Thursday, 30 March 2017

Killrowan Farm Ear to the Ground

Here is a clip from when  Killrowan Farm was featured on RTE programme Ear to the Ground back in November 2014. Our Droimeann and Highland Cattle were not a bit camera shy!

We had such a great day back then filming this piece and it was an absolute pleasure working with such an amazing team Ella McSweeney, Paula Williams (Producer), Brain (Camera) and Tom (Sound) from Ear to the Ground. They did a fantastic job!! 

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Conservation of the Droimeann (DroimFhionn)

Droimeann (DriomFhionn)

"A Droimeann donn dílis, a shíoda na mbó"

Droimeann (DroimFhionn)

Present day numbers for the rare ancient Irish breed of cattle called the Droimeann (DroimFhionn) cattle stand at an estimated 300 animals, which survive in pockets throughout the country, supported by a small group of loyal breeders. These numbers leave the Droimeann cattle breed with an ‘endangered’ population status and in urgent need of conservation, this being one of the reasons Killrowan Farm was founded.

Our Droimeann (DroimFhionn) Cows

They originate from the southwest coast of Ireland. This cattle breed, can been referred to as both DroimFhionn and its variant name, Droimeann of which both translate from Irish to English as White-Backed. 

My father's Droimeann (DroimFhionn) heifers in  2000

My father Daniel first  introduced the Droimeann (DroimFhionn) cattle to the farm having been one of the small group of men responsible for saving the breed from certain extinction.

Daniel purchased his first Droimeann in the early 1950’s having fallen for the breeds beauty and versatility.  My father had a great love for this breed ever since he was a youngster. He recalled himself and his uncle buying a Droimeann bull calf at Cahersiveen fair and bringing him home in the early 1950's. My father Daniel has kept Droimeann cattle ever since and it has been his passion preserving this beautiful and historic breed. 

In 1998, My father decided to approach Jerome Leary and purchased a weanling bull calf and weanling heifer calf, both grandchildern of the famous Big Bertha. It was from that bull and the existing Droimeann herd that he established his pure Droimeann herd. That heifer which was bought in 1998 was on the farm up until September 2014 and known as Leary. We are lucky to have her daughters and grandaughters on the farm to continue on such an important line.

Dad and Droimeann (DroimFhionn) 'Leary'

Leary's daughter Gerah as a calf  

Gerah as a yearling and her Droimeann (DroimFhionn) companion Ivy

It was my father’s determination to help preserve this beautiful breed of cow that always inspired me. 17 years later I’m still love-struck with the breed. I immediately fell in love with the breed. Their markings and temperament were delightful.Myself and Mike took over the farm in 2013 and are actively helping to preserve this important breed with the same passion and determination as my father. That is the one thing we find with this magical breed, they are infectious and you cant help but fall in love with them. 

Droimeann (DroimFhionn) heifer calf born at Killrowan Farm

Not one to give up on his passion, my father is still an active breeder of Droimeann (DroimFhionn) cattle and has a separate Droimeann herd established on his family farm in Cahersiveen where he still farms.

This breed has been associated with ancient Celtic history as far back as 1000 years ago where it existed commonly all over Ireland. Evidence for this breeds existence is supported through famous poetry and songs from this era of Celtic/Irish history. The 920AD poem ‘Bo Bithbliacht Meic Lonan’ and such ancient songs as ‘An Droimeann Donn Dilis’ and ‘Ailliu na Gamhna’ all contained descriptions of DroimFhionn cattle. This breed would surely have played a large role in Irish society throughout this time period where the economic structure of the country was heavily reliant on its livestock resources.

Droimeann (DroimFhionn) bull born at Killrowan Farm

The breed is well attested in ancient Irish lore and also the Brehon laws, songs and poetry. Early paintings of Irish cattle and even early photographs of fairs also attest to their existence and cement their place in the history of this Magical Island.

Droimeann cattle are small to medium framed animals (some can be quiet large) with good body length. They are generally short horned with dark tips. They have a placid temperament and have a good character along with longevity of life, high fertility and ease of calving. They are also highly intelligent and make excellent mothers. They can also be out-wintered and are very hardy. Droimeann cattle are famed for being able to bare offspring from almost all continental breeds including the Charolais, Limousin, Simmental and Aberdeen Angus. They are a dual purpose breed. Droimeann Bulls are a fantastic sire for a dairy herd.

