Friesian pioneers scoop top award
The Ballydehob dairy herd has been named as the IHFA/RDS 'Champion of Champions' for 2017
When the Ballydehob 'black and white' dairy herd was started more than 60 years ago by William Shannon, few could have envisaged the impact the new breed would have on Irish dairy production.
Back then there was a lot of scepticism among Irish dairy farmers about the Friesian breed and many questioned the merits of the new genes at a time when the traditional Irish dairy shorthorn dominated on the farms in this country.
Robert Shannon's 80-strong herd of Holstein-Friesians on a 26ha platform produces an average of 8,214kgs (1,809gls)of milk at 4.70pc fat and 3.67pc protein.
This would be well beyond the wildest dream of his father William who introduced the breed to his Cork homestead farm to found the Ballydehob pedigree Friesian herd.
"In those days there were about 25 cows kept in the herd and of course it was all Friesian at that time - the Holstein had not been introduced - and the breed was only starting to take off in this country," recalls Robert who took over the management of the herd 25 years ago.
"We were originally farming at Ballydehob and when we moved to Ballinascarthy we kept the name for the herd and merged with the herd of my wife Shirley's farm here," he says.
One of the top 20 EBI Holstein Friesian herds in the country, with herd average conformation score of VG 85, the Ballydehob dairy herd is the IHFA/RDS 'Champion of Champions' herd for 2017, a prestigious honour that recognises the achievements of over two generations of careful breeding.
The RDS Champion of Champions awards, presented annually by The Royal Dublin Society, are described as linking the current generation of cattle breeding with the RDS Spring Show of a bygone era which was the main agricultural focal point for farmers and the shop window for breed development up to a few decades ago.