A farm owned and managed by John Pat and Sean Long, situated in Kilcolman, Ventry, Tralee, Co. Kerry is home to some of the world’s rarest bovine and ovine breeds.
The family’s interest in the preservation and promotion of rare breeds springs back to the time of John Pat’s father, who purchased two heifers at Puck Fair - one of which happened to be a Droimeann.
Keeping the tradition true to its roots, today, the family-run a herd comprising of twenty suckler cows, the majority of which have strong Droimeann blood with a purity range from 50-70%, while the remainder have Shorthorn influence; they also purchased one of Ireland’s only Bó Riabhach cows with a calf from a Co. Tipperary farmer in 2017. Since arriving on Kerry soil, the cow delivered a set of twin calves earlier this year.
“The Droimeann cows are bred to a Droimeann bull and the Shorthorns are crossed with a Charolais sire. We don’t use any AI, as a Droimeann bull has yet to enter into AI Irish.” The Long family told That’s Farming.
[Bó Riabhach cow with twins]
The Dingle Droimeann herd has carried out genetic testing as part of their membership with the Droimeann Cattle Society, which was officially approved by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to maintain the herdbook.
“Droimeanns thrive on the poorer ground unlike some of the Continental breeds that can often require better ground.The breeding females are very fertile and overall, are a well-balanced animal.” John Pat highlighted.
On the sheep front, the West-Kerry-farmers have placed their faith in the rare Herdwick breed - a native of the Lake District of Cumbria in North-West England.
“We acquired a ram from Northern Ireland and utilised him on our own ewes here. We were very impressed with the performance of the progeny.” The Longs explained.
John Pat and Sean have devoted the last five years to the establishment of a sheep flock and now count up to 60 sheep at present, the majority of which are Herdwicks. While the Longs have yet to register their first pedigree Herdwick, they are utilising pedigree rams on their cross-bred and three-quarter-bred Herdwick ewes, with a view on increasing the purity of the flock and creating of a pedigree flock.
“Herdwicks are a mountain breed. One of the most interesting points about the breed is that they change colour, usually grey/blue as they mature and develop.”
Beach Rides and Mountain Treks
Along with juggling their cattle herd and sheep flock, the Longs have also embraced the picturesque setting of Dingle Peninsula to offer beach rides and mountain treks. Long’s Riding Centre is a hive of activity with 25 Irish Cobs dominating a 150-acre holding.
“This aspect of our business becomes very busy during the summer months, especially because we are in a tourist area. Irish Cobs are rare native breeds with a superb temperament.” The Longs highlighted.
Looking forward to the future, the Longs will continue to focus on the implementation of a selective breeding policy in a bid to improve the genetic merit of their flock and herd.
They have intentions to raise the profile of Ireland’s indigenous breeds as they firmly believe that the Droimeann and Bó Riabhach, for example, deserve their place on their home soil.
“We want to ensure that the breeds get the recognition that they deserve. Other farmers need to realise the benefits of the breeds and we would like to assist with pushing this vital promotion.” The Longs concluded.
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