Nigel Owens is a renowned international rugby referee and a Hereford breeder from Wales. Nigel has had a strong interest in farming since he was a child. From a young age he spent many weekends and summer holidays on his grandparents farm and went on to work on a farm after he left school. Nigel and his partner Barrie recently bought a farm of land and a herd of Pedigree Hereford cows. Their first calf on the farm was born in April and Nigel has said that he wasn’t as nervous refereeing the world cup final! Nigel chose the Hereford breed because he believes they are sturdy and docile and easy to look after. Nigel also reckons they are wonderful mothers which was a major factor in his decision.
Robin Irvine, alongside his wife Edith, runs the Graceland Hereford Herd in Co. Armagh. Graceland Herefords were established in 1983 and Robin has been heavily involved in the development of the Hereford breed ever since. He has seen many changes in that time including great improvements in genetics, carcase quality and growth rate in the breed. The last 20 years has witnessed the number of calves being registered to a Hereford sire in Northern Ireland increase three fold.
Robin has judged at several shows across Ireland and says that the key points to watch for when judging are structural correctness, a good carriage and a bright eye.
Robin confirmed that Herefords are in the right place in terms of lower environmental impact and greater sustainability. However, he also recommends that the aim should be to focus on the commercial traits to keep the breed high on the leader board in the red meat industry and right across the food chain.
Adam Woods is a suckler farmer from County Cavan and is the beef editor with the Irish Farmers Journal. Adam comes with a wealth of knowledge of the cattle industry in Ireland and is a strong believer in the merits of Irish suckler and beef farming. He believes that by improving genetics, especially in dairy herds we will see an increase in the opportunities for the beef sector.
Adam sees two major challenges for the Irish Beef Industry, firstly the environment and climate change and our ability to prove that Irish Beef is carbon efficient and secondly, consumer sentiment towards eating beef and red meat.
In Adam’s opinion, the main strengths of the Hereford breed are easy calving & easy finishing. He identifies the results of the THRIVE Programme as being particularly strong for the Hereford breed but believes there are always improvements to be made and everyone has a part to play in making them.
In terms of crossbreeding with Herefords, Adam’s view is that there is an opportunity there to breed a smaller cow that is better suited to heavy land as well the benefits of having a faster finishing animal on the pocket – he highlighted that it typically costs less than €1 per day to finish cattle off grass compared to €2 to €3 per day finishing indoors.