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Saturday 19 August 2017

Top Limousin breeder traces success to French heifer bought over the phone for €5,000

The dam, Etoile, which was purchased over the phone and has become a history making champion Limousin breeder
The dam, Etoile, which was purchased over the phone and has become a history making champion Limousin breeder
Donal and Alice Molony, Rachel and Daniel with Ardnacrusha Jaguar ET, Male of the Year 2016.

Martin Ryan

To describe 2016 as an exceptional year for Donal Moloney's Ardnacrusha Herd would be a serious ­understatement.

And it's all the more remarkable given that the foundation for the Co Clare Limousin herd goes back to a heifer calf which Donal, purchased sight unseen, over the phone in 2010.

"I bought her because of her breeding. I thought she was a very nice heifer with great bone and should breed well," he recalls.

But even his superb ­judgment could scarcely have expected the success which the French-born Etoile has brought to his herd, and the fame which she has earned within the ­Limousin breed in this country.

Donal and Alice Molony, Rachel and Daniel with Ardnacrusha Jaguar ET, Male of the Year 2016.
Donal and Alice Molony, Rachel and Daniel with Ardnacrusha Jaguar ET, Male of the Year 2016.

She was a year old at the time, and listed for auction of stock at the KBS Genetic Sale at Brive-la-Gaillarde in France.

KBS Genetics was created by Jean-Luc Kress in 1999, and has become one of the main players in the ­international field of high-quality Limousin, ­attracting buyers from all parts of the world to the ­prestige sales of stock at ­auction, many spending tens of thousands of euro to purchase the breeding lines on offer.

"I picked her out as a calf in the catalogue for the sale, and I bought her over the phone - I was not actually at the sale - but from what I saw, I thought her a very nice heifer with great bone," says Donal.

"She was not over expensive at the time. I paid €5,000 for her and with the extras, including transport, she was costing me around €5,700 when she arrived on the farm," he recalls.


Last year, Etoile, teamed up with an equally ­excellent sire, Wilodge Vantastic, and ­became history makers within the breed, producing the Limousin Male of the Year, Ardnacrusha Jaguar ET, the Limousin Junior Female of the Year, Ardnacrusha Jasmine ET, and the Limousin Senior Female of the Year and Champion of Champions, Meelickaduff Honda ET.

It is understood to have been the first-time ever within the Limousin breed for the same dam and sire to produce progeny to sweep the boards in the prestigious annual awards in the same season.

Jaguar and Jasmine were both bred on the Ardnacrusha farm within Donal's herd, and Honda was bred by Owen Hester from Castlerea, Co ­Roscommon from a ­purchased embryo.

The sire, Wilodge ­Vantastic, was bred by Christina Williams in the UK and was bought by Peter Smith.

Wilodge Vantastic is ­described as ­exceptionally bred, being sired by the 30,000-guineas Wilodge Tonka and out of the best female at Wilodge, Ravenelle.

He was overall champion and top price in Carlisle, in May 2006, selling to Smiths of Bloxham for 42,000-guineas and went on to produce some exceptional offspring, including Wilodge Dallaglio, sold for 30,000-guineas. He was also the sire of Wilodge Diamante, which as a yearling heifer was judged junior Limousin champion and overall reserve breed champion at the Royal Welsh Show.

"Vantastic straws were available at €25. The bull is no longer around and a few straws that are left are costing at least €1,000 each," says Donal.

The success of the herd on the show circuit has been building up over the past few years with the fruits of Etoile beginning to shine.

Ardnacrusha Hilarious, a daughter of Etoile, won the All-Ireland Heifer Derby 2013 in Castlewellan, Co Down and was Reserve Junior Female Champion at Tulllamore Show.

However, nothing in the past could compare with the show successes of 2016 for Ardnacrusha Limousins.

As Donal modestly puts it: "We had a right good run at the shows during the year", which understates the scale of success in acclaiming rosettes.

Ardnacrusha Jaguar, a son to Etoile, the Junior Male Champion and Reserve Overall Champion at Tullamore Show in 2015, was Overall Limousin Male Champion at Balmoral Show last year and Limousin champion at Athlone Show, Cork County Beef Bull Champion at Carbery Show and Glanbia Overall Beef Champion at Dungarvan Show.

Etoile's daughter, Ardnacrusha Jasmine, was Supreme Interbreed Champion at Mountbellow Show in 2015, was Supreme Interbreed Champion at Bandon Show last year, before being crowned the Limousin Junior Female of the Year. Grand daughter of Etoile, Ardnacrusha Kylie was a Clare calf final winner and reserve interbreed champion at Bonniconlan Show, while Ardnacrusha Kit Kat, another granddaughter, was Reserve Junior Female at Tullamore Show.

Donal says he has "a couple more nice heifers bred from Etoile", which no doubt will be coming into the show rings during the year.

It has been a remarkable success for a herd of 25 breeding females to produce the "cream of the crop" in Limousin through a breeding line combination which has made history within the beef breed.

Indeed, interest in livestock and in particular the Limousin, is very much a part of everyday life in the Moloney household. Donal and his wife, Alice, have transferred their deep interest in the breed to their son, Daniel, and daughter, Rachel, both of whom are making waves in their own right.

Rachel has had the honour of winning her place on the Irish team to compete internationally in stock judging as an active member of the Limousin Society Young Members Association.

Meanwhile, Daniel has already collected a number of awards as a young handler in the show judging rings right around the country.

For the future, Donal says: "My plan is to keep the line that I have. I won't go too big, and anything that is not ­coming good, after three or four calves, I will cull as I go along - because it is the only way to be successful at breeding."


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