RICHARD MCKITTERICK FARM MANAGER OF THE SILVERWOOD IRISH MOILED HERD
Tannaghmore Rare Breeds Animal Farm based on the outskirts of Lurgan plays a key role in conserving rare and traditional breeds of livestock. The farm was established on its current site in 1985, located within Tannaghmore Gardens. It is a popular venue for outings and family visits. The rare breeds animal farm offers close encounters with many animals traditionally found on farms in Ulster 100 years ago. Many of these breeds are now rare and close to extinction. The open farm itself covers approx. 4 acres but the livestock are used to manage approx. 200 acres of Council owned and maintained land including the National Nature Reserve at Oxford Island which is an Area of Special Scientific Interest (conservation designation, Northern Ireland, UK). The Farm is owned and run by Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council
Richard McKitterick began working at Tannaghmore Rare Breeds Animal Farm in 2013 as Farm Manager, since then time has passed so very quickly, during that time the knowledge and understanding Richard has gained regarding rare and native breeds has been fundamental and a privilege commenting “that he has been very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to help preserve and look after part of Northern Ireland’s living heritage – our native breeds to this island.
At Tannaghmore Rare Breeds Animal Farm the cattle herds are used for conservation grazing across lands owned and maintained by the Council to help establish species rich grasslands. The system in place is a low input, no fertiliser system in which the animals are used to manage the land instead of the land being managed for the animals. The herds are grass fed with only minimal concentrates given as a treat to help with stock management and handling. The cattle are outwintered and are fed supplementary haylage or hay made from their own lands on only specific sites which allow for this, cattle only come indoors at calving.
At Tannaghmore, native breeds are ideal for conservation grazing work, due to their typically hardy and thrifty nature, the rare and native breeds are generally considered to be the best animals for this job. As populations of rare breeds dwindle, so does the genetic diversity of their species. Some genes help a species resist a disease. As genetic diversity drops, those protective genes may die off with the disappearing animals. And that could put food security at risk, so it is important to keep as many of these native breeds going as possible for once an animal becomes extinct it’s lost for ever. These animals are part of our living history and heritage and helped shape our farming methods and landscape for centuries and as such need protecting for future generations.
The first Irish Moiled on the farm arrived around 1992, a bullock called Colm. He was used on display for visitors as an example of the breed. Earlier breeders loaned animals to the farm to help promote the breed with the farm acquiring their first female in 1993. Part of the foundation animals came from Belfast Zoo and the from the dispersal sale of the National Trust herd at the Argory.
The Silverwood herd of Irish Moiled cattle was formed around 1993 from the initial foundation animal and A.I was used for the first few years with varying rates of success due to the shortage of suitable bulls at the time.
The Farm has several rare breeds including Irish Moiled cattle, Dexter cattle, Kerry Cattle, Shetland cattle, Galway and Jacob sheep, Oxford and Sandy and Black pigs, Connemara pony, Bagot Goats and a large selection of poultry and domestic waterfowl.
The Rare Breeds Animal Farm has three main aims:
- To operate as a visitor attraction where the public can see and appreciate rare breeds. We are the only RBST Approved Conservation Farm Park in Ireland and get between 1000,000 and 130,000 visitor a year. We have free admission and are open 7 days a week and only close to the public on Christmas day. Encouraging people to be outside in an environment where they can interact with animals to help improve their health and wellbeing.
- To educate the public and the next generation on food and farming and the importance of conserving our native breed. We have CEVAS accredited staff who give prebooked tours to school groups using our native breeds to show where our food comes from, and the part played by farmers in producing it.
- Conservation through our ongoing conservation breeding programmes across all our breeds and taking part in genetic research projects. Raising awareness with the public of the importance of keeping these breeds going. Increasing biodiversity by conservation grazing of our lands
A first for the farm this year was the collection of A.I straws from a homebred Irish Moiled bull, Silverwood Bramble 3 out of the Silverwood New Dawn cow, one of the longest established bloodlines in the herd. Bramble 3 is currently the highest genetic evaluated bull currently available through A.I and straws will be available from him through the Irish Moiled Society. The farm hope to try and export some of his straws internationally to try and promote the breed with interest initially from New Zealand and Australia.
For the first time Tannaghmore Rare Breeds Animal Farm have entered two bulls into the online sale, Silverwood Bramble 3 an exceptional 3-year-old bull with great presence, has a great temperament, typically marked with a deep rich dark red colour. Bramble 3 is halter trained and with great genetics he would make a great addition to any herd. Also entered in the sale is Silverwood Elm a young bull with great potential with good bloodlines out of Ravelglen Cal EX92 he is halter broken and very docile.
Tannaghmore Rare Breeds Animal Farm hope to convert the Farm to 100% rare breeds over time and hope to continue to raise awareness of the plight of our Rare Breeds through engagement with the next generation as the youth of today will be the custodians of our rare breeds in the future.
The future of the Irish Moiled breed is optimistic considering where the breed was in the 1970’s to where it has soared to today, due to the hard work and dedication of breeders, the Irish Moiled Cattle Society and the RBST, the breed has made remarkable progress and has the opportunity to continue to progress over the next few years to be part of low input sustainable farming practices especially on farms with marginal land.
The Irish Moiled Cattle Society are once again holding their Magnificent Moilie Online Timed Auction bidding commencing at 7pm on Tuesday 5th April concluding 7pm Thursday 7th April. The Magnificent Moilie Catalogue will be available online from the 1st of April on Harrison & Hetherington website and the Irish Moiled Cattle Society website. For further information please contact breed secretary Gillian Steele by email