Farmer Focus: Leading the way with multi-prize winning Angus & Hereford Cattle


Catherina meets John Appelbe, the recently elected president of the Irish Angus Cattle Society who runs a multi All-Ireland winning herd in Co. Cork.

Farmer Focus: Leading the way with multi-prize winning Angus & Hereford Cattle

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Catherina meets John Appelbe, the recently elected president of the Irish Angus Cattle Society who runs a multi All-Ireland winning herd in Co. Cork.

John Appelbe farms one of Ireland’s largest herds of pedigree Irish Angus and Hereford cattle in the heart of Carrigroe, Clonakilty, Co. Cork.

Both the Irish Angus and Hereford herds were started by John’s grandfather and the farm later passed into the capable hands of second-generation cattle breeder, Frank.

John has carried on the tradition, making him the third-generation Hereford and Irish Angus breeder of his family, owning and managing a famous herd under the ‘Carrigroe’ prefix on his home-soil, along with his wife Solvig and young children Erik, Alice and Arthur.


[L-R: Frank & Elizabeth Appelbe.( Photo Credit: Denis Minihane) Top: Erik Appelbe; Bottom:Joy(Photo Credit: Maria Kelly).]

Breeding Philosophy

Approximately ninety pedigree breeding females now dominate the pastures; up to sixty pedigree registered Irish Angus, while over thirty pedigree registered Herefords make up the rest of the herd.

“My ideal cow is medium-sized, has lots of milk and is very quick to go back in calf. I look for those traits in both the Angus and Hereford cows.” John told Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.

The Cork farmer’s breeding philosophy is reflected in the performance of his current herd of fertile, well-made cows carrying desirable maternal traits, with a large number of the breeding females boasting a calving interval of less than 365 days.

Equal emphasis is placed on sire selection and John ensures that he taps into the best available lines in the Angus genetic pool, which is achieved by using highly-rated, well-bred stockbulls and the best available AI bulls. All breeding females are assessed and matched accordingly to suitable sires in order to enhance and maximise the herd’s quality, producing progeny of superior genetic merit.

“All bulls are selected for different reasons with traits including short gestation and easy calving. I also use out-cross sires too.” John explained.

BDGP & G€N€ Ireland

The herd has experienced one of its first major milestones of the year, having secured their Angus bull, Carrigroe Nationwide 1450 (AA4375) into the Spring 2018 Gene Ireland Beef Programme; Nationwide follows hot on the heels of Carrigroe Kian (AA2064) who previously featured on the panel. This particular stream of success has sprung as a direct result of the herd's involvement in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme and Whole-Herd Performance Recording combined with breeding high-end stock.

“The majority of the herd carry four and five-star. Carrigroe Dakota was the highest index Angus cow in the county for years, when ICBF unveiled the list pinpointing the top cows with the best €uro-star replacement index. She was also joined with a number of other herd members.” John added.

Sky-rocketing to success

The Appelbe’s herd has a dedicated client base, with satisfied buyers located throughout the island and indeed across the waters.

“We have developed a phenomenal customer base. We have more customers looking for our bulls and heifers as time progresses. 100% of our bulls and heifers have ended up for breeding over the past few years.” John explained.

Sealing major deals is just a fraction of the herd's success to date, but John also has a major role to play on the show circuit as both a judge and an exhibitor.

John and his sister Beatrice are to be found in the centre of show rings throughout the country at local and national level every year, with the ‘Carrigroe’ prefix no stranger to securing All-Ireland titles or RDS Champion of Champion Awards.

“In the Angus, we won the All-Ireland in 2006, 2007, 2008 and RDS Champion of Champion in 2007, 2008 and 2016,” John said.

While the Angus cattle breeding is a separate playing field, John is also renowned for topping prestigious competitions and taking home highly sought-after accolades with his Hereford cattle.

“We won the RDS National Championship in 2010 and again in 2016. We also picked up Hereford Bull of the Year in 2010.” John explained.

“We won Tullamore Champion and RDS Champion of Champion in 2017 with the Herefords,” John added.

High point

“We won the ALDI All-Ireland Irish Bull Calf competition in 2016 and 2017. Carrigroe Mr Rebel won the 2016 Irish Angus all-Ireland Championship at Strokestown, aswell as the Aldi Final Championship and RDS Champion of Champions 2016” John explained.

“Taking home the AIB National Livestock Show Hereford Male Championship with Solpoll 1 Lawman in 2017 was our biggest achievement to date with the Hereford cattle,” John added.


[Lawman. Photo Credit: Maria Kelly.]

Presidential Role

Earlier this month, John took the seat as president of the Irish Angus Cattle Society after holding his ground as the Vice-President for years and he will now play a key role in promoting and developing both the breed and the society further.

“We currently have exceptional export markets for both Angus bulls and heifers. We hope to strengthen and build upon those. A large proportion of dairy herds use Angus bulls and we hope to grow those markets further.” John said.

“We also have a well-established and well-run YDP (Youth Development Programme).We want to invest more resources and money to grow that. Our highlight of the calendar year is our sale in December, with a hope to push that sale further.” John added.

Future Outlook

With a quality herd on the ground running, John is satisfied with the numbers to date and wants to maintain quality as opposed to pushing for quantity.

“We want to make the herd most efficient, more than it is. We also plan to select more heifers and bulls for sale and to raise the profile of the herd further.” John said.

“We want to turn out attention to more potential export markets as outlets for our stock. We exported bulls to some of the top herds in the U.K. last year and we want to further develop these sales.” John concluded.

If you are a sheep and/or cattle breeder and you want to share your story, get in touch. Email catherinacunnane@gmail.com and you may just be featured on That’s Farming next week!

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