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".

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