Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Tamara Fitzpatrick Twitter Email

Why this Meath farmer swapped his continental cattle for Belted Galloways

Dermot Colreavy with his Belted Galloways on his farm in Ratoath, Co. Meath. Pictures by Seamus Farrelly.

Last year, Meath man Dermot Colreavy swapped his herd of 20 continental cattle for four Belted Galloways. Although it was a big drop in numbers, he says he now feels he is breeding something for the future.

Before getting into Belted Galloways Dermot used to source continental cattle from the west of Ireland. Pictures by Seamus Farrelly.

“For the last 10 years I had been buying in 15-20 cattle in March and keeping them over the summer on the family farm here in Ratoath and then selling them in December,” he says.

“It was a mixture of breeds, all continentals that my cousins in Leitrim sourced locally.

“I got to a point where I felt there was a lot of uncertainty with my farming system — I didn’t know what price I’d have to buy them or sell them at, and I wanted more control.

“I wanted to be breeding something for the future rather than for just the summer.”

Dermot works off farm with the Department of Agriculture at Dublin Port.

Dermot says he was always interested in Belted Galloways because of their qualities and their looks.

“I was always keen to have a successful closed breeding herd and I always loved the look of the breed, they’re very striking.

“As a part-time farmer working off-farm they’re a good breed to have and I felt they fitted my enterprise going forward.

Belted Galloways are known for being hardy and easily maintained, according to Dermot.

“They’re known for their ease of calving and their good mothering skills, which was key for me.

“They’re a Scottish breed so they originate from a similar climate to ours. They’re double-coated and they’re very hardy and can be out-wintered.

“They have no horns and they are a lower-input breed capable of minding themselves to some degree.”

Dermot's herd is out-wintered and fed a 100pc grass-based diet.

In May 2021, Dermot bought three pedigree-registered Belted Galloways.

“I got in touch with the Belted Galloway society and the chair, John McHugh, sourced them for me,” he says.

“He is a very enthusiastic breeder from Roscommon and I felt it was important that someone who knew the breed and had good connections sourced them for me. I wanted something with a proven track record.

“I bought a cow with a heifer calf at foot and an in-calf heifer. The cow with the calf at foot cost me €2,200 and the in-calf heifer was €1,800.”

Dermot on his farm in Ratoath, Meath.

Dermot had his first calf born on the farm this spring and he is nearlyready to start weaning it. He feeds his stock a 100pc grass-based diet and keeps them outdoors 12 months of the year.

“Belted Galloway cattle are very protective mothers,” he says. “I had been told that as soon as the calf drops, they become a different animal, so you have to be a bit weary and that proved to be true.

“The heifer was very protective of her calf from the get-go. They have a very strong natural instinct that kicks in immediately.”

Belted Galloway beef is prime beef, according to Dermot, because of its distinct marbling.

The breed is smaller than most cattle and to be registered as pedigree, Belted Galloways must have certain qualities, says Dermot.

“They need a perfect white belt around them and have no other white anywhere else — that’s one of the breed society’s requirements,” he says.

Their meat is unlike regular beef too, he says, because of its distinct marbling and Dermot hopes to sell directly to butchers and restaurants.

“Belted Galloway beef is considered prime beef — it is slow to mature and it is known for its lovely marbling and good fat. It’s premium food.

Dermot hopes to sell his Belted Galloway beef to butchers and restaurants in the near future.

“My plan is to build the herd over time and retain all the heifers for breeding. The males could be sold as pedigree bulls or as beef — I’m keen to explore the market for Galloway beef.

“Consumer demands are changing and consumers want that story of ethically produced. Butchers and restaurants want that too, they want to be able to tell the story of the meat, where it came from and how it was produced.”

Off farm, Dermot works with the Department of Agriculture and is doing a masters in agriculture.

“I work in Dublin Port where I carry out checks on exotic loads of fruit and vegetables and on horses coming back into the country,” he says. “There’s been a lot of horses coming in lately so that has kept me busy for the last few weeks.

To be registered as pedigree, Belted Galloways need to have a pure white band around their abdomen, with no white anywhere else, according to Dermot.

“With the horses you have to check all the paperwork and do a visual inspection too.

“With the fruit and veg you have to check all the paperwork and ensure the load is coming from a registered place. You also have to carry out weight checks and make sure all regulations are adhered to.

“I’m also doing an MA in UCD in agricultural extensional innovation.

“My big interest is how farmers take on advice and implement it. Policy plays such a huge part in farming now and it’s essential that the person who is advising the farmer is trained to the highest standard and has the best capability to transfer his or her knowledge.

“I’d like to work in an agricultural advisory role down the line.”

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.