Ryan Lavery (22), Aghalee Co. Antrim was only a child when he established his own pedigree Dexter cattle herd.
The 21-year-old - who farms alongside his grandfather Eddie - sourced animals from herds across Ireland and Scotland to lay the foundations for Derryola Dexters.
He held the Guinness World Record for the world’s shortest bull back in 2012; his animal - 29-month-old Archie - measured 30-inches from hoof to withers.
“Archie was reared by myself originally for beef but he failed to grow, basically. We went for the record in conjunction with a local charity which raised money for Indian orphanages,” he told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
“As cattle are sacred in India, they made Archie a patron in their charity - a bit mad I know but if it helps others which are less fortunate then it’s a bonus.”
The herd - which was established in 2006 - now comprises of 11 pedigree-registered breeding females; a new shed was constructed on-farm close to two years ago which allowed the duo to increase stock numbers.
Ryan selected the breed because of their ease of management, small frame and dual-purpose qualities; he is also satisifed with their ability to survive on a small land base.
Derryola’s surplus breeding females are purchased by new and existing breeders, while high-end bulls are also sold for breeding purposes; steers are usually offered for sale as stores.
The Antrim native has been directly involved with the breed for over thirteen years now - as a breeder, exhibitor and as one of the Dexter Cattle Society’s youngest approved judges.
"I completed a two-year course along with two other members of the Northern Ireland group; we travelled to the UK as part of our training,” he added.
He has officiated as a judge at up to five agricultural shows - both at home and across the waters - since securing the role.
“I like encouraging breeders to exhibit their entries. I enjoy pointing out an animal’s good qualities and helping farmers to breed away from certain faults.”
“Dexters are difficult to judge in the sense that every single one of them are unique in terms of height and width - no two Dexters are similar really.”
Derryola Dexters made its debut on the show circuit back in 2011; the herd makes its presence felt at several shows throughout Northern Ireland every year and has claimed several prestigious accolades.
The young Antrim breeder has already set off on a winning streak this year, having claimed silverware at one of the most popular events in a show exhibitor's diary.
“We had a great result from only one entry - Rathnafishogue T-Bone - at Balmoral Show this year; he won his class of senior bulls.”
“Ten excellent bulls - including a number of imports - formed part of the line-up; he then went on to be placed reserve champion.”
“There was a good show of Dexters with around 50 entries and the quality was second to none.”
This success came just weeks after Ryan completed his final exams as part of his BSc (Honours) in Agricultural Technology at Queen’s University Belfast.
“I finished the course about three weeks now and am relieved to get the pressure off my shoulders. My exams were difficult in the end, but hopefully, I have done enough to get what I need.”
He undertook a four-month work placement on Grosvenor Farms Chester - a 2,000-dairy cow farm and arable enterprise.
“Placement was my highlight as I gained a lot of practical experience and it advanced my knowledge; I was able to put the information I obtained through my degree into practice.”
“I selected this course as a means of up-skilling with a view of working in industry. I wanted to learn more about various elements of agriculture,” he explained.
Ryan began working as a relief milker at Kerrib Farm in 2015 and has taken on more responsibility in the area of adminstration, the management of staff and animal husbandry as the years have progressed.
He moved to fill its full-time herd managerial position since completing his undergraduate studies; the 100-cow dairy farm is operated alongside a waste management firm.
“I enjoy farming life - you have something to pride yourself in and you can bring new life into the world.”
Looking ahead, the 21-year-old hopes to expand the home farm to approximately twenty high-end Dexter breeding females.
“I would like to venture into breeding AI bulls and producing embryos.” said the ambitious farmer.
“I am happy in my current position at Kerrib Farm; I may travel at some stage in the future - who knows what the future holds,” he concluded.
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Main image: Guinness World Records