Irish Moiled Cattle Society creates a supply chain for the Beef Scheme
2019 saw the launch of the new Irish Moilie beef scheme for purebred Irish Moiled cattle that comes with a certificate of authenticity backed up by parentage proven DNA tests which the society has been carrying out for over 10 years. With an increase in the numbers of annual purebred Irish Moiled calf registrations reported, paralleled with an increased demand for this specialised beef the Society embarked on creating a supply chain. Everyone involved in the supply chain shares the same values in wanting to produce a local quality product which is highly sought after by the consumer due to its unique flavour and tenderness.
Part 1 – Breeder
The Ballyreagh and Curraghnakeely herds of cattle are exclusively pedigree Irish Moiled cattle herds owned by William (father) and Nigel (son) Edwards, situated in an upland area of Co. Fermanagh at 600 feet above sea level, around two miles outside the village of Tempo. The land consists of approximately 50% green grass pasture and 50% rushes or heather type land.
All the cattle are outwintered, the cattle forage on the rushes and heather areas over the winter months, helping with the control and management of rushes and heather on the farm. The Irish Moiled, being a medium sized cow are ideally suited to the land and management system on the farm, the lighter weight Irish Moiled cow means that foraging over the winter months can be achieved without poaching the land, keeping within cross compliance regulations.
Cows calve in the spring and the calves are weaned in the autumn, with all the bull calves being sold, and all the heifer calves being retained. After weaning, the heifer calves are grazed on the marshiest land on the farm and fed approximately 1.5 kg of meal per calf per day until the spring. Grazing the heifer calves on the wettest area of land is strategic, the lighter stock can cope better with the wetter land, but it also trains the weanlings to be very good natural foragers for the rest of their life. The maiden heifers are put to the bull at 15 months old so that they calve down at 2-year-old, with most of the cows in the herd comprising of 1st, 2nd and 3rd calved cows. The younger cows are preferred in the herd as they are lighter for the land and it also suits selling middle aged cows that are coming into their prime, to new and existing pedigree breeders.
An efficient cow with excellent performance is very much the key to success of the sustainability of the Ballyreagh and Curraghnakeely Irish Moiled herds. Individual cows must work hard to earn their place on the farm. The two performance parameters that are of most interest is; 1. Cow fertility and 2. Growth rate of calves. Heifers should calve down for the first time at the age of 24 months and they should produce a calf each spring year on year whilst producing plenty of milk to rear a calf of good growth rate from grazing on grass land pasture. A calf’s growth rate is also influenced by the stock bull’s terminal traits. A lot of emphasis is placed on stock bull selection within the herds which is very much responsible for the progressive herd improvement. Stock bulls are selected that produce progeny of a low inbreeding co-efficient’s when crossed with the females in the herd, also considered is the bull’s temperament, the bull’s weanling weight, the classification scores of animals in the bull’s pedigree and the mother of the bulls breeding record and milking ability.
Performance targets are being attained with a herd Calving Interval in 2019 of 355 days and bull calves born in 2019 had an average DLWG to weaning of almost 1kg. This achievement is not only through genetics but also because strict attention is given to herd health with a full vaccination programme in place to cover BVD, Leptospirosis and IBR. Calves get vaccinated for Black Leg before weaning and cows are also vaccinated 2 months before calving to help prevent calf scour. Youngstock are regularly wormed during the summer and autumn months and fluke treatment is carried out 5 times per year due to the cows being outdoors all year.
Without doubt the Irish Moiled is the breed of choice adaptable to the land in Co. Fermanagh and to cope with the management system used on the farm owned by William Edwards at Tempo, Co. Fermanagh. The launch of the Irish Moilie beef scheme in 2019 by the Irish Moiled Cattle Society really is the icing on the cake for the Ballyreagh and Curraghnakeely pedigree Irish Moiled herds. Historically, the weanling bull calves produced on the farm were sold in the local livestock market, with the exception of a couple of weanling bull calves each year being sold to other pedigree Irish Moiled breeders to become future stock bulls in their herds and on a few occasions Robert Boyle of Millisle, Co. Down bought a few weanlings for specialised beef finishing. In 2019 and hopefully each year in the future all the weanling bull calves were sold to a specialised Irish Moiled beef finisher, Billy Kelly of Pomeroy, Co. Tyrone. Each animal that goes into the food chain through the Irish Moilie beef scheme comes with a Certificate of Authenticity and as a breeder to support this certificate it is important to produce calves that are of high quality, they should be over 200kg at weaning, castration should occur before weaning and the weaning process should be complete before they leave the farm so as to minimise stress settling into their new home.
Part 2 – Beef Finishing
Robert Boyle runs a herd of pedigree Irish Moiled cattle on the east coast of Northern Ireland at Millisle, Co. Down. At Millisle the soil is rich and fertile and produces an abundance of lush grass which contributes to the exceptional taste and flavour of the Irish Moilie beef produced on his farm. Robert finishes to beef all the purebred Irish Moiled bullocks that are born on the farm, they are usually finished between twenty-four and thirty months. Robert doesn’t castrate his bull calves as weanlings, leaving them until they are around a 1-year-old picking off a few bulls with breeding potential, the rest being castrated. Robert finds by not castrating the males until 1-year-old helps them to fill out with a better frame and ultimately a better finished carcase.
