By air, sea and land, plane, train, ferry and car a group of around 20 Hereford breeders made their various ways in October to visit the Hof te Boekelo herd of Original Population Herefords at Hengelo, near Enschede in Holland.
Gradually assembling on the Friday evening at the wonderfully renovated estate of our hosts Lida and Charles Stork we were welcomed at the refurbished farm which was to be our home for the weekend. What we might refer to as a house-come-farm building, very typical of the area, has been beautifully converted into a conference/event centre with a spacious main hall flanked by a professional kitchen and other essential facilities. The upper floor houses ten well-appointed en-suite bedrooms allowing all of our party to be accommodated for the duration of the visit. The restoration work has been accomplished using oak timbers from the estate itself and sawn by mobile sawmill. This gives a very organic touch to the building and evokes an historic feel which adds so much to the experience.
After being met with tea and coffee on arrival, much lively chat ensued and merged seamlessly into the barbeque which entertained us for the evening. Featuring the fabulous Traditional Hereford beef from Hof te Boekelo and the liberal hospitality dispensed by our hosts we gorged, discussed and laughed our way to bedtime.
After a more than ample breakfast, all prepared on site by Charles and Lida, we began our inspection of the herd with the older cows with their calves by the 11-year-old English-bred stock bull Albany Leonardo. The herd was established with a handful of cows picked up by Lida from various sources around Holland, all with known registered pedigrees. Three families now comprise the bulk of the herd, two of which are now extinct in the Original Population herd in the UK. Their ancestors were originally exported to Holland from the Pwll herd of Mr D.E. Roderick of Sennybridge, Breconshire and have been maintained to this day using only Original Population genetics. Also among this group were females sired by semen imported from British bulls Llandinabo Mackie and Llandinabo Muster.
Next to view were the yearling heifers, sired by Leonardo and Albany O’Gara. A couple really stood out among this excellent bunch and all of us would have happily taken them home. The herd is run on organic lines and little or no hard feed is used except in emergency but the cattle look wonderfully well on the extremely well maintained pasture. Interestingly, the land lies over a major salt deposit, which is industrially recovered from a depth of up to 500 metres by a process akin to fracking, which leaves no trace on the surface save for some little hut-like structures about the size of a chicken shed and the occasional sink hole in the road!
Now it was time for lunch and after feeding and watering us again Lida took us to the yearling steers and young bulls, all running out at grass. The weather, somewhat cool and misty in the morning, now turned warmer and gave us the chance to look in comfort at the valuable steers which are marketed directly to the public and young bulls which are extensively managed before making the choice between breeding or beef. At this point the group also took interest in another similar ongoing farm restoration project on the estate, this time a home for Lida and Charles’ daughter Amelia and her partner Henry who will have a sumptuous house when it is finished. Once again all of the mighty oak beams have been hewn from their own forests.
Now it was on to the final group, the younger cows and their calves by Lida’s most recent import from the UK, Albany Obama by Upleadon Courtier – a bull of pure Free Town breeding. Here was a magnificent herd of cows, consistent in type and true to the breed with an attractive, level bunch of calves at foot of superb colour and shape. We dwelt for a long time among the beautiful surroundings and cattle, before returning to base with a couple of hours to kill before dinner.
Gathering around the massive inglenook-style open fireplace a game of charades developed, revealing previously unimagined talents and easily keeping everyone out of mischief until it was time for Lida’s final masterpiece, an Indonesian meal prepared and served quite magnificently by two ladies who found, to their surprise, that at least one of our party could converse quite easily with them in their own Indonesian language! With yet more libation amply consumed during the evening we retired not wanting for anything. Finally on Sunday morning we began to disperse after breakfast by the many ways in which we had arrived, sad to be leaving but so grateful to Lida and Charles and all those who had helped them with the excellent visit and convivial atmosphere.