The grand old dame of pedigree cows turns 20

Sean and Breda Murphy and their son Gearóid pictured with 20-year-old Knocktown Prelude Earle, possibly the oldest pedigree milker in Ireland. The Murphys farm at Rathfardon, Clonroche, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Photo: Patrick Browne
Sean and Breda Murphy and their son Gearóid pictured with 20-year-old Knocktown Prelude Earle, possibly the oldest pedigree milker in Ireland. The Murphys farm at Rathfardon, Clonroche, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Photo: Patrick Browne
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Is this the oldest working pedigree cow in the country? One thing her owners, Sean and Breda Murphy, are certain of is that Knocktown Prelude Earle owes them nothing after almost 20 years of service.

Despite producing 170,670 litres of milk over the course of 14 lactations, the amazing Holstein Friesian cow has never caused her proud owners a moment's bother.

"I've never pared her feet - not once - and I don't think she's ever had a day sick," said Mr Murphy. If anything, the Clonroche farmer almost regrets the fact that his prize cow drew so little attention to herself over the years.

"I wish I had given her more special attention over the years and taken her out to shows, but I suppose I just didn't realise what I had until it was too late," he said.

The cow was the result of a mating between the once famous Canadian bull Prelude and a Barbican cow that Mr Murphy bought for 2,300 guineas at a dispersal sale in Galway nearly 30 years ago.

"It was big money at the time, but any money that I ever made out of the cows I ploughed back into families that I really liked. The Earle family from the Barbican herd in Northern Ireland was one of the very best back then," explained Mr Murphy.

Despite being classified excellent by the Irish Holstein Friesian Association assessors no less than six times, the EX94-6E cow still gets zero preferential treatment.

"I run all the cows together, just like a commercial herd. And still she never produced less than 2,000 gallons per lactation, and I never had a problem getting her back in calf," said Mr Murphy, who milks 100 cows along with his wife Breda and son Gearóid.

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Knocktown Prelude Earle was also awarded a coveted diamond award in recognition of the huge amount of milk solids that she has produced during her lifetime - a total of over 11,000kg of fat and protein during the last 14 lactations.

Best of all, the old dame is back in calf, and due to calf later this spring after she turns 20 next Sunday.

Indo Farming


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