A NATIONALLY renowned breeder of Aberdeen Angus beef from Pershore has died.

Willie Robertson, owner of the Nightingale herd at Bishampton, passed away following a short illness at the age of 88.

Mr Robertson was widely recognised for his deep practical knowledge and understanding principles of cattle breeding which, with his late wife Rita and daughters Angela and Catriona, he put in to practice to build up the Nightingale herd in to one of the most successful in its breed.

He is credited with the selection of foundation females for the herd in 1974 at a time when the breed was struggling to shake off the legacy of the smaller compact Aberdeen Angus of the 1950s and 1960s to breed a larger-framed, quicker-growing animal more in tune with modern commercial demand.

It was a visit to Canada that completely changed his perceptions of cattle breeding and he came home convinced that the country had the answer to the breed’s problems in the UK.

“It was obvious that larger-framed cattle were required and when the opportunity to import from Canada came along, I gladly took it,” he said.

“You will never get there trying to breed the complete animal. We achieved a larger frame and then concentrated on improving muscling.”

It is recognised that Mr Robertson did a better job than most in his stock selections from Canada and this is reflected in the number of influential Nightingale-bred stock bulls which found their way into leading pedigree and commercial herds throughout the country.

Born on the family farm at Rannoch, West Perthshire, Mr Robertson farmed with his father and brother at Garrique, near Stirling, where he first became interested in Aberdeen Angus.

After his father died and the family partnership was split up, Mr Robertson decided to look for something more amenable than the high-lying farm of Garrique which eventually led him to the 200-acre all-grass Nightingale Farm right in the heart of the Vale of Evesham.

The herd is now run by Angela while Catriona and her husband Alex Sutherland have their own Abberton herd nearby.

Mr Robertson was pre-deceased in 2012 by his wife Rita, herself a keen judge of cattle who played a large part in the management of the herd and development of the breeding programme.