The Coens farm outside the village of Hollymount, two minutes away from the GAA club grounds, operating a drystock operation. They have a suckler-to-weanling beef operation running alongside their pedigree and commercial sheep flocks. Typical to most farms in the west, fragmentation is an issue, with outblocks a good distance away from the main holding.


The farm had in the past run 25 cows but an increase in ewe numbers has cattle numbers pulled back to 16 cows.

“We sell our bulls in either Ballinrobe or Balla mart at the end of the year, the heavier bulls touching 420kg down to 370kg or 380kg. We try and breed that golden Charolais calf that’s so sought after, with that bit of shape and class in them.

The type of cow that the farm aims to keep is a soft fleshing R+ grade Limousin.

“Our current bull is sired by Meillard RJ and has been doing a great job for us regarding the quality of calf he is throwing and his ease of calving,” said Stephen.

This combination of style and easy calving is what the Coens search for when purchasing stock bulls, noting Nelson and Pirate-sired bulls being used in the past.

Some shape can be seen in the herd’s Limousin-sired cows as well, with a medium sized 650kg-700kg R+ cow being the ideal cow type, as they are easier to feed as well as being lighter on the mixed land type that the farm has.

Cows are crossed with the herd's Charolais stock bull to produce the sought after golden-coloured weanling.

Replacements are sourced from within the herd through a small amount of AI. In a similar way to the terminal policy, ease of calving combined with that extra bit of shape and class sees bulls such as EBY and ZAG being used on older, proven cows, with docility of cows being a major criteria in selecting their suitability to breed replacements from.

Stephen doesn’t see the farm going to 100% AI due to its fragmented nature. Using a stock bull is certainly not affecting calf quality on-farm. Stephen talks a lot about the investment that the family puts into the farm, citing the fact that all profits generated are re-invested in the farm.

“The farm will get better and better, aesthetically and functionally, because of the investment we put in to it.”

Calving and lambing cameras were added last year, a two-bay slatted cattle shed has been fitted with plastic sheep slats and a good deal of fencing has been completed with TAMS aid.

A week old bull calf sired by the Meillard RJ stock bull.

The planned project this year is to complete a handling facility for ewes on the home block and TAMS fencing to sub-divide paddocks further.

Pedigree sheep

Liam Coen has been breeding pedigree Texel sheep for 35 years on the farm, with the flock running under the ‘Lehinch’ prefix. With his son David working for Sheep Ireland, the flock is all performance recorded. Animals failing to meet the criteria are removed from the breeding programme and slaughtered.

Strict physical criteria also have to be met, with teeth, feet and reproductive organs all assessed before making any ram available for farmers to purchase.

Up to 30 rams are produced for selling each year, with the vast majority selling on-farm to repeat customers. Surplus pedigree females are sold to new and existing breeders as hoggets.

A central focus on the farm is the pedigree Texel flock, with Liam selling rams for the past 35 years to farmers in the west.

The top two to three ram lambs would be fed more intensively to be put forward for the Blessington Texel Premier sale, whereas most rams sold at home are run on a more commercial grass-based system with minimal concentrates.

Stephen himself has added 15 purebred Lanark-type ewes to the flock, purchasing females through the Ballinrobe premier sale and joining syndicates for purchasing top-quality rams, while David has added five purebred Bluefaced Leicester ewes in the last two years. Cast Mayo Blackface ewes are also purchased annually and crossed on to a Leicester ram to produce desirable Mule ewe lambs, with the majority being sold off-farm, again to a high repeat customer basis.


Alongside his commitments to the family farm, Stephen has also been completing his PhD in Teagasc Grange for the past four years, analysing the impact of nutrition in early life on bovine reproduction, having previously completed his Bachelor of Ag in UCD.

The third cog in the wheel of Stephen Coen’s busy life is playing for both his local club, Hollymount GAA, and captaining the Mayo Senior football panel.

Mayo Blackface Cast ewes are purchased and crossed with Bluefaced Leicester rams to produce Mules.

Stephen highlighted that discipline and a strong work ethic are needed in his farming, PhD and football pursuits, and stated that growing up on a family farm and being involved from a young age instilled in him that work ethic and desire to see results.

Stephen also sees the farm as a great way to unwind from his other commitments, with the shared passion among the family to producing quality rather than quantity and continually improving farm facilities to increase the enjoyment and ease of management on the farm.

Fact box

  • Location: Hollymount, Co Mayo.
  • System: Suckler to beef, pedigree and commercial sheep.
  • Farm size: 20ha owned plus 20ha rented.
  • Cow numbers: 16 cows plus followers.
  • Cow type: Red Limousin-type.
  • Bull usage: Meillard RJ stockbull, EBY and ZAG for AI.