef Championship at the Royal Ulster Show, the only Hereford to this day to claim this award. His first sons went to the spring sales at Omagh and Balmoral to set new record prices for both venues, with a top of 3300gns to average 2280gns for nine, all selling to commercial herds. Our Hereford business was at its peak, cow numbers reached seventy and we were selling over thirty bulls per year for breeding. From 1986 at least half of which were going to the Republic of Ireland. North American semen was also being used, Verlou Muchmore and BT Butler the most successful.

†††††††††† Our most important female line at this time was Dainty S59 by Challenger, Female and Supreme Champion at our National Show at Antrim in 1987, Female and Reserve Supreme in 1988. Her daughter, by Butler, Dainty D22 was Female Champion at the Royal Ulster Shows in 1990, 1991 and 1992. D22ís granddaughter N11 being Reserve Female of the Year in 1997.

My father officially retired in 1984 and my first bull purchase was a calf in 1988. I had heard that Alec Cant had a promising calf so I took a day trip to Scotland and bought Panmure 1 Eclipse. He won the Royal Ulster as a yearling and went on to become N.I. Bull of the Year. His bulls topped the sales and left some really good females.

†††††††††† Northern Ireland held its first herds competition in 1994, which we were fortunate enough to win and have repeated several times since.††††††††

My next purchases were in partnership with Hall Frazer and Ivan Haire. The 1993 Bull of the Year, Costhorpe 1 Granite and the yearling Costhorpe 1 Kellog. Granite left very saleable bulls, the first 3 sold privately at little over a year old before they got near a sale and his females are now the old cows of the herd. Kellog left height and scope; his first son won the best bull calf in the 1995 Herds Competition and topped the Omagh sale at 2500gns at 13 months. His second bull calf, Magistrate we kept to use. He was champion at the Royal Ulster when 13 months old and even managed an Interbreed win against stiff continental competition the next year. Magistrate sons topped a succession of bull sales; his daughters twice champion heifers at our National Show and the top bull and heifer calves in the herds competition. We even managed to win the pairs competition with a pair of twin heifers by Magistrate. His females are the most numerous in the herd today.

†††††††††† Although it was the early seventies that we first sent bulls for performance testing and have weight recorded ever since; Magistrate was the first sire selected on looks and BLUP figures. His high performance figures are still seen in his daughters in the herd today.

†††††††††† In 1999 I was asked to judge the first National Calf Show held at Ruckmans in West Sussex. My co-judge John Douglas placed the heifer calves and I placed the bull calves, with a joint effort for the champions. The winner of the oldest bull class Dendor 1 Sinner stood out and was awarded the Male and Supreme Championship. After the event I agreed a price with Denis and Aled and he duly crossed the water. He was the Reserve Male Champion at the Royal Ulster the next year. Sinner has produced some very high performing sons with BLUP figures in the top 1% and the champion at our last Omagh Bull Sale April 2003.

†††††††††† Following on was Knockmanta 1 Elan, bred in County Louth by Eamon McKiernan and is by Goldenfield 1 Superstar, at one time the top performance tested bull in the South of Ireland. His only polled breeding comes from his great grand dam, a heifer we had sold in 1988. The rest of his pedigree consists of the leading horned sires used in Ireland- Dunrobin Superstar, CH Visa, Bishophill General and 93J. Elanís first calf shown was the 2003 N.I. National Calf Champion† and another son won the same award in 2004.

†††††††††† This brings us to Solpoll 1 Ultimate, so named because he looked something special from the day he was born. Currently selected for the MLC Young Bull Promotion Scheme this was a case of a bull who looked right, but also becoming increasingly important, had the BLUP figures to back this up.

Udel 1 Vindicator was selected in the autumn of 2004 to succeed Ultimate as our leading herd sire. The bull was selected on a visit to David Carrollís Udel herd where he was running with his cows whilst Udel 1 Veteran was shown as although Vindicator was Davidís preferred selection for showing he was put out of contention after he developed a foot infection, but fortunately he made a full recovery before his journey to the north. The strength of Vindicatorís dam was also a considerable factor in ensuring he came to the Solpoll Herd. Vindicator sired the top priced bulls at all three NIHBA sales in NI in 2007 with his first son setting a new record price of 3800gns. His progeny also had considerable success in the show ring which is documented on the show success page. Unfortunately his time with us was cut short when he sustained a back injury which prevented him from working. The cow herd currently stands at 50 cows with Panmure 1 Henry the main herd sire.

 

Breeding and showing Hereford cattle has been a major part of my life and I am glad to say that this interest has been passed on to the next generation. Shows and Hereford events are always family outings for us, with Helen, Jennifer, William and Andrew all playing their part.

SOLPOLL HEREFORDS

Over half a Century of Herefords!

by John McMordie

Over fifty years is a long time for a herd and a lifetime for me. Browsing through breed journals and catalogues brought back memories of cattle and friendships made over the years.

SOLPOLL 1 PIONEER

REMITALL NOBLE

MY EARLY DAYS

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