Ben and Elaine Ryall are leading breeders of Angus cows, running Fellfort Angus farm in Co. Cork in Ireland. They maintain a distinct focus on lineage, being able to trace their herd’s bloodline back to three Angus cows Ben’s father bought in the late 1950s. Ben believes his breed are well-suited to Irish farming and produce the highest quality beef, thanks in large part to a grass-fed diet.
Ben’s father started the herd back in the 50’s with just a few Angus heifers, how has the herd expanded since then?
Our herd has expanded to be one of the largest Angus herds in Ireland. We did this by retaining the best females, with the breed characteristics and performance we desire. This is done in conjunction with culling any non-performing animals.
When did you both take over the running of the farm?
Ben took over the running of the farm in 1992, and Elaine got involved when we got married in 1998.
Your herd is made up mainly of pedigree Angus cows, what are the main characteristics of the breed?
The main characteristics are:
- Ease of calving – Calves are born at a light birth weight, so little human intervention is ever needed at calving.
- Naturally polled (no horns) – This is particularly good from an animal welfare point of view, as there is no need to de-horn.
- Temperament – Angus cattle are a very docile breed, therefore easy to handle.
- Marbling – This is a trait that Angus cattle are renowned for the world over.
Why do you think they are well-suited to Irish farming?
They are suited to Irish farming because they can efficiently utilise grass, which is in abundance in Ireland, and convert this into a premium beef with no other supplementation.
You have been quoted as saying that the two most important factors in getting the best flavour in beef are breeding and feeding. What do you do in these two areas to make sure you get the best flavour from your beef?
- The breeding – We select the best genetics to produce a carcass of the size and quality with marbling and the correct fat cover for the ageing the beef.
- The feeding – Our beef is produced from grass which is a more natural and environmentally friendly system of production, which in turn produces a more flavoursome beef.
People often talk about quality steak having a good amount of marbling. What exactly does this mean and how could it affect the taste of what ends up on the plate?
Marbling is the intramuscular veins of fat which run through the meat. When cooked properly this renders down and gives the meat its superior flavour and succulence.
Ben you’re a keen cook. Any tips for preparing the ultimate steak dish?
The ultimate steak dish needs the ultimate steak: Angus! It needs to have the correct fat cover and be aged for 28 days. In my opinion, marbled steak needs to be cooked to medium. This is to get the fat to render down in the cooking process, hence giving the steak succulence and flavour.
You’ve won a lot of awards for your cattle and bulls in particular. For those of us not familiar with the industry standards, what do judges look for when awarding such prizes?
When a judge is judging, they look for an animal with the correct characteristics for that breed conformation, good movement, length, and well developed for its age. They also look for femininity in a female and masculinity in a male.
Thank you for chatting with us! Find out more about Ben and Elaine’s farm, Fellfort Angus.