Louise Callan at the European Hereford Conference which was held in France last October. The Irish Hereford Breed Society are hosting the next European Conference in 2026 in Tullamore.

The Kilnaleck woman championing Herefords

Having taken over as secretary of the Hereford Breeders Association in 2021, Louise Callan is presiding over the society.

The Kilnaleck woman is the driving force behind the day to day running of the society. The highlight for the Hereford farmers is the national sales events.

“We have six national sales every year in Nenagh, Bandon, Kilmallock and Tullamore,” she explains. “We also have four main shows Trim, Nenagh, Charleville, Longford with many other smaller ones.”

Louise is one of two Cavan natives with prominent roles within the society. Cornafean's Eamonn Gaffney has been appointed the society's designated auctioneer for the national shows.

While the sales account for a small percentage of bulls sold in Ireland, they act as a good benchmark by which all other animal purchases can be judged nationally.

“The sales are vital for the society," Louise tells the Celt. However she notes that the six national sales account for just five per cent of all Hereford bulls sold annually across the Republic. “It’s not major from a selling point of view, but it puts the floor on the price. It’s a good point of comparison.

“They’re the best bulls in the country so farmers at home can say, ‘Right I haven't got the best bull in the country, but I have one is not too bad’.

“So if the top price is €4,000, and if they know the one they have isn’t too bad so they can ask for €2,500 or €3,000.”

The popularity of the Hereford breed has increased in recent years.

There are several factors lying behind this trend according to Louise, but she points to its attractiveness with dairy farmers as key.

“Last year was very good for us and this year seems to be good. The price of milk is definitely a big bearing on the price of bulls, as there are more being sold to dairy farmers,” she explains.

“Developments in AI technology has also been cited as a reason for increased popularity.

“The move towards sexed semen has helped, because farmers use bulls when they’re mopping up, such as Hereford because they have short gestation and are easy calving.

“Farmers also like that Herefords always have a white face so when they go to the mart there’s no question what breed it is.”

The increase in popularity for Hereford bulls has meant farmers are sourcing bulls much earlier than normal.

“Bull sales started in January this year. Dairy farmers usually wouldn’t be going out buying bulls until April. They’ve started early because last year there was such good sales early on and when some farmers went out in April and May what they wanted wasn’t there.”

Louise says this is hugely positive, especially when compared to previous years.

“There’s been a lot of years when farmers were left with bulls and they didn’t know what to do. It’s good to see a bit of hunger at this time of the year.”

Despite fears that the Hereford Society shows and sales would face difficulties post-pandemic, Louise is happy to report they have been doing well in recent times.

“We were worried after Covid would people go back to the show ring. It’s a lot of work going to shows, washing cattle and driving them around the country. We had a great turn-out at all of our shows last year. There’s a lot of younger breeders and new faces which is good to see.”

This increase in membership is a positive development according to Louise.

“Two years ago there wasn’t many young people, but there’s been a rebirth. Young people are getting more involved, they have an interest. You have to be very passionate about it as a lot of work goes into it. You can’t just show up. It’s a big commitment, it involves a lot of feeding, making sure they’re quiet, etc.

The vast majority of society members are in the south of the country, as Louise explains.

“The society consists of 800 members nationwide and 400 of them are in Munster. We have 100 in Cavan, Monaghan, and Donegal.

“It’s more popular in the south because that’s where the majority of dairy farmers are. A lot of new members in recent years are from Munster. Culturally there are very few in Connacht or Ulster. It is more suckler country and there are heavier continental breeds.

“Herefords have a lighter calf, so there’s more money in heavier breeds, but a Hereford can be finished a lot quicker.”