In the beginning
The first Limousin cattle, eight “F” series heifers, came to Ireland in 1972 via twelve weeks in the Spike Island quarantine station, heading for the farm of singer songwriter Paddy Clancy at Cregg, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary. They were followed a year later by about one hundred “H” series cows and a small number of bulls, including the Chastanet Damaras son Hervin, who was to stand for so many years in Mitchelstown. These early imports were mostly owned by North American interests fronted by Irish residents, their purpose being to provide a conduit for producing stock eligible for export to Canada, the U.S. and Australasia. However, the most significant import was another hundred group of “I” series heifers which came into Ireland in 1974. These were to make up the nucleus stock of some of the herds which stood the test of time, and indeed are still active today, such as the Pelletstown herd of Roger McCarrick, the Seamus Cody Ballysorrell herd, the Nicholas Grubb Castle and Dick Collins’ Canovee. These herds effectively absorbed the preceding “H” series cattle as at that time the live export to North America and Australasia had already ceased.
In those early years the Society was All Ireland based, and indeed a lucrative market existed in Northern Ireland for breeding stock. However in 1981, the Northern Ireland breeders moved to the British Limousin Society to take advantage of a lift off in Limousin in northern England and Scotland. There was a major agricultural depression at that time in Ireland, and that was the darkest hour for Irish Limousin. Under the then Presidency of Seamus Cody, with the Society near bankrupt, an audacious plan was conceived, the “Roadshow and Raffle”, in which Nicholas Grubb one of the largest breeders, transported a young bull around four, month long, series of fifteen cattle marts nation-wide, raffle tickets being sold at each venue. The first chilly February day in Bandon saw over 500 tickets sold at £1 each and suddenly the Limousin were financially and promotionally on the road. At the same time Barbara Grubb became the secretary of the breed, taking on the thirty three members remaining after the Northern Ireland split. Since that time, the Limousin breed in the Republic has enjoyed a long and steady period of expansion, with over 1900 breeders by 2004, but it was not until the early nineties that it really became a leading breed in every sense of the word.
It was actually a decision made in 1987 that was to be the key to the Limousin success. At that time the Dept. of Agriculture ceased to give a service of inspecting all pedigree cattle for herd book entry. Only the Limousin decided to maintain this practice. A just retired, livestock inspector with the Dept., Mr.Joe O’Kane was taken on by the Society to continue this work, which he ably did for a period of five years. In 1992, when Mr.O’Kane retired due to bad health, Mr.Seamus Cody was sent to France for training in the scoring system, after a few years to be joined by Mr.Martin McCullagh. This was to turn out to be a major advantage to the breed, as it slowly but surely replaced the heresay and mystique of the show ring with hard recorded fact, combined with the tremendous value of having a well informed advisor come onto the farm on a regular basis.
Top A.I. Usage
Another highly significant co-incidence also took place at that time, in that the French breed programme began to come of age and start producing it’s first properly selected and indexed A.I. sires and Irish veterinary import restrictions began to ease out. The Irish breeders have been massive users of these top sires over the past eight years. In the last five years there have been over six thousand progeny off these top bulls. There has also been a massive use of Lanaud tested bulls, either in natural service or in Irish A.I., these accounting for a further 15000 purebred progeny. The Irish Society are sole agents for SERSIA France Limousin Testage bulls and the “on farm” French bulls within their contract period, and have pursued a policy of facilitating their breeders with such top genetics at minimal cost.
The next major development for the breed came with the decision by the Irish Dept.of Agriculture to use the Limousin data in the development of a pilot beef breed BLUP scheme, under the auspices of Dr.Al Grogan. This has led to the Limousin being the first Irish beef breed to show genetic indexes on all stock, having the major advantage unlike the other beef breeds, of being able to provide a large bank of data, a consequence of the compulsory scoring of their cattle over a number of years. All Irish Limousin cattle now have genetic indexes on Muscular development, Skeletal development, Functionality ( legs / feet ) Breed characteristics, Docility, and many also have a Weaning weight index and a Yearling weight index as well.
Getting To The Top
From 1994 to 1998, the Limousin breed in Ireland expanded at 15% per annum. In 1999 this increase has moved up to 20% and in 2000 to 25%. At the same time the commercial use of the breed has increased greatly, and Limousin has moved to top in the beef A.I. league. Much of this Limousin expanision is due to change to part time beef farming, which favours the attributes of the Limousin, and the great change in direction for Irish beef production toward the mainland European markets where the Limousin is so greatly favoured. These very positive and soundly based statistics mean that inevitably the Limousin breed will soon become Ireland’s leading beef breed.