Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 January 2018

Stock women honoured for lifetimes' work

Martin Ryan profiles three women who have made a lasting impression in what was traditionally a man's world

Bridie Foley (87) still enjoys farming and keeping Angus cattle.
Bridie Foley (87) still enjoys farming and keeping Angus cattle.

Three women, who between them have given more than 130 years of dedication to breeding pedigree livestock, have been honoured among the National Livestock Hall of Fame recipients for 2016.

The senior roll of honour went to 87-year-old Bridie Foley whose involvement in breeding pedigree Irish Angus goes back for more than 60 years with the Hillsgrove Herd at Kilmore, Carrick-on-Shannon.

Bridie who came from a farming family, and "always had a love for farming", qualified as a nurse at a Dublin hospital, but never lost her love for the land and returned to the farming way of life when she married her late husband, Michael.

"I haven't seen that much change in the breed.

"The Angus, which originated in Scotland, were always hardy and very suited to the land in this region of the country because they were also easy calving and very easy to handle.

"They are very popular around here," she said.

"I know that I am 87 years, but I don't feel my age and I still enjoy farming and keeping the Angus cattle. Age is only a number and I think I am still a young person," said Bridie.

Her late husband, Michael, was a founding member of the Irish Angus Cattle Society in 1967 and served as National President for two terms during which he represented Ireland at the Angus World Congress in the US.

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Bridie and Michael bred some outstanding stock in the Hillsgrove Herd of which one of the most famous, Justin 13th of Hillsgrove, was not only widely sought after in this country but went on to produce hundreds of progeny in Netherlands and further afield.

Hillsgrove Bride was three times All-Ireland Champion and often described as "the best cow ever shown".

Bridie has maintained her involvement since Michael's passing in 1999 and continues to breed Angus.

She presents the Michael Foley Cup, in memory of her late husband, to the Supreme All-Ireland Angus Champion annually.

Fiona Gilsenan

An Open Day at the Pelletstown Herd of Dr Roger McCarrick was Fiona Gilsenan’s first introduction to the Limousin breed.

She was so impressed that she didn’t wait for long to get the first Limousin, Seabank Tamarind, to become the

foundation of the Limousin herd at Ardglasson, Co Meath in 1983.

The recipient of the Irish Limousin Cattle Society Hall of Fame 2016, the citation underlined “Fiona, the woman behind this high-profile herd is still actively involved and tends to the daily management of the herd”.

The herd has produced show champions and progeny which sold for up to €9,750.

The mother of eight is also keenly interested in horses and horse racing, and has been involved in breeding thoroughbred horses, training horses and rode in point-to-points  with some success.

Mary Rafferty

From Mullabrack-Scott, Co Monaghan, Mary has been  secretary of the Breffni/Oriel Holstein Friesian Breeders Club for 27 years. She received the IHFA Hall of Fame Award 2016 for “a dedicated lifetime contribution to the breed and to the success of an invigorating club outlet serving Black and White breeders  in Cavan, Monaghan and the wider border counties”.

The  farmer’s  daughter from North Monaghan got her first introduction to the Friesian breed shortly after she married Paddy Rafferty, when the Brackvale Pedigree Holstein Friesian herd was established. The herd continues to flourish to this day, helped by the input of their daughters, Denise and Andrea.

Recipient of the Breffni/Oriel club’s first Person of the Year award, Mary was also presented with the Irish Holstein Friesian Association ‘Breed Promotion Recognition Award’ at the Association’s Golden Jubilee celebrations last year. She has been involved in the formation of the IHFA Young Members Club, the hosting of the Expo Show as show secretary, and IHFA educational tours to Canada, Holland and the UK.

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