Rare native breed of less than 15 herds in Ireland gets new lease of life

Martin Ryan

One of the oldest traditional Irish breeds of livestock, the Droimeann, which has been retrieved from the brink of extinction, is to have a new lease of life on Irish farms.

The revival has been spearheaded by Co Limerick-based organic farmer Tom Keane, who has worked tirelessly over recent years to have the Droimeann re-established as an officially registered breed of livestock in this country.

The breed is believed to date back to around 920 AD, and famed in the song ‘An Droimeann Donn Dilis’.

Next month, Tom and his colleagues in the Irish Cattle Society, which was founded two years ago, will receive official recognition of the breed, with permission being granted by the Department of Agriculture and Food to open an Irish herd book.

New Herd Book

Tom says: “This is a historic event as the first new herd book of an indigenous breed of cattle to be established in over 90 years.

“Our ambition is to build momentum towards our goals of establishing a viable population of the breed and maximising the economic and conservation/potential of the breed.”

With no more than 15 herds believed to exist on Irish farms, the society was grant-aided by the Department of Agriculture towards genetic testing and working with ICBF while drafting rules for a new herd book.

The breed is generally black in colour with a white strip along the back but there are some variations to the colour and some are more speckled.

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‘An Droimeann Donn Dilis’ is believed to have been based on the tale of an Irish farmer brought low by taxation lamenting to having been forced to part with his precious Droimeann cow.

The board of the society is as follows: Matthew English-Hayden (chairman, Rathoe, Co Carlow); Pádraig Fuller (secretary, Tralee, Co Kerry); James Casey (treasurer and registrar, Skibbereen, Co Cork); Tom Keane (general manager and registrar, Askeaton, Co Limerick), Shane Daly (Registrar, Killorglin, Co Kerry), Tom Hourigan (Caherconlish, Co Limerick), John O’Sullivan (Ballymacoda, Co Cork), Sheena O’Sullivan, (Ballymacoda), Michael Keane (Askeaton), Claudia Marl (Castlepollard, Co Westmeath), Gillian Smith (Carrigaline, Co Cork), Noel Kiernan (Ballymahon, Co. Longford), Tom Linehan (Foynes, Co Limerick), Nathan Moran (Loughrea, Co Galway)

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