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Raymond de Vere Hunt with some of his pedigree polled Hereford's at his farm in Dualla, Cashel.

Raymond de Vere Hunt with some of his pedigree polled Hereford's at his farm in Dualla, Cashel.

Raymond de Vere Hunt with some of his pedigree polled Hereford's at his farm in Dualla, Cashel.

Polled Hereford sisters become first Irish cattle to be sold at Designer Genes Sale- and one nets €8,650, writes Martin Ryan.

Advice from some ringside admirers at the 2019 National Livestock Show sparked a history-making journey for Raymond de Vere Hunt.

"I had a few Herefords at the show in Tullamore last August and some breeders from the UK were interested in them," explains the south Tipperary dairy farmer.

"I explained to them that they were not for sale at that time, and they suggested that I should consider entering them for the Designer Genes Sale in December - an elite sale in the UK which only the top 30 Hereford heifers qualify for each year."

Thrilled that his polled Herefords, from a small pedigree herd, were considered good enough, Raymond and his fiancée Veronica Brennan gave the idea some thought.

"It really got us thinking about it but we felt maybe we were mad to even think about it, because of the preparations and work involved," says Veronica, who is from a farming family in Kells, Co Kilkenny.

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Valuable: Raymond de Vere Hunt with some of the pedigree polled Hereford on his farm at Dualla, Cashel

Valuable: Raymond de Vere Hunt with some of the pedigree polled Hereford on his farm at Dualla, Cashel

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"I wasn't sure were we doing the right thing, but we decided that we would go for it even though I thought we could be making a great mistake."

When Herberry 1 Lucy Sky and Herberry 1 Lucy Belle, bred on the farm at Dualla, near Cashel, went to Shrewsbury for the fourth edition of the Designer Genes Sale, it was the first time an Irish herd had exported animals to the event.

"Herberry 1 Lucy Belle sold for Stg 7,000 gns (€8,650) which was the second highest price at the sale so we were very happy with that - having the second highest price on the day tells its own story" Raymond says.

"The second heifer sold for 3,700 gns (€4,575) and that was in a fairly tough sale, with farmers in the UK concerned about Brexit just around the corner and the market uncertain.

"It will help to pay for the wedding!"

Veronica has exchange her job in the fruit industry to share her love for the farming way of life with Raymond on a large farm of quality land in the Golden Vale.

They have 140 high-EBI Holstein Friesian cows as the main enterprise along with the small herd of pedigree-polled Hereford which they describe as "the best breed of beef animals".

Raymond's grandfather, Robert de Vere Hunt, who bought the farm in 1978, was the driving force behind the livestock mart at Cashel.

Raymond's father, Raymond Snr, farmed the land through the '80s and '90s and is still in partnership with his son.

They are also helped by a young assistant, Coilin Bourke, who is in no doubt about his career - "it has to be farming" and he is already being described as "a great young stockman and an excellent handler".

Watchful

Raymond Jnr says of his father: "It can be harder for the older generation to hand over but he has made it very easy for us - we are very lucky but he keeps a watchful eye and is around the farmyard every day."

The De Vere Hunts dairy-farmed until the turn of the millennium when the herd was hit with Bovine TB; they then got out of dairy and kept beef cattle.

Raymond, who worked as area manager with Munster AI after college, came back to the farm a decade later while still working for the AI service.

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"I continued with beef farming for a few years, but I wanted to be a full-time farmer, and I could not see a way in which I could make a living out of beef as a full-time farmer," he says.

"We are back in dairying now for five years and have built up the herd. The change coincided with the end of the milk quota. We got one year of milk quota as a new entrant and then no quota problems since.

"I always had a love for beef cattle and that made me want to keep some beef on the farm as well as the dairy herd.

"That is why I got into the pedigree Hereford.

"From my time with Munster AI I could see the demand that is there for the Hereford for cross breeding with the dairy herd, and I believe that it is going to get stronger because the dairy farmers want easy calving and maturing at an earlier age.

"I thought about the continental breeds and I loved looking at good cattle but I thought that there was a better future in the Hereford because of the expansion in dairy farming as a growing demand."

The pedigree Hereford herd consists of ten cows "and that is all we want to keep".

