Producer of the month: Keith Henderson, Aberdeen Angus Beef
This month we take a look into the daily workings of Keith Henderson, Aberdeen Angus Beef farmer for The Co-op.
‘Our farm has been run by the Henderson family since my great grandfather was a tenant here in 1901,’ Keith tells me, pointing to a crop of trees swaying
on the skyline that marks the boundary of the first Henderson farm. ‘Since then, we’ve expanded to work 2,000 acres, holding cattle, sheep and crops,
which I look after with my brother Scott.’ Now, their children are learning the ropes to continue the family’s proud history.
They will eventually manage the 1,600-strong herd, from which fantastic Aberdeen Angus steaks, mince and burgers are made for Scottish Co-op stores. So what else did I learn about Aberdeen Angus beef — except that to produce it, you need to be a fan of the great outdoors?
‘A happy cow is a productive one, so we make sure ours are as happy as possible’
Cows don’t need a lot to be happy…
‘A happy cow is a productive one, so we make sure ours are as happy as possible,’ Keith says. And the secret? ‘Leave them alone!’ he laughs. ‘Cattle have been perfectly happy left to their own devices for hundreds of years. As long as they’re fed and healthy, and producing and feeding healthy calves, I leave them to do their own thing.’
… but they don’t like being cold and wet.
‘Our cattle are outside feeding on grass most of the year, except when it’s very cold and wet. We can get up to 60 inches of rain a year here, so we have to bring them indoors,’ Keith says. ‘Thanks to the temperate climate and varied soil types in this beautiful area we produce very good grass — and good grass makes delicious beef.’
Co-op farmers care about animal welfare.
‘We’re gold-standard producers for Co-op, thanks to our high standards,’ Keith explains. ‘We’ve been farming for 116 years and we’re very proud of what we do, so for us it’s a natural progression.’
Supporting farmers means supporting other parts of the economy too.
‘What you buy drives an industry that provides employment across the board,’ Keith says. ‘From the people who produce machinery and fertiliser, to our vets and workers, the farmer is the bedrock for a plethora of industries that help keep the economy going. It’s like a web that spreads out from the farm.’
‘I like to keep it nice and simple by having a fillet or sirloin steak… delicious.’
Buying British meat supports farmers who get involved in their communities.
A chairman of his local agricultural show, Keith is keen to spread the message about his quality beef and happy cattle. ‘Some people have no idea where their food comes from, so we try to educate them,’ he says. ‘We want them to know what farming’s all about, and the agri shows help connect local people with farmers who can share what they do.’
Working outside is the best thing about being a farmer (sometimes).
‘I feel so lucky to be working in this beautiful countryside,’ says Keith. ‘The best thing about being a farmer is that all I have to do is step outside and I’m at work.’ And the worst? ‘Well, it’s that all I have to do is step outside and I’m at work!’