'They are hardy animals who love the mountains': Donegal farmer switch from continentals to Black Galloways
My week: Sean Martin
Seven years ago Sean Martin faced a farming dilemma. Should he continue with a Charolais and Simmental herd on his 60-acre farm near Lough Eske outside Donegal town or develop a Black Galloways herd on the substantial commonage he had in the nearby Bluestack mountains.
It was a choice, in Sean's view, between rearing the heavy-footed breeds on the weather-dependent lowlands or using the light-footed Galloways which thrive on hilly ground. There was a third option - get into sheep - but the 58-year-old was dead set against that idea.
"I heard the Galloways were ideal for mountain rearing and as I had substantial commonage in the Bluestacks and didn't want to go the sheep route I started the research work.
"I read a feature in the Farming Independent about a Tipperary farmer - Joe Condon who developed a Galloways herd and rural development specialist Oliver Moore - so I contacted them. They were very helpful and they mentored me and that clinched the matter. I was going to rear the black lads," Sean recalls.
He sourced his initial stock - 10 pure-bred heifers from a farmer in Northern Ireland and he then linked up on the breeding side with the Douglas brothers, established Galloways men in nearby Castlederg, to get the new enterprise up and running.
Sean hasn't regretted his decision.
"They are a hardy animal who love the mountains and they are easy to handle. They are fed hay and straw from the home farm but they also clear the mountains of everything, including heather. I have no regrets."
The next stage in what Sean calls his '2020 plan' is to increase the herd to around 40 head and then begin processing his beef, on farm, for sale at the local farmer markets and retail outlets.