Each year, Robert also buys in several purebred Irish Moiled steer calves that are sourced direct from the farm of pedigree Irish Moiled breeders in N. Ireland, hand picking weanlings that have a bit of size, with the aim that they will ultimately achieve a 300kg finished carcase weight. Depending on the time of year that finishing occurs, Robert would mainly finish his cattle off grass, but if finishing occurs over the winter months, approximately 5kg per animal per day of rolled barley is fed in the last forty days, before slaughter. He finds the barley gives the carcase a nice coating of white fat which helps protect the beef during the maturing process.
Robert finds there is a great demand for his finished Irish Moiled steers, most are bought by local butchers in Co. Down such as Angus Farm Shop in Greyabbey and Massey’s Butchers of Saintfield, however Robert has supplied finished Irish Moiled steers to several other outlets including Lisdergan Butchery in Fintona, Co. Tyrone. Butchers love the flavour of Irish Moilie beef and find that Irish Moiled carcasses are of perfect size, producing 8oz steaks of moderate thickness. Butchers prefer carcasses of a 4 and/or of a 4l fat covering so that they can hang the carcass for longer with the added protection from an extra bit of fat covering, which all adds to flavour of the finished product.
Part 3 – Butchering
Ian McKernaghan a world champion butcher and owner of Lisdergan Butchery in Fintona, County Tyrone, receives the Irish Moiled Cattle
Society stamp of approval from the Irish Moiled Cattle Society. The Society chairperson, Brian O’Kane was delighted to present the first Certificate of Registration to purvey Irish Moiile beef to Ian.
Lisdergan Butchery was established initially as a farm shop just outside Fintona in 2014 by Ian McKernaghan. Ian has worked in every facet of butchery over the last 30 years and has, through a wealth of experience gained a vast knowledge of butchery. Ian prides himself in sourcing the best produce available and hence since the launch of the Irish Moilie beef scheme, Ian has been sourcing purebred Irish Moiled animals. Richly marbled with incredible depth of flavour, Irish Moilie beef is a product Ian is very happy to supply to his customers whether it be in his shop or to any one of the restaurants he supplies.
The Irish Moiled Cattle Society co-ordinates a full supply chain of Irish Moilie beef right from directing weanlings from breeders to specialised Irish Moiled beef finishers so that businesses like Lisdergan Butchery will have a steady supply of purebred Irish Moiled animals to purvey Irish Moilie beef direct to consumers and to restaurants, such as the Grill Made In Belfast that currently has Irish Moiled steaks currently on the menu.
Every animal used in the Irish Moilie beef scheme comes with a certificate of authenticity ensuring each animal is a purebred Irish moiled reared and fattened to a high standard
Part 4 – Restaurant
The Grill Made In Belfast restaurant is one of three Made In Belfast restaurants based in Belfast, located in the heart of the Cathedral Quarters on Hill Street offering a contemporary haven of calm in the heart of the city. Passionate about using local suppliers the owner of the Made in Belfast restaurants, Stephen Loftus has seen the benefit of buying locally grown and reared produce which is superior in freshness and flavour and in addition, is fully traceable
Stephen commented on how he came to use Irish Moilie Beef “I originally discovered Irish Moilie beef around 14 years ago (2005) in Pheasants Hill Farm Shop in Comber, Co. Down. At that time, I thought the beef had an incredible unique flavour; being sweet, rich and creamy. I was unable to get enough Irish Moilie beef at that time to use on a commercial scale. Fast forward five years (2010), I was able to source Irish Moilie beef once again from Robert Boyle at Beechmount Farm through Crossgar Foodservice and we had very positive feedback from our customers eating it. After around 18 months, unfortunately this scheme dried up.
This year (2019) we decided to bring a unique product to The Grill, that’s when we reached out to Robert Boyle once again, to see if we could start purchasing some Irish Moilie beef from him with Lisdergan Butchery handling the processing. Irish Moiled cattle really fits with our ethos at Made In Belfast as the animals are traditionally farmed, fed on grass in low intensity farms. From a restaurant point of view, the moderate muscling, conformation and size of an Irish Moiled animal is perfect for plating coupled with the unique flavour makes it a perfect product for a modern restaurant.”
By using Irish Moilie beef with its rich marbling, texture and incredible depth of flavour, Stephen is taking steak to another level. The Grill is the perfect place to enjoy a casual steak for lunch or to try one of their amazing choice of steaks for evening dinner.
2020 certainly looks to be another year full of opportunities for the Irish Moiled breed. On the 25th September 2020 the Irish Moiled Cattle Society will be holding its first ever Show and Sale at Swatragh Livestock Mart with a draw at the sale for an Irish Moiled heifer.
Robert Boyle put up this Irish Moiled heifer ‘Beechmount Eve’ for a raffle, to raise funds for the Society. He hopes to show the heifer over the 2020 show season. Tickets can be purchased through the Irish Moiled Society