How this woman became one of the most successful cattle breeders in the country without an acre of owned land
Milking cows by hand, feeding calves and making home-churned butter from the surplus milk are still cherished memories for Carmel Kelly of the origin of the Ricketstown Pedigree Shorthorn herd... one of the most successful in the country without an acre of owned land.
Thirty five years ago, the first dairy shorthorn heifer was purchased to form the herd at Rathvilly, Co Carlow. Today, the Ricketstown Pedigree Shorthorn herd has been converted to suckling for beef production in the care of her son, Martin, with 50 head being run on 30 acres of rented land, while Carmel's long association with the traditional Irish breed of livestock continues to earn deserved honour.
She was presented with the Irish Shorthorn Cattle Society National Hall of Fame Award 2017 by GAA President, Aogan O'Fearghail, at the awards ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel, Athlone, which brought back many memories of the Ricketstown herd.
She recalled that the first Dairy Shorthorn heifer was purchased at the dispersal sale of the Moyglare Herd, where her late father, John Farrell, was manager, and the second heifer was purchased from the Ballingarrane Herd the same year.
"We built our herd from these two animals - we milked and fed the calves and made butter with the surplus milk. My Dad, John Farrell, was so proud of us for carrying on where he left off after his retirement on the day of the Moyglare sale," she recalled.
"The RDS Spring Show was the highlight of every year for myself and my three sisters. The competition was very strong - the competitors were Ballingarrane, Friarstown, Glounlea, Nohoval, Cloughdubh, Kilfrush, Fruitfield, Carrowhubbock, Ransboro, Ballyart, Moatfield, Grousehall, Tournant and Loughlinstown, the herd my Dad managed."
In 1983, a year after the herd was founded, the Ricketstown Shorthorns won their first RDS Spring Show rosette, but 1988 became one of the most amazing years ever experienced by a shorthorn herd in the country, winning all the major prizes for the breed at the RDS Spring Show, which included all of the cups in the Shorthorn section, for Best Pair of heifers, Best Female Champion, Best Group and Overall Champion of the Show - the only time it was ever achieved by the same shorthorn herd.
In the early 2000s, four beef shorthorn heifers were imported from the Croxton Park Herd and a stock bull from the Glenariff Herd in the UK.