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Saturday 17 November 2018

'Aubrac beef has a very nice flavour and texture,' says award-winning Donegal producer

EWS Traditional Butchers are understood to be only one of two butchers in the country who specialise in selling Aubrac beef.
EWS Traditional Butchers are understood to be only one of two butchers in the country who specialise in selling Aubrac beef.

Martin Ryan

One of the five holders of the office of chairman since the Irish Aubrac Breed Society was established two decades ago is Liam Walsh, who has become even better known in recent years for his marketing of Aubrac beef and multi award winning products.

Breeding Aubrac beef animals on their farm near Balintra, Co Donegal has played a fundamental role in the success of the family butcher business, EWS Traditional Butchers, which operates a thriving customer friendly business in Donegal Town, Ballintra, and Lahey as well as suppliers to the hotel and catering trade in various parts of the country.

Sales of Aubrac beef are now topping six animals per week on average with the popularity of the beef growing among their customers. The animals are sourced from their own herd which was established around 2000, shortly after the initial imports into the country, and Aubrac breeders in neighbouring areas with 13 breeders currently in the county.

"The Aubrac beef has a very nice flavour and texture and it is a very good meat for boning," he explains.

Liam Walsh, former chairman who has developed a market for Aubrac beef.
Liam Walsh, former chairman who has developed a market for Aubrac beef.

EWS Traditional Butchers are understood to be only one of two butchers in the country who specialise in selling Aubrac beef. The other is believed to be Tom Walsh, based in Skibbereen, a stronghold of Aubrac since the original imports.

Later this year Liam's EWS Traditional Butchers, will aim for a unique three-in-a-row success in winning the Butchers Excellence International "Champion of Champions" All-Ireland Butchers Championship to add to their success for the past two years.

It is classified as the most prestigious contest of its kind currently held in Ireland.

Aubrac beef is used for the intense four-hour competition, for which the qualifying criteria is to have won a prior major competition within the year.

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Qualifying is no challenge with awards aplenty flowing for the successful business.

In 2017, EWS swept the boards at the All-Ireland Barbeque Butchers Championship where they won the overall title along with four diamond awards, one platinum award, ten gold awards, six silver awards and two bronze awards for an array of their produce.

Chairmen of Aubrac Society and their breeders hail from every corner of Ireland

The five livestock breeders who have steered the spread of the Aubrac breed as chairmen of the Aubrac Breed Society in this country through the first 20 years have been geographically spread across the three provinces of southern Ireland.

The spread of leaders reflects the growth in the French breed in Ireland over the period from the initial imports mainly by farmers in counties Kildare and Cork, to the breeding of Aubrac on farm in 24 counties in Southern Ireland and five in Northern Ireland today.

The five chairmen - from the first, James O'Brien, Dromskehy, Clonbanin, Mallow who took up office on April 23, 1998 to the current holder of the office, James Donnellan, Dunmore, Co Galway, with Ernest Mackey, Wicklow, James Phelan, Abbeyleix, and Liam Walsh, Donegal who served inbetween - were honoured with commemorative presentations to mark the 20th anniversary of the first imports, in appreciation of the services they have given to the development of the breed in this country.

Bloodlines

They have maintained their interest in the breed over the last two decades with some of them developing their herds into bloodlines to compare with any herd in Europe.

Consistently one of the most successful breeders among the former chairmen is Ernest Mackey.

Ballinclea Babette, bred by Ernest and Lionel Mackey, Donard, Co Wicklow, was awarded the coveted Royal Dublin Society Overall Suckler Cow, "Champion of Champions", in 2015 with an index of €326.

The Ballinclea herd has bred Aubrac since 1999, over the years using bloodlines from the Batifold Herd in France, with progeny consistently in the top 20 for high indices in Ireland.

The sire, Calverstown Koala, bred by Kim and Mireille McCall in Kilcullen, Co Kildare, one of the original Irish importers of the breed, was a Gene Ireland bull in 2015 and purchased for the Co Wicklow herd the following year. He has gone on to breed five-star progeny with a rating of €163 and 3.3pc calving difficulty.

Liam Walsh, who runs a thriving victualler retailing business as well as breeding Aubrac in Co Donegal (see panel, right) remains a very strong advocate of the breed and the beef they produce.

Current holder of the office, James Donnellan who runs the Cloonmore Herd at Dunmore, Co Galway describes himself as running one of the smaller Aubrac herds in a county which has the joint third highest number of herds, closely following the lead of Cork and Tipperary.


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