Droimeann (DriomFhionn) Bull 
They produce high quality milk from moderate to poor quality forage. They are as at home on hilly ground as they are on lush green pasture. They are slow maturing and produce a highly regarded meat. The meat is well marbled and the fillet has the consistency of homemade butter. It is truly amazing.

The coat of the Droimeann is colour sided (often black but may also be red or brown) with a white triangle on the back with the apex towards the neck and extending all the way down to the rump.The tail is white and the underside is also white. Coat colour variants occur which range from all black to white with dark points including ears and around muscle.

Droimeann cows make ideal suckler cows as they can be put with any bull and rarely ever have any difficulty calving. Droimeann cows are excellent mothers and have lots of milk, for his reason, crossing them with continentals is ideal as the growth potential of the offspring is excellent. When people think of rare breeds they often think of wild, primitive animals with poor growth rates in offspring. This is not the case at all. They produce excellent quality calves. When Droimeann bulls where difficult to come across my father would use a Charolais bull on his cows and the quality of the calves where fantastic. It would be great some day if people chose a Droimeann cow as their preferred suckler cow breed.

A regular feature of Irish legends is white cattle with red ears, which appear to be particularly to be prized as the tribute for kings and poets. For example, among the tributes paid to King Tuathal Techtmhar by the men of Leinster were thirty red eared cattle and calves with bronze halters and spancels and bosses of gold. In the tale, ‘ The Wooing of Etain’ Midir and Echu play chess for a stake which includes fifty white, red eared cattle and fifty white red eared calves, each with a bronze halter.

This gives further credence to the existence of the Droimeann in these tales.
Two of the most well-known songs referring to the breed are A Droimeann donn dílis and Bó na Leath Adhairce (One-Horned Cow) 

Here at Killrowan Farm we pride ourselves in selecting and breeding Droimeann (DroimFhionn) cattle to breed standard. We are passionate about this breed. Droimeann cattle have and will continue to be a part of our family history and the history of this great little island we are so lucky to live on.

We hold the Droimeann very close to our heart and there will always be a place for this rare and beautiful breed here on Killrowan Farm. "A Droimeann donn dílis, a shíoda na mbó".

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A look back on 2015

It is hard to believe that 2015 has come and gone so quickly. 2015 was a busy year for us here at Killrowan Farm. We have since undergone a lot of hard work in regards to the conservation of our beloved Droimeann (DroimFhionn) Cow and ensuring she has a future in Irish agriculture for years to come.
Droimeann (DroimFhionn) cows here at Killrowan Farm
We have increased our commercial and suckler herd also, introducing more maiden heifers to the mix and we also purchased a Pedigree Charolais Bull, affectionately known as "Seanie".

 A lot of work was undertaken in regards to maintenance and improvement  of the farm itself and to update our farm infrastructure. We have spent the last few months installing new fencing systems and building a multi- purpose farm office/canteen and other use building. We are currently in the process of building a new secondary farm yard and animal handling system.

Our highland cattle have been busy keeping the hill farm in order, hence why we now call them our "Bovine Bulldozers". They are incredibly hardy animals and are a major asset to the hill farm and they are fantastic utilizers of rough grass, scrubs and will live on almost anything!!

Our Bovine Bulldozers!

Our Droimeann (DroimFhionn) breeding programme involves carefully selecting animals and keeping with the breed characteristics. These beauties are the oldest surviving native Irish breed of cow with roots firmly set in Irish history and folklore.Conservation of this beautiful breed and ensuring that it has a solid future was one of the primary reasons that Killrowan Farm was founded.
Droimeann (DroimFhionn) 

We are currently improving on our Droimeann (DroimFhionn) herd by carefully selecting Droimeann bulls to be bred with.We  breed Droimeann cows that have plenty of milk, that are long lasting, are low maintenance and that are docile in temperament. In order the preserve this breed, we feel it is important to showcase the versatility of the Droimeann cow.
We want to showcase the Droimeann cow as an ideal suckler cow. As members on the ICBF Beef Data Genomics Scheme, many of our Droimeann cows are proving themselves as great suckler cows with many of our cows having 4 and 5 Star status.
Easy Calving is a major characteristic to the Droimeann (DroimFhionn) Breed

