Online sales route paying dividends for shorthorn breeder

An innovative online sales platform is helping a pedigree breeder in Galway achieve top prices, reports Martin Ryan

Pedigree Shorthorn breeder Tommy Staunton on his farm at Kinvara
Pedigree Shorthorn breeder Tommy Staunton on his farm at Kinvara

Martin Ryan

Pedigree Shorthorn breeder Tommy Staunton has a different way of doing business than most others in the sector, when it comes to selling pedigree stock from his herd.

Five years ago, the Kinvara, Co Galway man, decided that "there must be a better way of doing business" when he was disappointed by the outcome of the conventional type auction of some of his pedigree animals.

Nowadays, breeders compete online for the animals from his Caramba Pedigree Beef Shorthorn Herd and the majority of the animals offered in the select auction catalogue are being purchased by breeders from outside of this country.

Such is the success of his engagement with the use of online sales been that his average of €4,614 achieved in 2018 for the females from the herd was the highest for any Irish herd for several years, while a top price of €8,400 was reached.

It was the third time for the businessman and part-time farmer, who carries on the family tradition of the Shorthorn breed on the family holding in South Galway, to use the online auction system, the outcome of which has continued to go from success to success.

"When we first launched in 2016 the aim was to market our Beef Shorthorns to as wide an audience as possible without any of the sale cattle having to leave the farm until they were ready to move on to their new home," he explains of his reason for setting up the UK based website

Some of the shorthorn on Tommy Staunton's farm at Kinvara, Co Galway
Some of the shorthorn on Tommy Staunton's farm at Kinvara, Co Galway

"This has been a great success with many of our Beef Shorthorns going direct from our farm to their new homes in many different parts of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland.

"When we set about developing the site the challenge was to design a web platform whereby we could showcase our annual sale cattle. We knew that year on year we would only have a relevantly small number of animals in our sale," he says, explaining that the objective is to keep everything as simple as possible.

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The facility to download the detailed auction catalogue of animals, is aided by photographs and videos of each entry available to view on the site and he is meticulously exacting on the quality of the visual material used.

He is similarly exacting on the quality of animals catalogued for each sale. His policy is that only the best is good enough, ensuring the reputation of the herd, but resulting in heavy culling with those culled going for beef, as does any animal not sold at the auction.

In addition to the information online, in 2018 he hosted an open day at the farm in Kinvara a week before the sale which attacted a large attendance of breeders.

"I couldn't believe it myself that there was so much interest but only one of the people who attended managed to buy online at the auction," he says.

Full clearance

Most of the stock was destined for export to their new homes outside of this country after a full clearance of 14 heifers and four bulls.

While his father Michael, who passed away last October, was a committed supporter of the Shorthorn breed as well as successfully marketing potatoes and vegetables from the 46-acre farm, Tommy decided to purchase proven genetics from well-established herds in Ireland and the UK when he took over in 2011.

"My own interest in Shorthorns go back to as a child seeing my dad rear two and often three calves on his Shorthorn cross cows. The cows were nearly always purchased from breeders in the Kilfenora and Ennistymon region of Co Clare," says Tommy.

His Caramba herd today has Scottish, English, Australian, and Canadian influences among the herd while an important aspect of the breeding programme is to retain the excellent local genetics from cattle that are 100pc traditional Shorthorn.

He purchased the first pedigree females from the renowned Uppermill Herd of James Porter setting a solid foundation upon which to build.

However, it was the purchase of a six-month-old bull calf from Padraig Chalke in Co Mayo, which was negotiated over a chat and a cup of tea, that was to have a huge influence on the future of the herd.

The young bull, Carrarock Chalkie, went on to claim Overall Champion at Tullamore, NI National Junior Champion, and Senior Champion, and Overall Reserve Champion at the world famous Stirling Bull sales in Scotland.

"Chalkie was then purchased by UK-based pedigree breeder Robert Leach for 8000gns. We retained semen from Chalkie and with 2014 offspring now on the ground we know the Chalkie bloodline will become a formidable part of the Caramba herd," he says.

"The first daughter of his as a calf won the All-Ireland, won at Tullamore and Balmoral and went on to win at Tullamore again the following year. She has only been shown six times and she has won all of them," he says.

The progeny of the bull has done really, really well in the UK which has made the Caramba herd very well-known there, and Tommy has been sought after to judge at some of the shows in the north of the country.

Such is Tommy's expectation of the potential for the bloodline that he has bought back the bull from the UK and Carrarock Chalkie is once again grazing the land at Kinvara and the nearby Burren.

In addition to the family farm at Kinvara, considerable additional acreage is rented on the nearby Burren for outwintering of the 40 breeding females and their followers until near calving time.

"The Shorthorn are really suited to that type of land. The whole herd is outwintered. All they need is enough to eat and the dry lie that they get there," he says.

There is no doubt about the bright future for his shorthorn herd and online he has broken new ground that he'll continue to reap success from.

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