THE Farrell family have been steeped in pedigree Hereford breeding for generations. Breeding the best, showing the best and buying the best is a formula that has seen the herd at Trillick-a-Temple, outside Longford town, become a byword for Hereford excellence.
The Trillick Herefords balance the characteristics of the traditional Irish Hereford of the 1940s with the current demands of dairy farmers for bulls that can breed progeny with size and scope for profitable beef.
"The market today does not want a small little bull," says JJ Farrell. "I can see the changes that have been made since my father's time and it has been a big change in Hereford cattle."
"It is hard job to get that balance right but that's what we are all striving for. It is a big thing going forward because the dairy man wants a bull that will produce a good type of calf with easy calving to sell well for the beef man.
"I'm in dairying as well and I will try out a new bull on my own herd for easy calving. If he is producing difficult calvings, he's culled. The large dairy farmer does not want a bull producing difficult calvings."
Selected bloodlines have been imported from UK and as far afield as Australia and this in turn has produced sires for leading herds in the UK as well as many bulls sold into the AI service in Ireland.
"Steil Gerard was the backbone of a lot of the females that we have. He was by a Churchill Storm son. Three of us were on a trip to Australia, and Churchill Storm and Yarram Pompeii came in at that time," says JJ.
"Churchill really clicked with me. The minute that I saw him I said 'that is the bull that I want' and I bought one of the first bulls bred by him, Steil Gerard. He did a good performance at Tully and then came to the sales where I bought him, and he really lived up to my expectations.
"One animal that stands out in my memory is a cow called Lugboy Madonna. My father bought her from Mick Campbell in Strokestown in 1996, just one week before he died suddenly at the untimely age of 73.
"My father was a great influence on me. He was a quiet man, but he knew his cattle very well and that cow always had a special association with the farm and bred about ten heifers for us. There was always a special thing with that heifer.
"Going out to the sales, I always think of my father going down the road and ask him to look after me today and I believe that he does. He left us with a great herd. He loved the Herefords and I inherited it from him. I have a passion for the Hereford."
Bulls sold to Irish AI centres include Trillick Best (NCBC), Trillick George (Bova AI), Trillick Hotspur (Eurogene AI) and Trillick Emmett (Eurogene AI).
The Farrells have also sold five bulls to British buyers, and semen from Hotspur Emmet and George has been purchased by a breeder in Australia.
Trillick Knockout stands out among the exports. Sold after the 2014 summer show season, he won the 2015 UK Horned Bull of the Year.
JJ says that showing the Reserve Champion and receiving the two top prices of the day, €7,100 and €4,200, from Irish breeders at the breed society's 2013 show and sale was "a fantastic day" for the herd.
Last August, an elite production sale of heifers in association with the Belleen and Corlismore herds recorded an average of €3,150, and arrangements are afoot for another elite production sale this autumn with venue and date to be finalised.
The Trillick herd's story goes back over 70 years to when JJ's grandfather, James Farrell, bred prize-winning whitehead cattle as they were commonly called at the time. JJ's father Patrick carried on the tradition.
And JJ and his wife Concepta are now assisted by their daughters Clare and Hannah and son Ciaran, a teacher, who are all actively involved on the farm and maintaining the Trillick herd's reputation into the future.
After more than seven decades breeding the traditional Hereford, the Farrells introduced the polled Hereford to the Trillick herd in 2019.
"I bought five polled heifers last year and I'm now up to around 10 polled females and will work off them," says JJ Farrell.
The Trillick pedigree herd comprises of 40 breeding Herefords alongside a dairy herd, and the plan is to increase the pedigree herd to around 60 head of horned and polled cattle over the next few years.
"I bought some very good polled cows with calves at foot at a dispersal sale in west Cork last year. The polled Hereford is still not that big in Ireland and if I can get 15-20 cows into the herd, I should have a pick of five or six polled bulls for customers," says JJ.
"I believe that there is a market for them in dairy herds where farmers don't want the trouble of dehorning the calves."
As well as being an experienced breeder, JJ has also judged at Hereford shows in Ireland, Britain, Denmark and Sweden. And his son Ciaran has represented the Hereford Society at the world conference in Canada, in the young handler's class.
JJ believes "the best judges are always outside the ring" and he is always on the lookout for excellence in the breed, whether judging or viewing animals at home or abroad.
"I like seeing the different lines of cattle in the different countries. Each country has a different type and they all have their own merits, and it's educational to see what others are doing with the breed," he says.
"We can dive into some of their traits. We dived into Australia a lot and it has been good for the Hereford in this country. Everyone knows that I have dived into the bloodlines in the UK by buying bulls there and that has been very successful for us.
"I think the English bloodlines have mixed very well with the Australian bloodlines for us and still kept the breed character, which is lovely to see. I love to see breed character being continued.
"When I am buying a bull, first of all I want style, character and easy calving. I want the bull or the heifer that will catch the eye the minute they go into that ring, something I feel that we had lost a little bit."
Of the Irish Hereford he says: "We are as good as the best of them and we can all learn from each other. We are always trying to get new bloodlines because it is a very small pool.
"New semen has been brought in over the last 10-15 years. It has been quite good. The English bloodlines have been good to us.
"We did go to Canada a long time ago and brought in some good bloodlines that gave the breed size and scope without losing conformation, and it may be time to take another look at Canada."