Brian O’Kane’s farm is home to a multi-prize-winning herd of pedigree Irish Moiled cattle and a successful bespoke kitchen and furniture outlet.
The Martinstown, Ballymena, Co. Antrim native dedicated a good part of his life to the sport of tug-of-war, competing for Northern Ireland on a number of occasions in the UK and at world level.
In later years, he coached teams and secured a world clubs silver medal in Italy in 2008.
His love of traditional sports and his farming blood gave rise to a striking interest in traditional Irish rare cattle breeds.
In 2003, Brian purchased Glenfield Polly - his Irish Moiled foundation female - from Richard McConnell, a long-standing breeder.
Today, he farms 35 pedigree Irish Moiled cattle under the Ravelglen prefix, along with his wife Anne-Marie and son Caillin.
“This is a significant number as in the mid-seventies, this is roughly all that existed of the breed,” Brian told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
“At that time, Irish Moileds were on the critical list of endangered species with the RBST.”
Finding future success
The breed’s fortunes have seen “an upward trajectory” with approximately 1,200 breeding females in the herdbook now, Brian explained.
Recognising that the breed had reached a critical point in its development, Brian joined the board of directors of the Irish Moiled Cattle Society and now holds the position of honorary treasurer and vice-chairperson.
He recognises that Irish Moiled cattle need to find their place to continue to grow and find future success.
The breed – which has a very low environmental impact – is utilised in specialised conservation grazing projects; Irish Moileds are good foragers and can live on a variety of fauna and flora.
They are particularly good at converting rough pasture and will finish on grass without much difficulty.
With the help of a group of fellow breeders, he set out to build a framework and develop a marketing strategy which has resulted in the development of the Irish Moilie Beef Scheme.
“Irish Moiled beef is a premium product that has excellent flavour and tenderness.”
“The cattle have the ability to fatten on grass-based systems with minimal additional feeding,” he added.
Traditional Irish Moiled cow
Brian is keen to promote and breed a traditional Irish Moiled cow with good docility, good feet and mobility.
“They should have the ability to calf with little assistance and have enough milk to rear a strong calf.”
Brian outlined that steers should finish around 28-months at about 280 kilos; there is a bonus payment available for suitable stock.
Brian sells most of his animals - heifers and bulls - to the pedigree market, targetting new and established breeders.
Semen is also available from two of his home-bred bulls by contacting the breed registrar.
Brian was granted the honour of judging the Irish National Show at Tullamore last year and has been showing Irish Moilies for approximately eight years.
“I view this as a necessary pastime in order to promote the breed and the Ravelglen herd,” he explained.
He has won many titles at Balmoral, Ballymena and Gosford national show where he picked up four firsts in 2017.
In addition to this, he claimed four firsts and the junior champion and overall champion silverware at Ballymena last week.
Brian and family will open their gates to the public tomorrow (Saturday, June 22nd) to play host to the Irish Moiled Cattle Society annual open day.
This new Irish Moilie Beef Scheme will be launched along with the society’s new AI catalogue.
Breeding quality animals to provide the best quality beef is the main focus of the event.
How to select finished cattle and feed and transport them to the abattoir will also be discussed.
The day will finish off with a 5-course taster menu cooked by resident chef Dermot Gallagher in the Glensway Tavern, which is located in close proximity to the farm.
A beer sommelier will also be in attendance and the meal is fully booked. This part of the evening will be geared towards the food trade with a number of chefs, wholesalers and artisan food retailers present.
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