Farmer Focus: Tom Keane


Catherina meets Tom Keane who runs one of Ireland’s largest herds of Droimeann cattle in Co. Limerick. Heis also actively involved in the Droimeann Cattle Society.

Farmer Focus: Tom Keane

  • ADDED
  • 7 mths ago

Catherina meets Tom Keane who runs one of Ireland’s largest herds of Droimeann cattle in Co. Limerick. Heis also actively involved in the Droimeann Cattle Society.

Shortly after Tom Keane arrived back on Irish soil, he accidentally stumbled across an advertisement placed in a local publication offering Irish Moiled cattle for sale in 2001.

An overwhelming sense of curiosity led to a visit to the vendor’s yard, the farm of Jill Symth, Co. Cork. Jill had a medley of old breeds, but Tom was struck by the presence of Droimeann which he had assumed to have died out years previous to this; he purchased what later became the foundational animals of his Droimeann herd, based in the heart of Askeaton, Co. Limerick.

“I had heard a lot about the breed, but at that stage, I had yet to lay an eye on them. My parents are from North Kerry and the breed was common enough around there.” Tom Keane told Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.

“My brother bought Droimeann cattle first and anything that was not suitable for dairying for one reason or another, I purchased them. I then sourced a bull from Dan Sullivan and Jill also put me in touch with other breeders.” Tom explained.

Leading the way

From humbling beginning to the establishment of a Droimeann herd that is now one of Ireland’s largest, Tom Keane is a powerful force to be reckoned with. He now owns and manages a herd of eighty Droimeann cattle, all with varying levels of purity; they dominate a dry limestone holding.

An ability to thrive and a suitability to survive in challenging environments; hardiness; and a females’ ability to reach sexual maturity at approximately five months of age as some of the desirable traits that the breed possesses, although he stressed that the dams can be very protective.

“I think that there is a place for Droimeann to be part of a sustainable grazing plan in lands that are ecologically sensitive. They are also suitable for cross-breeding system with continental cows.” Tom said.

Droimeann Cattle Society

Tom’s sheer passion and striking enthusiasm for the breed snowballed into an admirable interest to push the breed to further heights; this led to his involvement in the recently formed Droimeann Cattle Society and he also sits as a board member of Irish Rare Breed Society.

Tom is one of the Droimeann society board members and he finds himself delving into the majority of the administration duties; along with being charged with the responsibility of corresponding with show societies and responding to queries.

“One of the biggest challenges was that the breed was adulterated with so many other breeds. The introduction of genetic testing allowed for the isolation of the Droimeann gene - we test for purity and co-ancestry.” Tom explained.

[Tom's 4-year-old son, Ruairí]

Future Plans

Carving out plans going forward, Tom has intentions to reduce herd numbers as he draws attention to the harsh winter that was 2017-2018.

As one of the most experienced Droimeann breeders in the country, Tom has been a premium supplier of breeding females and bulls over the past number of years - he has a desire to pave paths for other breeders.

“I want anything that I do to be a lock-step for other breeders. We need to all go forward together.”

“Co-ancestry is just as important as purity. The bull has to be at least 75% pure for the progeny to go up a grade as per DAFM rules.”

“We want a healthy population of Droimeann cattle. I am hoping that my herd will be purer and that I will be a source of cattle for other breeders that want to breed pure.” Tom concluded.

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

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