Every 2 years Angus breeders are given the opportunity to visit a chosen European country to see their Angus cattle and to appreciate the different conditions these very adaptable cattle work in. But these visits are so much more than that! They are an opportunity to meet up with overseas friends, experience a different culture and relax whilst being taken around to sample different food, wine, geography and history. This event is also another way of letting people know you are “open for business”. And quite simply every year the bar is raised higher (sorry Portugal!).
Estonia is very new to Angus cattle breeding but they have already shown their huge appetite for knowledge by travelling overseas to learn. We first met Estonian Angus breeders in 2014 at Yxskaftkälens Angus, Sweden at the invitation of Graham and Bettan Kent, and then a couple of years later here at Dunlouise. So we were very excited to see how our breeding was working in their environment; And we were not disappointed. As always there was a variety in the Angus cattle – different ideas keep our 200 year old game of breeding … interesting! (photo of big group)
Ok, so here comes the Geography – Estonia is West of Russia, North of Latvia and just over the narrow sea from Finland. Historically Finland has been a good neighbour to them, particularly throughout the many years of Russian occupation, which only ended in 1991. In 1989 2 million people formed a human chain around the country, to peacefully demonstrate against the Russian occupation of their country since the 2nd World War. Sometimes referred to as “the singing revolution” or the “Baltic way”. Roughly speaking Estonians have been occupied for 50 of the last 100 years, had their religion taken away, their money, their way of life; but they are not Russian. No wonder their national songs and dances are fiercely adhered to, as they demonstrated to us on various occasions.
And what did they do with this new found independence? Their Prime Minister told them to “leap like a tiger” to catch up with the fast moving pace of the West and he chose the internet to be their area of national specialism.
Estonia is leading the way into the digital future. It is a small country with 1.3 million people (1/3 million are Russians choosing to live in the East of Estonia) but it is a country punching above its weight, being one of only 5 countries that pay their full dues to NATO.
As we travelled from historic Tallinn, their capital city on the North coast, to the island of Kuressaare in the West by coach and ferry, on to Parnu in the South, then East to Tartu, our intrepid guide Ilze treated us to a full and delightfully varied account of the country. By the end of our time together the whole company was enthralled by her knowledge and gentle humour as she lead us through the huge difficulties of the last century of this stoic country. I think the naturally private nature of our hosts is best reflected in the many Estonian flags flown from private homes. But not of large flashy dimensions; a more discrete ribbon shape, possibly 1 metre x 20 cm.
We learnt so much on our week’s tour. Nearly 75% of the country is forest or bogland, 30% of the farmland is organic, they have good quality, quiet roads, an efficient tram system in Tallinn, that Estonian’s are still nature loving people. It is a flat country with over 2000 islands and, although Tallinn is on a similar line of latitude to Moscow, they benefit from the gulf stream. Their fruit and veg is of a superior quality and that their hospitality is second to none. This country is working closely with the EU and the result has a 21st century approach to business.
I would like to personally recommend a couple of holiday destinations which we visited as part of this forum:
- Ranna-Villa Farmhousing – www.highlandcattle.ee / +372 5667 8824 With beautifully constructed lodges near the seashore on the island of Kuressaare, with a cafe and shop. And obviously Angus cattle!
- Lepanina Hotel, Parnu in the South of Estonia not far from the Latvian border, with a wonderful view of the Gulf of Riga – google it! Some people even had jacuzzis in their rooms.
A particular highlight for me was the very handsome blond musician in the fabulous band that played on the Wednesday night!
So Estonia, thank you for showcasing your country so beautifully, for your attention to detail and your never ending flexibility with a coach load of Angus breeders!
The next European Angus Forum is in Northern Germany in 2020; no pressure Germany …