Croagh, Co. Limerick is home to the prestigious multi-prize-winning Emerald Holsteins herd, property of Donal and Kathleen Neville and family.
To establish the pedigree herd, several cows and heifers were sourced mainly from top Irish herd’s including “Croagh”, “Monamore”, “Lisselan” and “Coolrue”.
With a vision to develop a herd of pedigree Holsteins with global appeal, the family is currently milking over 120 pedigree Holstein cows as part of a winter-milk system. The cows pass through a 12-unit swing-over Dairymaster herringbone parlour with automatic feeders.
The breeding objective of Emerald Holsteins is to strive to breed both high-type cows with high-production and longevity and high-production cows which are commercially sustainable and excel in both milk production and calving interval.
In 2017, the herd reported an average of 8,310kgs milk; 633kgs fat and protein and a lactation period of 305-days.
The Nevilles aim to improve the genetics of their cows through investment; the selection of top A.I. sires; flushing; the implantation of top-quality embryos and the utilisation of genomics. The herd focuses on the use of AI, with 70% dairy AI and 30% beef AI. Animals are bred year round and a stockbull is introduced when cows experience repeated heats.
“We genotype all our dairy females every year with ICBF; this service allows us to confirm the parentage of our heifers and gives us more reliable figures on our heifer’s indexes and PTAs.” The Nevilles outlined.
All elite cows and heifers are flushed multiple times throughout the year - some are implanted into surrogate heifers, while a number of the most elite embryos exchange hands. The herd recently sold embryos to the UK and have also garnered some interest from mainland Europe.
The Neville’s progressive journey has been made possible due to a number of cow families including “Coolrue Majic Sue EX91 and Monamore Butterfly 10 EX91.
In 2013, the Limerick breeders purchased Hallow Attwood Twizzle EX94 as an in-calf heifer - her dam ‘Hallow Advent Twizzle 3’ was the Reserve Champion at the National Dairy Show, Milstreet in 2013 and also won the Baileys in 2016.
Donal, Kathleen and family have also successfully sought Sterndale Shottle Papoose EX94 and Milliedale Dusk Rhapsody EX95 in recent years from the UK in hope that these cows can lay the foundation for the future.
“This is already starting to take place with Emerald Deman Papoose VG88-3YR who is a nice young cow for us and has been used previously in marketing her sire EDG Deman in the US. A grand-daughter of Sterndale Shottle Papoose was crowned champion at the Limerick/Clare calf show just last Saturday.”
[Image: Maria Kelly. Pictured: Hallow Attwood Twizzle EX92 Confined Champion National Dairy Show 2015].
The family first stepped out into the show ring in 2003 with ‘Monamore Convincer Merrill’ and took home the third-prize ribbons with their heifer-in-milk at Charleville Show. Her winning streak did not halt here, as she went on to classify EX and was one of the first cows that were flushed on the farm.
This animal set the wheels in motion for the Nevilles, who have claimed their fair share of prestigious accolades down through herd competitions and on the show circuit.
These honours include Overall Dairy Champion Charleville Show 2018 (Milliedale Dusk Rhapsody EX95); Reserve All-Ireland Junior Cow Charleville Show 2018 (Emerald Doorman Promis VG88) and Champion herd Limerick and Clare herds competition 2017. They also secured the Confined Champion National Dairy Show Milstreet 2015 (Hallow Attwood Twizzle EX94); the Hon-Mention All-Ireland 4-year-old 2015 (Hallow Attwood Twizzle EX94) and Champion Limerick Show 2013 (Emerald Stormatic Butterfly EX92).
The Nevilles regard the success of Emerald Talent Sue, being classified EX95 in 2015 and the herd’s presence at sales across the waters as two of their biggest achievements to date.
“There are only a few cows in the country that ever achieve a classification this high and for our first ever cow to achieve this score to be home-bred was quite special for us.” The Nevilles outlined.
Due to the discontinuation of consignment sales, the family has travelled over to the UK in order to sell stock in recent years.
In 2016, they acquired the fifth-highest price at the Borderway Black and White sale when they put ‘Emerald Doorman Twizzle’ under the hammer for £6,600gns.
“This was the first ever ‘Twizzle’ to sell in the UK and the highest price achieved by an Irish breeder at the sale.”
Looking forward to the future, the Nevilles will continue to breed high-type Holsteins and will continue to maintain and improve quality.
“The classification of the herd is at an all-time high with 36EX, with two EX95 and two EX94. Our average milk solids per cow continues to improve each year and the herd’s overall EBI; milk and fertility are also making steady improvement year-on-year.”
The Limerick breeder’s long-term vision to have ‘Emerald Holsteins’ recognised globally, with a belief that social media will be key to achieving this goal in the future.
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