Meet the dairy farmers just eight miles from O'Connell Street

Eight miles from O'Connell Street, the Dowling family are producing champion pedigree cows on a farm that once hosted the Ploughing Championships

Cyril and John Dowling on the family farm near Clondalkin in west Dublin. Photo: Bryan Meade
Cyril and John Dowling on the family farm near Clondalkin in west Dublin. Photo: Bryan Meade
Baldonell farm in west Dublin. Photo: Bryan Meade

Ken Whelan

Running an elite pedigree cow enterprise beside one of the biggest conurbations in Dublin requires a brave heart, but for Cyril Dowling the motorways, factories and multiplying housing estates surrounding his farm in Clondalkin hold no fears.

The 73-year-old, who has won six Diageo Bailey Cow championships and was a regular winner at the old RDS Spring Show, has been breeding his Canadian Holstein stock in the west Dublin suburb for years now and has no intention of stopping any time soon.

Cyril took over the family farm - "80 acres and another 50 around the place" between Newlands Cross and the Baldonnel aerodrome in the early 1980s.

The Dowling farm had been run as a tillage and mixed livestock enterprise by generations of the family. The farm had even hosted the National Ploughing Championships

Baldonell farm in west Dublin. Photo: Bryan Meade
Baldonell farm in west Dublin. Photo: Bryan Meade

"That was in 1933 when my grandfather was very friendly with all the Ploughing people - people like JJ Bergin - and I even remember Anna May McHugh coming to the farm in Clondalkin when I was a kid," recalls Cyril.

"She was a bigger kid - a bit like a bigger sister. I am reading her new book… a wonderful woman."

When Cyril took over the farm Clondalkin was still regarded a remote Co Dublin village surrounded by farmers producing milk for the old Dublin District Milk board.

"Back then Clondalkin was still a just village and our farm was surrounded by big breeders like the Bewleys, who were famous for their Jersey cows, and Sir John Galvin, who ran a big operation over in the Corcagh Park part of Clondalkin.

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"You must remember that it was not unusual to have top prize-winning cows at the RDS coming from a farm in places like Finglas," Cyril explains.

"So when I took over the farm it seemed a natural move to take an interest in breeding pedigree cows and showing them at country shows.

IP Farming. Cyril and John Dowling on their dairy farm Baldonell 8 miles fron O'Connell Street. Pic. Bryan Meade 22/09/2017
IP Farming. Cyril and John Dowling on their dairy farm Baldonell 8 miles fron O'Connell Street. Pic. Bryan Meade 22/09/2017

"I used to go out foreign on holidays when I was young, especially to the States and Canada - shows like the Calgary Stampede, where you would go and spend three days looking at the livestock.

"It was in Canada that I discovered the Canadian Holstein breeds and I started using the breeding line at the farm in Clondalkin."

And it is that Holstein line which continues to make the Dowling name in the pedigree cow-breeding world, as was witnessed at this year's Virginia Show, where his two-and-half-year-old heifer Baldonnel FM Sunshine won the Best Heifer in Milk at the prestigious Co Cavan event - a sure indicator of more prizes to come for the animal and the Clondalkin farm.

This prize-winner is by the Dowling home bull Baldonnel Flashmatic, which is one of the mainstays of the pedigree breeding enterprise - so once you see the Baldonnel prefix on the name of a pedigree cow, you will know where it's from.

Cyril runs the farm with his son John and supplies the high-protein quality milk from his 90-odd Holstein herd to Glanbia. It is high-yielding herd with yearly averages of 10,000 litres.

His other son, Colin, is similarly farming - "down in Two Mile House near Naas in Co Kildare, but we help one each other on both farms".

"I suppose we are like the horse breeders - always keeping our eye out for a good animal and always keeping the breeding lines straight. But that's not to say I wouldn't sell one of our cows. I'd sell one of them if the price was right. I am not afraid of selling good cows," Cyril says.

Genomics

And developing a pedigree herd and showing the best of them is a year-round occupation and not just a hard week's work on the week of a show, he stresses.

"It's a full-time job in terms of paying attention to the dietary needs of the cows we would be showing," he points out.

And while Cyril says that the "explosion" in AI, EBI and genomics has been a great help in developing the national dairy sector, he admits that he is a traditional purist when it comes to breeding lines.

No changing this pedigree man, though his grand-daughter Kate, who has her own pet heifer on the farm, often thinks otherwise, says Cyril,

He is unfazed by the amount of urban development which continues around his farm and admits that developers of all sorts and inclinations have approached him with a view to buying his farm for development.

"They were offering big sums in the boom and even some 34 acres of my land in the area was rezoned by South Dublin County Council for use as a national children's hospital. But nothing came of that... and even today it still hasn't been built."

As far as Cyril is concerned he is the same Clondalkin man today as he was when he was playing GAA with the local Round Towers club.

He still meets up with his acquaintances in the local pubs near the historic tower in the old village.

It's as though the whole redevelopment of that part of Dublin never took place as far as Cyril Dowling is concerned - or his prize-winning herd for that matter.

Indo Farming


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