The Speckle Park breed of cattle is one of the most recent breeds to hit Irish soil, but continues to gain traction year on year.

Just last month, closing out the 2020 year, the breed saw its first Irish export to mainland Europe.

While exports to the UK had been recorded in the past, the export of Lanmore Hero to Holland broke new ground in creating a new market for Irish-bred Speckle Park cattle.

Not even nine months old, bull calf Hero was bred by Patrick Morrison, who farms a small herd of purebred Speckle Park outside Westport, Co Mayo.

Pick of the bunch

He said: “Hero was the pick of the bunch and was our top-performing bull of last year. He was bred from the well-proven sire Templemichael Artic. His dam is also well proven in the herd and has always produced a good calf, with female progeny retained and male generally the first to be sold.”

Similar to many of the cattle sold in 2020, Hero was purchased following back and forth online talk and the forwarding of pictures.

Despite never seeing Hero in the flesh, Dutch purchaser Robert Asbroek was happy enough to take a chance on the calf from pictures sent on by Patrick.

Most Speckle Park cattle in Holland are commercial stock, the result of semen used on the dairy herd, a market also growing here in Ireland.

I had a full-time job off-farm so needed something easy care

Asbroek will be using Hero as an outcross sire on these Speckle Park crossbreds later this year, which will be run as suckler cows when they calve down.

Patrick has one of the longest-established herds of Speckle Park in the country, having registered the Lanmore prefix in 2009.

After questioning the viability of a small commercial herd, he chose to go the pedigree route instead. He saw a small piece on TV about the newly introduced breed and decided to look into it a bit more: “I had a full-time job off-farm so needed something easy care. Having seen them on a farm in Cork, I knew they ticked a lot of boxes.”

Since then, Patrick has expanded the herd and will have 14 calving down in 2021.

Up until 2018, trade was slow but steady

Along with breeding, Patrick has also taken up the post of breed secretary for the Irish Speckle Park Cattle Society. The society will soon have 25 members in total, with commercial trade growing year on year.

He said: “Up until 2018, trade was slow but steady. However, the last two years have just seen a surge in demand. This is predominantly driven by the dairy market, which is quickly realising the benefits of using Speckle Park to gain a premium on the calf. The biggest problem last year was breeders didn’t have enough bulls!

“We had planned on hosting open days in 2020 to make people more aware of the breed and to show what they can do on a commercial setup. Obviously, COVID-19 put a stop to any plans, but hopefully we can try to arrange something in the year to come.”

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