Nestled among the small drumlin hills of south Leitrim is the Drumkeelwick pedigree Hereford herd owned by brothers Melvin and Selby Lang.

The brothers are well known as cattle breeders in the area, with Melvin being a regular at shows and sales around the country, no matter what the breed.

Herefords are part of life on this farm, with Melvin’s father Stanley having started pedigree breeding in the 1930s.

The two characters are some of the few old-timers left on the pedigree breeding circuit.

The house is well known in the area as a céilí or visiting house. Local farmers and neighbours congregate at night to chat about all the news in the locality, the cattle trade and breeding cattle.

Chats and craic

All the problems of the world have been solved around the solid fuel range in Melvin’s small kitchen, with chats and craic sometimes going on into the small hours of the morning.

Melvin, who is just about to turn 80, is reducing the herd size as age calls time on his ability to look after large numbers.

Fifteen cows and 15 calves, including young bulls and heifers, have been included in the sale on Saturday 25 September at 2pm in Carrigallen Mart.

The Drumkeelwick herd prefix regularly pops up in the back breeding of show winners and sale toppers.

During the visit, the Lang brothers were full of stories about breeding, breeders and the craic and sport that they had down through the years of breeding cattle.

Drumkeelwick Perki, a March 2020-born son of Ardmulchan Nutcracker is included in the sale.

Remembering their annual trip to the RDS bull sales, Melvin said: “We would wash bulls here on a Sunday and load on a Monday.

“A few local breeders – Dougie Stewart, the Dunlops and the Farrellys – would all have bulls that would go with local haulier George Rosmond.

“The sale took place on Tuesday to Thursday, with three rings in operation. We stayed with a Mrs McCrossan at 12 Dodderview in Dublin.

“It was all Shorthorns, Herefords and Aberdeen Angus back then, with a couple of hundred bulls at the sales.

“People came from all over to buy bulls there and some of them would be delivered on the train after the sale.

“They were great times and we used to look forward to that week for a long time.”

Standout names

Recalling some of the standout animals that he bred over the years, Drumkeelwick Beryl gets a mention.

She was sold to businessman Joe McGrath as a young heifer and she went on to win the RDS spring show as a weanling heifer, a two-year-old heifer and later as a cow. Not too many animals have managed to do that.

Melvin’s house is full of photos of different Drumkeelwick-bred animals winning at shows down through the years.

He has several photos of RDS winners, including one of Drumkeelwick Admiral, winner of the March class of bulls at the 1959 show and sale in the RDS. Admiral was sired by Kilcleagh Optimist and is out of a homebred cow Drumkeelwick Ruby.

Melvin has a head for names, with cows’ and bulls’ names listed out going back to the 40s and 50s.

“It was different times back then. We used to walk cows to bulls to get them bred.

“You’d think nothing of walking cows a couple of mile to get to a good bull. That was the way it was done, seems like hardship now, but they were simple harmless times.

“There was no lad looking up stars on a phone or computer either and we got by the best,” he quipped.