"I think the demand for the Hereford is going to continue, because the Hereford Prime is a brand and it is working for the Hereford. The taste and the marbling of the meat is selling well," Raymond says.

The first of the Herefords were purchased from Kerry breeder Matthew Goulding, and the progeny have been regular prize-winners.

"A lot of our bulls are being bought by dairy farmers who are looking for the easy calving, short gestation and carcase quality," says Raymond.

"Last year we had seven bulls to sell and all sold on the farm - the customers are coming to us and long may they keep coming."

'We just knew we had to have them'

Richard de Vere Hunt's two history-making heifers are full sisters, bred by the sire Dendor 1 Kohinoor, and the dam Gouldingpoll 1 Lucy 641.

They were born with a few days of each other in December 2017.

The Designer Genes Elite sale catalogue said of Herberry 1 Lucy Sky: "One thing we have always wanted to do is bring some heifers from the Republic of Ireland into our sale offering.

"When Ray and Veronica told us about these two females, we knew we just had to have them.

"Lucy Sky is the first of two full siblings to win the Overall Female Champion at the Irish National Hereford Show 2018 at Tullamore, and their three-quarter sister was Reserve Junior Champion at Tullamore in 2019.

"Their dam is a two-time class winner at Tullamore herself and is a full sister to Gouldingpoll 1 Moonshine (UK Reserve Bull of the Year 2018 and herd sire at Dendor).

Of Herberry 1 Lucy Belle, which went on to sell for stg 7,000 gns, the second highest price at the sale, the introduction read: "Ray and Veronica have certainly brought their best for their inaugural DGS consignment.

"Both these fe­males are also full siblings to Herberry 1 Herbert, who is the new junior stock bull at Solpoll Herefords in Northern Ireland, selected for his calving ease and gestation length traits.

"Lucy Belle is a seriously flashy and easy fleshing female with great muscle development and body structure. She also won Dualla Show in 2019, beating Lucy Sky.

"These females have beaten each other at different shows this summer and now you have the chance to choose between them.

"Lucy Sky is a beautifully dark female with great femininity and eye appeal, and she was Champion at Dungarvan Show 2019.

"She is certain to follow in the footsteps of her siblings."

"We are hon­oured to have the Herberry team on board for this year's sale and really appreciate them travelling the distance to sell their best.

"These heifers really are the full package so don't miss out on this rare opportunity."

'The extra costs of going over to the UK wouldn't have been justified without one of them making a top price'

A dream came true for Raymond de Vere Hunt when two of his Hereford heifers qualified for the Designer Genes Elite Hereford sale at Shrewsbury - and that was before one of them picked up the second highest price of the day.

"I had been over at the sale - a good few Irish breeders have been over in the past year or two - and I always had a dream about selling genetics abroad," he says.

The Designer Genes Elite sale is a big deal: in 2018 the event set a number of records - the highest-priced polled Hereford bull to ever sell in the UK at 13,000gns (£13,650); the highest-priced 50pc share in a Hereford female to sell in UK at 7,500gns (£7,875); and the highest-averaging Hereford sale in British history.

But the logistics needed to present the heifers at the sale was a big consideration for Raymond. "We done a bit of research and found that the animals had to be in the country for 60 days before the sale under the UK disease regulations because they were going to a sale. It would have been different if they were going directly on to a farm there," he explains.

"They had to be tested before they left Ireland, again a month later and a third test ahead of the sale day so there had to be a lot of planning.

"We have got to know a good few of the breeders in the UK from attending some of the livestock shows there who were very helpful in arranging for the keep of the heifers prior to the sale. 

"We had to be sure that they were going to be looked after and turned out well for the sale. We were very lucky that one of our friends was willing to help and brought them out looking very well.

Sure "They were some of our best stock and we had to be sure of what we were doing." Raymond was "very anxious to see how they were going to shape up against the stock in the UK" but the results speak for themselves.

"It has meant a lot to us to get the name of the herd known in the UK, and if breeders come to Ireland they are likely to want to see what we have to offer because they know of us," he says. "There are a lot of extra costs associated with it and you need to be getting above the average to justify the extra costs. It wouldn't have been justified without one of them making a top price."

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