Cattle breeders all over Ireland will mourn the recent passing of Max Kilroy, who was general manager of the North Western Cattle Breeding Society, commonly known as Doonally AI, for over 30 years from the early 1960s until his retirement in 1995.

Max graduated from Trinity College Dublin in the 1950s as a vet.

He spent four years in Zimbabwe working as a government vet and was involved, among other things, with the tsetse fly eradication programme for cattle.

Using his experience with the tsetse fly, he was a major contributor to the Irish warble fly eradication programme, which started in the late 1960s and successfully eradicated the warble fly in the Republic of Ireland.

During his term as general manager, Doonally AI pioneered progeny testing of its beef and dairy bulls and by 1973, Doonally had more than 1,000 progeny on test.

Testing programme

The scale of this testing programme was similar to the large testing programmes which were starting in the US and Europe at that time.

Max Kilroy designed the criteria for this testing programme, paying particular attention to the special needs of farmers in his area, as well as emphasising the commercial traits which contribute to profitable production.

Max was recognised as a forward-thinking and innovative AI manager, as exemplified by his role in facilitating the building of the North Western Regional Veterinary Laboratory at Doonally, where the North Western Cattle Breeding Society donated the site.

In 1970, he commenced protein testing in dairy cattle and, in 1971, Doonally AI became the third AI centre globally to change over to freezing semen.

Popular sires

This ensured that the most popular AI sires were available for many years.

In 1975, Max was yet again a pioneer with his introduction of Canadian Holstein sires to Ireland.

One of these was Doonally Roybrook Star (ROK) from the noted herd of Roy Ormiston, Roybrook Farms, Ontario.

This bull transformed many Irish herds and his semen was exported to the UK and Europe.

Bulls were imported also from the major British Friesian herds in the UK and also from prominent pure Dutch Friesian herds in Friesland.

In his life’s work at Doonally AI, his dedicated scientific approach and his innate talent in the area of cattle breeding ensured a successful career, culminating in a major contribution to the profitability of livestock farmers throughout the northwest and beyond.

Max was a founder member of Sligo Rotary Club and served as president from 1977 to 1978.

– Jimmy Waters