A small herd with a big impact


Recently the Glenbrae Herd, owned by James Nelson from Larne, celebrated 25 years of breeding Pedigree Beef Shorthorns by holding a farm walk for approximately 40 breeders and friends from Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. After a brief introduction from James, the visitors were given a very relaxing walk through the cattle with James on hand to answer questions. James being experienced both as a judge and a shorthorn breeder is very informative on all aspects of the breed. Having seen all the stock everyone was treated to a very enjoyable meal.

The evening concluded with a question and answer session with George Somerville giving an impromptu talk. George is farm manager on the 6,000 acre Glenkiln estate including 600 suckler cows, 3,000 sheep and a small nucleus of Pedigree Beef Shorthorn Cattle. James then went on to give an overview of the history and attribute of his enterprise.

Beef Shorthorns had declined rapidly during the 1960s, 70s and 80s in Northern Ireland. When the Glenbrae Herd was founded in 1990, it was the first new herd to be formed in a generation. The two founding females were a Floss from the Chapleton Herd and an Augusta from the Fingask Herd. All stock right up until the present day has been bred from these two foundation females. Cattle have been sold from the Glenbrae herd to establish new herds in Northern Ireland as well as Scotland and England.

A large number of bulls have also been sold to pedigree and commercial farms throughout the United Kingdom. James would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who purchased stock from the Glenbrae Herd over the last 25 years. It is interesting to note that the herd has always used a stock bull and has only used A.I. seldom, and when used, it is with semen from Glenbrae breeding. James runs the herd on a commercial system and does not show any of his stock.

James’ breeding protocol insists in keeping with the breed characteristics of the Beef Shorthorn, breeding suckler cows that have plenty of milk, that are long lasting, are low maintenance and that are docile in temperament. He likes medium to large sized cows that are easy kept, that have good tight milky udders, cows that are deep bodied, well balanced with good heads and plenty of character. When selecting a new stock bull, James likes to know the family background checking out the parents. Today the Beef Shorthorns need more flesh and not too much muscle he added, also plenty of width across the pins and length between the hook bones and pin bones, with a leg at each corner and of course good locomotion is extremely important.


Some of James’ highlights have been having the honour of judging Beef Shorthorns at various shows which he enjoys very much. Shows that he has judged have included the English Royal, Dublin, Limerick, Tullamore, Mullingar, Carrick-on-Shannon, Dumfries, Fife and The Royal Bath and West, plus herd competitions for the Central England and South West England Clubs. He has only missed 3 bull sales in Perth/Stirling in 25 years. James would also like to encourage breeders old and new to avail of all the opportunities to visit other countries through the world conferences. Following several visits to Canada and America, he found the whole experience informative and good to see what other breeders do. He added that Canadians are well ahead of us in terms of showing cattle and we could learn from their example.

The breeding side is James’s real passion and he has a massive collection of past journals and catalogues. If you there is anything you need to know about Beef Shorthorn family histories James is the man to tell you. He has used many bulls over the years including Glenisla Bandolier, Kilkelly White Chief, Uppermill Leath, Prestland Dick 3rd, Chapelton Liberty, Hillview King, Uppermill Raeburn, Redhill Blackadder-currently using Lynthorpe Emblem and Grafton Hornblower bought in May 2015.

James’s vision for the future

The newly introduced Beef Shorthorn Classification scheme will be a positive step; James agrees that this will guarantee breeding from the best stock to ensure that the Beef Shorthorn continues to maintain their high standing within the farming enterprise. Social media too has also become part of everyday life now and encourages a growing online fan base especially among the young breeders.


The potential for native bred cattle over continental cattle in terms of costs, registrations increasing and pedigree sales is hitting an all time high. The main objective of any breed is to promote and sell stock across Northern Ireland and hopefully further afield. On a cautionary note, breeders need to breed correct, consistent cows with good udders; the good thing is if they are not up to Pedigree standard then the Beef Shorthorns will cross well with most breeds of cattle.

In Northern Ireland we are very fortunate to have the Glenarm Shorthorn beef Scheme run by Antrim Estates Company, Glenarm and Peter Hannan of Hannon Meats, Moira. Across the water in the UK, Morrisons also support the Beef Shorthorn Scheme. Both schemes giving an added bonus for finished Beef Shorthorn cattle provided they are sired by a registered Beef Shorthorn bull.

Further information can be got by either contacting Morrisons Woodhead Abattoirs direct in England or by contacting Glenarm Farm Manager Bryan Wilson on mobile number 07764 250171.