Gary and Evelyn with their bull Corlismore Caesar 092 which was champion at Tullamore Show in October 2021, and was later sold for €5300.

‘It’s not easy to make a living at it’

BREEDING Pedigree cattle are hungry for attention

While the majority of dry stock farmers rely on outside employment to make ends meet, Gary McKiernan is able to make a living on his 140 cow pedigree herd in Corlismore, Ballinagh alongside his father Sean and wife Evelyn.

“It’s not easy to make a living at it, dealing with pedigrees is very specialised,” says Gary whose herd consists of mostly Herefords and Angus and a couple of Charolais and Simmentals. “If you’re not with them and giving them all of your attention you’re not going to do well.

“There’s a lot of work to do getting ready for sales and shows. You have to practice leading and feeding them. They all have to be clipped and groomed.”

For Gary, the Show season got underway in Longford last Sunday - it’s the start of a hectic schedule. “I’ll be on the road going to them almost every weekend between now and then,” he says.

Gary says that both Angus and Hereford are highly sought after by other farmers for their breeding characteristics.

“I have 35 Herefords. They are easy calving, early maturing, and are easily fleshed.

“We don’t have any commercial cows at all. We’ve always been in pedigrees and it’s hard to work in both because it can be like running two herds together, so we find it easier just to keep one. There’s also bonuses in factories paid on top of base prices for Hereford cattle. We only sell cull cows to factories.

“We use a small bit of AI but mostly use stock bulls. We spend a lot of money on SB. We paid €10,000 for a few stock bulls but they have given us a few national champions.”

This emphasis on breeding has led to national success which in turn gives Gary a good platform to sell his bulls.

“In 2007 we bought a bull who was national champion in 2008 and 2011. We also bought another bull who sired two male and female calf show champions.

“Our current bull was the champion at the National Hereford Show in Tullamore in 2018.

“Another bull was the reserve male champion in Balmoral in 2022. We have a market for the pedigree bulls so we’re trying to supply those customers. We sell them from 12-18 months, as well as a few pedigree heifers.

“Ninety-five per cent of all of our bulls are sold to dairy farmers. It’s the same for everyone in these breeds because dairy farmers are going for easy calving herds. The shows are a good promotion for us. We sell them mostly through sales in places like Tullamore and Kilkenny.”

While most of the country experienced a drought in April, May, and June, Gary said his farm’s soil type ensured he was protected from the worst of its impacts.

“We don’t burn up that quickly. Wet weather would impact us more than dry weather. We’re still growing grass. We never have to feed silage during the summer due to drought. They go out around April 15 and are housed in the first week of November. They’re glad to get out of the shed when the time comes.”