One hundred not out for country's oldest bull sale

Volunteers are keeping the century-old traditions of the Kilkenny Agricultural Society alive and vibrant

Glenn C Jacob, Dunsinane, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford with two of his Hereford bulls at the sale in Kilkenny. Dunsinone Napoleon (far left) sold for €2,200.
Glenn C Jacob, Dunsinane, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford with two of his Hereford bulls at the sale in Kilkenny. Dunsinone Napoleon (far left) sold for €2,200.

Martin Ryan

The tradition of voluntary service to their fellow farmers is being maintained by a dedicated group in the south- east who run what is believed to be the longest running and largest pedigree bull sale in the country.

Kilkenny Agricultural Society has been part of farming life in the south-east for more than a century and continues to deliver a service to the livestock sector within the region not otherwise available on the same scale.

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Behind the society is a committee of volunteers, committed to the continuation of what is believed to be the oldest bull show and sale in the country and the largest held annually.

The history books show that the society engaged in the running of an annual agricultural show and also organised a number of gymkhana over their earlier years.

George Candler, auctioneer, John C Muphy, chairman, and John Delahanty, secretary, Kilkenny Agricultural Society in the sales ring at Cillin Hill.
George Candler, auctioneer, John C Muphy, chairman, and John Delahanty, secretary, Kilkenny Agricultural Society in the sales ring at Cillin Hill.

But it has become best known for the annual bull shows which continue to retain an important date on the calendar for pedigree breeders in both the beef and dairy sectors.

"The Society has been in existence for more than 100 years. We run three bull sales each year - in March, April and May - as a service to the farmers in the area and we get great support, but it is not getting any easier to keep going because the nature of farming is changing so much," says Three Castles dairy farmer and society chairman John C Murphy.

"We are all volunteers on the committee and it is not easy to get young people involved to act on committees. People don't seem to have the time to get involved any more and that is a challenge for us," explains John Delehanty, secretary.

Nevertheless they continue to run the multi-breed sales, attracting sellers and buyers from all regions of the country and the annual March sale regarded by breeders as an important barometer of the Spring trade for bulls. "Our aim is to provide a service to the buyers and the sellers on a not-for-profit basis," says Murphy. "The changes in farming are making it more challenging to keep going, because herd size has increased and there is more use of AI."

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Enormous change

He said that the society bull sales have been through enormous changes in the type of animals being offered for sale, the Department of Agriculture inspection of bulls for breeding, the premium scheme and through to pedigree breeding.

Last March the Kilkenny Agricultural Society's 102nd Annual Bull Show and Sale was held at Cillin Hill, one of the finest livestock sale centres in the country, on the edge of Kilkenny City.

Cousins, Cormac, Conor and Owen Vaughan, The Gurth, Crohane, Ballingarry, Thurles, Co Tipperary at the bulls sale at Kilkenny.
Cousins, Cormac, Conor and Owen Vaughan, The Gurth, Crohane, Ballingarry, Thurles, Co Tipperary at the bulls sale at Kilkenny.

The event attracted an entry of 180 bulls, across the six main breeds - Hereford, Friesian, Simmental, Limousin, Angus and Charolais - from herds in 17 counties including some across the Border in Northern Ireland. Three rings operated simultaneously for the sale.

Last week the Society's final bull sale for 2019 at Cillin Hill had an entry of 175 bulls across six breeds with two rings in use.

In the earlier years the sales were held at James Park - the Greyhound Track - and recollections of bulls being sold from the steps of the Greyhound Track are still vivid for the older members of the committee.

Shorthorn and Hereford breeds dominated the entries at the time and later they were joined by Angus as breeders from as far away as Cavan, Leitrim and Roscommon started to travel to the south- east and Angus continue to be a dominant breed in the entry for each sale.

Byran Fleming, The Swan, via Athy, Co Laois with his Simmental bull, Theswan Krixus at Kilkenny.
Byran Fleming, The Swan, via Athy, Co Laois with his Simmental bull, Theswan Krixus at Kilkenny.

Part of the success of the society sales over the decades, according to John Murphy, has been the integrity of their auctioneers. George Candler is the longest serving, having come from Roscommon many decades ago. He continues to woo the bids out of the breeders in his unique inimitable style and retains the highest respect of sellers and buyers as a true gentleman of livestock auctioneering.

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