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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘A number of breeds that have been lost in relatively recent times, including the Tory Cow’

Organisers of the Irish Rare Breeds Conference, which reconvened for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic in Tullow Hotel, Carlow, last week from May 4th to May 6th, 2023 inclusive, have said that the event will “add impetus to current efforts and encourage new interest in indigenous breeds”.

Custodians of Ireland’s rarest breeds gathered from around the country to discuss the gains and challenges of some of Ireland’s most valuable and most vulnerable natural resources and to meet with world-renowned rare breed experts from home and abroad.

At the conference, Melissa Jeuken from the Old Irish Goat Society gave an insightful and captivating presentation on ‘The Goats that Fight Fire’.

Jeuken warned, “how Ireland’s newest rare breed and almost lost indigenous animal is turning the tide on the fight against fire and has appeared as a beacon of hope in upland and heathland management while assisting in the preservation of a genetically valuable rare breed”.

William Cormacon, from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, provided an update on the concerted efforts being made to conserve, research and practically utilise the Cladoir Sheep for breed-specific traits.

He spoke to the recently launched Rare and Heritage Breeds Study, and the importance that the recommendations be fully implemented: a national secretariat, positive engagement with rare breed societies and a 10-year strategic plan.

Multi-low emission swards

Dr. Thomas Moloney presented the advances in multi-low emission swards and their capacity for increased animal performance, greater water filtration and reduced nitrous oxide emissions.

Dr. Moloney has a strong research background from his time at Teagasc, where he completed his PhD and gained experience in grassland management and silage production systems using multi-species swards and how they can improve sustainability on Irish farms. These advances reiterate the inherent values of genetic diversity in farm systems, according to the society.

Pat Sullivan, IRBS Trustee, commented that “a number of breeds have been lost in relatively recent times, including the Tory Cow”.

He outlined that “from a food and function perspective, it was essential that measures to research and utilise indigenous breeds were stepped up, particularly relating to their effective populations”.

Seán Carolan, IRBS Trustee, also commented that “the benefits of the custodians of Irish breeds coming together with the relevant agencies, national and international academia to discuss the challenges, share insights from current and global best practices and chart paths forward for their rare breeds is significant.”

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