Whilst Oban may be known as the 'Seafood Capital of Scotland' for farming enthusiasts it is also the home of the most prestigious Highland Bull sale in Scotland. Each year Oban Caledonian Livestock Mart hosts a spring bull sale with buyers flying in from all over Europe to bid for top quality Highland cattle to improve their own folds.
There is also a great female show and sale which takes place in the middle of October. This also brings buyers from all over Europe.
Highland cattle, famous for their shaggy coats of thick flowing red hair and large horns, are well suited to the sparse hill grounds of western Scotland where they originated. The breed has a long and distinguished ancestry in Argyll and some of the best examples of the breed are from Argyll and the Islands.
Animals are regularly sold at well over 2000 guineas each and Adam Henson of Countryfile fame (the countryside TV programme) is a regular visitor to the spring sale. In March 2011 Adam bought a new bull to improve his fold from Oban. The item was shown on national television. You can see the clip here »
According to the Highland Cattle Society the breed has changed little over the years and there are written records dating back to the 18th century. The Highland Cattle Herd Book, which lists pedigrees, was first published in 1885 and new folds (as herds of Highlanders are known) are added to the society's database each year of British Highlanders. The breed standard was first set down in 1885 and has been used ever since.
Highland Cattle societies have been started in Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Germany, Holland, Finland, France, Switzerland and Norway and there are also Highlanders in Luxembourg, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland, and the Faroe Islands. Whilst the breed is remarkably versatile and can adapt to many different terrains there is universal agreement that it does best in the west of Scotland on poor mountain land with relatively high annual rainfall and cold westerly winds. The cattle positively thrive in this often harsh environment, calving outdoors and converting poor grazing far more effectively than other breeds. Highlanders also make great eating! Their beef is healthy and nutritious with lower levels of fat and cholesterol and a higher protein and iron content that other beef. Look out for the 'Guaranteed Pure Highland Beef' trademark.
You will find it on the menus in many top Argyll restaurants - full traceability means that the chef should be able to tell you exactly which fold your steak has come from.