The McGrath family has been synonymous with pedigree Hereford cattle since 1956; the multi-prize-winning Kye herd – which is based in Elphin, Co. Roscommon – was founded by Padraig McGrath’s late father Paddy.
Ballygarden Queen laid the foundations for what is now regarded as one of Ireland's best-known pedigree herds.
In 1969, Kye Playboy [pictured below] was awarded the supreme champion silverware at the Royal Dublin Society pedigree show; he was widely used by numerous pedigree breeders, sired multiple champions and was later purchased by the McKiernan family, Co. Cavan.
“I was present at the RDS that day; I was nine years of age at the time,” Padraig McGrath told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“I became involved with the Hereford breed from an early age and haven't looked back since then,” he added.
Kye Herefords – which is now owned and managed by Padraig and his wife Catherine - has gone from “strength-to-strength” since its establishment due to the retention of high-end females and the utilisation of superior genetics.
The herd now consists of thirty-five pedigree-registered Hereford breeding females – seven of which are Polled Herefords that were purchased last September.
The McGraths sold the majority of their Angus cows last September which has allowed them to focus on running Kye Herefords and Drummullian Charolais.
“Herefords are very placid and easy to work with. “We aim to breed long, lean cattle – they are the types that we get money for when selling,” explained Padraig who also runs an agri supplies store.
A split calving system is operated; cows calves from July and September and December to January to coincide with autumn and spring society sales.
80% of the McGrath’s bulls go under the hammer at society sales, while the remaining animals are sold privately.
A selection of heifers are retained as replacements annually; they calve down from 24-30-months, while surplus females are sold for breeding purposes.
“I also purchased some embryos from Canada a few years ago.” explained the chairman of the Irish Hereford Connaught Branch (Mayo, Galway, Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo and Roscommon).
Across the waters
In recent years, the McGraths have travelled across the waters to the UK where they purchased Freetown Hotspur in conjunction with the Farrell family of the renowned Trillick prefix.
Many of Hotspur’s sons have been purchased by AI companies, while others dominate the pastures of some of Ireland’s best-known pedigree Hereford herds.
In August, the progressive breeders made a second journey to English soil where they acquired the promising prize-winner; Freetown Nevada with the Trillick herd.
“We are looking forward to his first calves which will be born this summer,” Padraig said.
In later late, the McGraths and Farrells secured another bull; Pulham Ranger.
Breeding females are several by either of the aforementioned stock bulls; but prior to this, Padraig – who completed a D.I.Y. A.I training course – introduced Australian and Canadian bloodlines to the herd.
“We think that these bulls will meet the market for both pedigree and commercial breeding purposes and are suitable for the dairy sector."
[Pulham Ranger purchased last November with JJ Farrell]
Kye Herefords has a prominent presence at up to ten local and national shows annually with many prestigious championship titles under its belt.
“Both Catherine and I love to do the show circuit. My two sons used to participate when they were around, but they are both in Australia now; Sinead Conry also assists us.” Padraig said.
“People go to football; we go to shows and knock great sport out of it.” the prize-winning cattle breeder said.
Some of the most prestigious accolades they have scooped to date include the Supreme Hereford Champion at Tullamore Show 2013 with Kye Shelia [pictured below].
They bred Kye Rodge who was acquired by Coote Geelan and was tapped out as the supreme champion Hereford at Balmoral Show; he was later crowned the champion of champion.
In November 2018, Padraig and Catherine had the supreme female champion at National Hereford Calf Show in Tullamore; Kye Holly 818 [pictured below] was sold on the day to Tommy Staunton, Kinvara, Co. Galway.
He exhibited Holly at RUAS Balmoral in May where she took a first-prize rosette and the junior championship before catching the eye of a breeder in the UK.
[Image source: Alfie Shaw]
Looking ahead, the husband-and-wife-duo will “continue breeding top-quality cattle for the pedigree market.”
“I am optimistic that the market for pedigree Hereford cattle will continue to grow.”
"I have been breeding Hereford cattle all my life and we look forward to continuing this into the future,” Padraig concluded.
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