Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 March 2018

Blonde bombshells - the award winning cows from a Ballinalee farm

John Lynch is making his mark with the Ballinascraw blondes

John Lynch and his son, Stephen with one of the Blonde d'Aquitaine cows in the herd.
John Lynch and his son, Stephen with one of the Blonde d'Aquitaine cows in the herd.
Ballinascraw Glory, the Blonde d'Aquitaine cow that has earned many show awards for the herd

Martin Ryan

While small can be beautiful, it is also very successful when applied to the Blonde d'Aquitaine breed on the farm of John Lynch where a small herd of Blonde cows are to be found mingling among a much larger mixed commercial herd of continentals in Co Longford.

Mention the Ballinascraw herd to anyone in the world of pedigree beef breeding and the string of National Championship awards won by the Blondes from the Ballinalee farm in successive years immediately springs to mind.

Over the past decade the Ballinascraw Blondes have been punching well above their weight in winning the top rosettes in the national show rings around the country consistently ranking top of the class.

But for John Lynch, his wife, Bernie and son, Stephen who keep a herd of 50 sucklers, the five or six pedigree Blonde d'Aquitaine cows are the minority among the Limousin and Charolais on the farm, where a flock of Vendeen sheep also make up the stocking. Apart from the honour which the breed has earned for the herd, they have been playing a more fundamental role in crossing on Limousin and Charolais for the commercial side of their beef production, with a lot of success.

Progeny from the herd have turned out to be top performers at the National Testing Station at Tully and bulls from the herd for breeding are in constant demand from farmers around the country.

"We had the Limousin five or six years at the time I got into the Blondes in the early '90s. The first thing that caught my eye was the length that they had and then they were good for weight gain and a very good killout," says John.

"Then they are easy calved and a good breed for crossing particularly for crossing with the Blues," he adds.

He bought the first of the breed from Mrs Fallon, at Knock House, Duncormick, Co Wexford who was PRO for the Blonde d'Aquitaine Society in Ireland at the time.

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"I bought the first heifer from her at a sale at Naas and then she had a dispersal sale of her herd a couple of years later and I bought another heifer from the herd which turned out to be the best of the two," he says.

"We still only have a small herd or five or six cows. I suppose they are good ones," he says. He recalls that 'Scarlet' ,who completed a three in a row overall breed Championship achievement at the National Livestock Show at Tullamore in 2004, 2005, and 2006, has been succeeded by a granddaughter, Glory, that has brought home the same accolade from the National Show for 2012, 2013, and 2015.

Scarlet was bred from one of the heifers that he bought from Mrs Fallon.

She was a daughter of Majestic and Majesty was out of Fifi which was one of the first purchased. Scarlet was by an English bull, Whitefield Leader and her mother Majestic was by Woodtown Oscar one of the breed sires at Enfield Cattle Breeding Station.

Glory is still in the herd after her second calf now and following in the line of the grandmother. He didn't show Glory in 2014 when he showed another heifer Holly that was reserve champion at Tullamore.

Scarlet made her first appearance in the show ring in 2003 as a one and a half year old heifer, accompanied by a calf called Tammy. At that time the society held their All Ireland show in Tullow and Scarlet brought home the award for Overall Champion Female of the Show and the calf was Champion calf.

"Probably a higher kill out with the Blonde, and the cull cows are better with the Blondes as well. Local feeders are very fond of the Blonde cull cows," says John of the merits he sees in the breed.

He admits that there were some calving difficulties with progeny from some of the first imported sires in AI "which probably gave them a bad name with some farmers" but he is happy that it only applied to a few and was overcome within a few years as more information became available on the breeding experiences.

"Some breeders felt in the early days that they were a bit too tall and leggy, but we have been crossing them with the English blood lines to get more muscle and more shape into them.

"We are continuing to cross. To get more size we go for the French bloodlines and use the English bulls to get more shape," he explains.

On his plans for the future he says "We might go for a small increase over the next few years, but we still have the Pedigree Limousin and the commercial suckler herd as well on which we have used a Blonde bull for several years.

He explains the Blonde were crossed with Limousin and Charolais originally, but now they are gone into three quarter Blonde and are delivering good results

"The original bloodlines continue to produce great progeny in the herd. A couple of bulls out of Scarlet done very well in Tully and went on to Pedigree herds.

One of them was the top performer in Tully.

He was bought by a breeder in Mayo and he bred exceptionally well including a couple of top Tully prizewinners," he says.

John Lynch's herd of pedigree Blondes may be few in number but they have had a big impact and a bloodline that continues to produce some exceptional specimens of the breed.

Indo Farming