As members of the Beef Data Genomics programme. We recieve a detailed report on the star rating of each of our cattle. We use this to identify suitable crosses and to identify cows which need to be moved on due to poor star rating and calving intervals. As well as using the technical side of breeding we also used the timeless and crucial system of using "our own judgement". Any person who knows their cattle will know how best to move their herd forward. This is especially important when dealing with the Droimeann herd. We find the Beef Data Genomics system very helpful in improving our continental herd
We are also pedigree registered breeders of the world famous breed of cow, the Scottish Highland or as they are called here "our Bovine Bulldozers". Back in 2011, Mike introduced Scottish Highland Cattle to the farm. We purchased 3 Pedigree Scottish Highland heifers and imported them into the country. The first arrivals were imported from England and the third arrival came a few weeks later in from the Highlands of Scotland. We later bought a Highland bull from which we kept replacement heifers and have been increasing our herd since.
Highland cows on our hill farm

Highland cattle are fantastic animals for their utilization of grass, hardiness,quality beef and docility. Highland cattle, like our Droimeann ladies are extremely docile and so pleasant to deal with. The way in which they manoeuvre their horns still amazes us.
We had previously been breeding our highland girls with a Droimeann bull and we have been extremely impressed with the results. We feel they are smashing looking calves and as a crossbred have great potential for beef purposes as they combine the best characteristics from these two wonderful breeds
Highland/Droimeann heifer calf
We also have a small herd of commercial cattle and sucklers ranging from Herefords, Shorthorns, Aberdeen Angus and Charolais.
Our  Charolais bull  was introduced to run with our suckler herd and a number of our Droimeann (DriomFhionn) cows also.  Droimeann cows make ideal suckler cows as they can be put with any bull and rarely ever have any difficulty calving. Droimeann cows are excellent mothers and have lots of milk, for this reason, crossing them with continentals is ideal as the growth potential of the offspring is excellent. When people think of rare breeds they often think of wild, primitive animals with poor growth rates in offspring. This is not the case at all. They produce excellent quality calves. The reason we are using our Charolais bull on some of our Droimeann cows is to showcase the Droimeann cow as an ideal suckler cow,  which we feel is an important aspect in preserving the breed as it would be great some day if people chose a Droimeann cow as their preferred suckler cow breed. This in turn would add demand to the breed and save them from their endangered status.
The few  Droimeann/ Charolais  offspring that we will have will be treated the same as our suckler herd calves , they will be fattened and then brought to the factory.

For our sheep enterprise, we breed pedigree Hampshire Down and Pedigree Belclare sheep along with a mixture of commercial sheep including Cheviot, Texel and Belclare crosses. 
Lambing 2015 kicked off from 1st April with our flock lambing to 3 different rams, the majority of our lambs were from the Hampshire Down ram and Belclare, with a small percentage of later lambs off the Cheviot.

It was our first year using a Hampshire Down ram. I personally have had a long love for this breed and always wanting to introduce the breed. Myself and Mike purchased a ram and hogget ewes and after much success we have decided to stick with the breed.

Our top reasons for choosing the Hampshire Down as a breed are that they have Trouble free lambing with High survival rates. The Hampshire Down lambs mature early and have a high liveweight gain with Quality muscled carcase producing Good killing out percentage

We continued to breed Belclare sheep as we continue to be impressed with the quality of the lambs, their ease of lambing and  mothering ability.

We count ourselves incredibly lucky to be able to do what we are both incredibly passionate about. Neither Mike nor myself could ever imagine our lives without farming in it. We will continue with our plans for Killrowan Farm and look forward to what 2016 brings us.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Honey Bees Swarming at Killrowan Farm

This is something that is very rarely caught on camera... Honey Bee's swarming!! Swarming is were a group of Bee's (which can number well into the thousands) and a queen split from a hive looking for a new home. The box you see is designed to attract swarms of Bee's which may be in the area. The Bee's enter the box and start working immediately. At nightfall when all the Bee's are in, the box can be sealed. The next day the swarm will be transferred into a hive and a new coloney is born which will hopefully produce an abundance of honey (in this case Killrowan Farm honey!!)

Luckily on Saturday last, Mike and my Father,Dan, happened to see the Bee's swarming and Mike was able to get it on film. Thank God for smart phones!!

Without a stitch of Bee keeping clothing, Mike and Dad stood directly under the box and watched as thousands of bees passed them by. Not a single sting!

It just shows that if you don't bother the Bee's, they won't bother you. I do however recommend that you avoid Bee's swarming unless you are wearing protective clothing! Please have a look at this amazing video of nature at