Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

West Cork breeder Pat McCarthy has taken over as president of the Irish Hereford Society


Pat McCarthy on his farm at Ballymore, near Bandon. Photo: Donie Hurley
Pat McCarthy on his farm at Ballymore, near Bandon. Photo: Donie Hurley

Martin Ryan

Pat McCarthy is a small-scale pedigree breeder but that hasn't prevented him becoming president of the Irish Hereford Breed Society.

"I suppose you could say that it is democracy," says the West Cork man who has spent a lifetime handling and managing livestock within the region where he grew up on a traditional, "mostly Shorthorn" farm.

Pat's appointment as top man in the Irish Hereford Breed Society is recognition of his commitment to the development of the breed in the Munster area over the 25 years since he purchased his first pedigree white head animal.

The 'Bearnagaoithe Herd', founded in 1991, was built on female lines from such established herds as 'Coolbueclan', 'Skehanore', 'Carrigroe', and 'Drisheen'. Within two years Pat was to the fore in establishing the West Cork Hereford Club which has had a big impact on the promotion of the breed throughout the south west.

"I wasn't an officer at the start but I was there the very first night the breeders met to organise the west Cork club," says Pat who has served both as its Secretary and as its Chairman.

He has been succeeded by his son, Patrick, who has also served as secretary of the Club and the Club's organising committee when they hosted an excellent Hereford cattle show at Clonakilty for the visit of the European Hereford Conference tour in 2005.

"For the best years of my life I was manager of the mart at Skibbereen and then the mart at Bandon over a period of 32 years," says Pat, a native of Bantry, who moved to Ballymore, Bandon following his appointment to management at the nearby Bandon Mart, part of the Cork Marts Group.

While manager at Bandon he was responsible, with then local council member Frank Appelbe, in initiating the now annual and very successful Bandon Hereford bull show and sale.

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This has expanded over the years with the quality improving year-on-year to become the go to venue for both local breeders and many farmers looking for a Hereford bull.

He was also one of the stalwarts in the very successful Spring Calf Promotions at Bandon, Skibbereen and Fermoy marts in recent years.

At that time of his appointment to Bandon Mart, Pat was running a commercial suckler herd and then started into the Herefords. "I bought a few and then a few more and built it up from there," says Pat.

"I would always have been a great supporter of the traditional breeds. I remember as a youngster growing up on the home farm in Bantry we kept all Shorthorns.

"They were the popular breed at that time and my uncle always said that if they got the same treatment as the Friesians they would have been great animals.

"I liked the Hereford as it is a very easy animal to keep, very docile and easy to manage. The family were young at that time and some of them had a great interest in livestock and I was going to go for some breed that was very docile for that reason," recalls Pat.

With the death of his wife, Mary, plans for the development of the Hereford herd stalled. "With three teenage sons and a full-time job at the mart something had to go and I slipped back a lot on the Herefords," he says.

In 2003 the pedigree herd was revitalised with the purchase of a heifer from the well known 'Lislaughtin' herd of the late Harold Fitzell at Ballylongford.

The Fitzell herd was dispersed 11 years later with Jessica 15th and her heifer calf Alma 10th selling for a combined €7,200, such was the countrywide interest in the blood line.

Pat's herd now comprises 11 registered pedigree Herefords upon which the future will be built. He believes there is a bright future for the breed, more particularly because of the phenomenal success of the Irish Hereford Prime promotional campaign since it was launched 20 years ago.


"It was slow in the beginning," recalls Pat. "The breeders put the money into the scheme at the start and the finishers are now putting money into the scheme, because it has contributed a lot to the current popularity of the breed and it is giving a good return.

"The bonus on the Hereford X is very important to producers, but it is the quality of the meat and the customers that Hereford Prime has picked up on that is paying the bonus on the Hereford," he states.

The recent breakthrough in marketing Hereford Prime into the United States is a further boost for the future of the breed.

Described by his colleagues as having brought to the Hereford Breed Society Council "a cool, calm head with extensive experience of dealing with dairy and beef farmers and their issues" he was their unanimous choice for the presidency.

On his ambitions for the office he says: "I would hope to get more of the breed used in the suckler herd. Most of the Hereford X that are being slaughtered at the moment are coming off the dairy herd.

"In recent years there are a lot more stock Hereford bulls being used in the dairy herds probably a lot more than there was in the eighties and the nineties," he adds.

"As the dairy herds have got bigger breeders have moved more towards the Hereford as the main stock bull - they are using AI for breeding the herd replacements - but they are finding that the demand for Hereford calves and store animals is giving good return."

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