The Irish Angus

Clay and I returned to Jolie Vue’s beef roots recently, the Woodstone Ranch, looking for a replacement bull. The owner, Bill Woods is a retired orthopedic surgeon and founder of the Texas Orthopedic Hospital but was raised on his Dad’s ranch — ranching is in his blood as they say. Bill is the Texas visionary who brought original Angus genetics back to Texas, to his Woodstone Ranch, New Ulm, Texas.

Why are these original genetics Angus cattle referred to as Irish Angus when the Angus heard came out of Scotland? It’s an interesting story.

Bill is a bit older than me, so old enough to remember when the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo began in the Sam Houston Coliseum in downtown Houston. I had the same memory, and we both recalled the short stocky Angus steers, so husky that their bellies almost drug the ground, who seemed to win the blue ribbon each year that original stock Herefords didn’t. Since then, the misplaced hysteria over fat (which by the way was all wrong from a health and nutrition standpoint, but don’t get me started on that tirade) caused the Angus to be bred to a longer, taller, leaner breed, now known more properly as American Angus. Bill, like me, wanted to bring original Angus genetics back into the U.S. So he and his wife, Yvonne, flew to Aberdeen, Scotland and showed up at the Angus registry office where the breed was first declared a separate breed, assuming he would find his desired genetics there. Instead, he was told that the Scots, as well as all Europeans, had followed the American model and bred the short, stocky Angus out of their herds.

What am I to do? he asked. He was told to go to Ireland for original Angus genetics. Ireland? The Irish are farmers, not ranchers! True enough, but as a result, the Irish never followed the U.S. or European lead, keeping their small, stocky, and well-mannered Angus cattle, a few head at most per farm, for milk and their annual beef calf for the family kitchen. So Bill and Yvonne hopped over to Ireland, rented a convertible, and spent the next 6 weeks driving all over Ireland, watching for short, stocky, black cattle. When they spotted same, they pulled in and asked the Irish farmer if he would sell any or all of his small herd. If yes, they then checked out the cow’s history and when they verified that it was original stock Angus, they paid whatever price the farmer asked (Yvonne says she never saw so many happy Irishmen, accepting their British Pound at well above beef market rates.) In six weeks time, the Woods had purchased some 30 mother cows and three bulls. All of their cattle’s genetic history was traceable back to 2 pair of dams and sires on the first page of the Aberdeen Angus registry — the real thing.

And that’s the story behind the story of the Irish Angus residents of Jolie Vue Farms.