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HomeBeefIrish Moiled cattle grazing 375ac on Rutland Island
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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Irish Moiled cattle grazing 375ac on Rutland Island

The Inis Fraoigh herd of Irish Moiled cattle was established by Denis O’Boyle in 2014 and since then, the herd has grown from strength to strength.

Denis would not consider any other breed for the Islands, the Irish Moilie are and will be a permanent part of the Inis Fraoigh and Rutland Islands landscape.

Grazed over three hundred and seventy-five acres, usually the cattle spend summer on Inis Fraoigh Island and winter on Rutland Island, only being housed when calving.

Once calved, they are put back out on the island, as keeping newborn calves in a little time would make the calf too soft and unable to cope with the weather.

Grazing the Irish Moileds on the island plays an important role in the habitat management, they promote the diversity of wildflowers and grass species.

On Rutland Island, during the walk, it was hard not to notice the richness of the grass which had an abundance of wildflowers such as bedstraws, bird’s-foot-trefoil, eyebright, knapweed, marsh pennywort, marsh thistle, mints, orchids, ox eye daisy, devils bit scabious, sedges, self-heal, sorrel, sphagnum and branched moses, tormentil, wild carrot, vetch, violets harebell (the unusual bell-shaped small purple flower), wild thyme, hawkbit, yellow rattle.

The vibrant colours of the flowers dotted the landscape as far as the eye could see.

It was visually evident the positive effects that the Irish Moiled cattle have had on the island.

It was noted while walking across through the long grass, where you could not see underfoot, the ground was hard and not poached, which is hard to believe when the ground is grazed all winter long.

But that is one of the benefits of the Irish Moiled they do not poach the ground in the way larger, heavier beef breeds unfortunately do when wintered out.

The harsh and changeable climate with an abundance of rainfall is certainly very challenging for the Irish Moileds.

Storm Betty

The group attending the Irish Moiled Breeder’s Day certainly got to experience that on Saturday when Storm Betty hit the west coast of Ireland on Saturday morning.

While many in the group were not confident the day would go ahead, Denis, a seafarer man, was very confident the day would go ahead, keeping a check on the weather and leading the group from the village of Burtonport onto the ferry at 12 noon.

Storm Betty began to lose her power and a group of upwards of 60 breeders headed for Rutland Island on the very same ferry as the Irish Moiled cattle are transported to and from the island.

In days gone by, swimming livestock from Rutland Island to the mainland was once the only way and a familiar scene before the ferry was introduced.

Arriving on the island, breeders certainly will go away with a lasting impression, having been greeted by the inspiring and welcoming tones of the bagpipes which were played as everyone stepped off the ferry and onto Rutland Island.

Denis and chairperson Michelle McCauley, welcomed everyone, and the day began at Duck Street where Manus O’Boyle (Denis’s uncle), who was the last of his family to be born in the end house in Duck Street, spoke about the history of the Island.

New lease of life

Sadly, we heard how as the fishing industry declined so did Rutland Island and it became permanently uninhabited in the 1960s.

But, it is heartening to hear how the island is today enjoying a new lease of life with families long associated with the Island returning and renovating homes their ancestors once lived in.

Manus’s excellent knowledge of the Island gave a truly wonderful and interesting insight into the history of the Island, which we could have listened to all day.

But we were here to see Irish Moilies and their lovely home and having to consider the time to suit the ferry back and the tides, the breeders set out on their venture of the Island.

There are no roads on Rutland Island, so the start of the walk began along the grassy street of Duck Street, heading across the island’s beautiful landscape filled with an abundance of grass and species-rich flowers which the Irish Moileds graze during the winter months.


Stepping down through the sand dunes onto the white sandy beach of which the views were picturesque and breathtaking, hearing more about the Island, the islanders and how the Irish Moileds come down onto the beach at low tide to graze on the seaweed.

The Moilies are easily maintained, renowned for browsing and eating plants that other breeds of cattle would pass by, requiring less concentrates than most other breeds of cattle.

The other positive about the Irish Moiled breed are they rarely require veterinary assistance, which Denis’s daughter Sarah, who has recently qualified, as a vet can fully agree with.

Sarah hopes to start her own herd of Irish Moiled cattle alongside that of her father’s.

After a beautiful walk along the beach the group headed inland to be greeted by the distinctive sight of the Inis Fraoigh Irish Moiled herd and their young calves at foot.

These hardy, hardworking cows were milking off their backs, with their udders full of milk, they had fantastic growthy, fleshy calves at foot.

Beef burgers

Denis has had a crop of mainly bull calves this year which he hopes will be again used by those specialising in selling purebred Irish Moilie beef.

Last year, Tom Huges, who runs Lisnamulligan Farm Produce, purchased all Denis’s Moile steers. After returning to Duck Street, Lisnamulligan Farm Produce had Irish Moilie beef burgers ready.

Everyone was feeling ravenous after the walk and heartily tucked into the Irish Moilie beef burgers which were divine.

On top of having Irish Moilie beef burgers, family members and friends of Denis had also put on a spread of home-baked breads, scones, cakes, and tarts, it felt like it was a step back in time when everything was cooked from scratch and had a homely taste that could not be bought in a shop, simply delicious.


Nigel Edwards, the Irish Moiled Cattle Society registrar spoke on the need to get more Irish Moiled breeders based in the Republic of Ireland to join HerdPlus.

HerdPlus is ICBF’s subscription service which provides herd-owners with performance data that can be used to increase on-farm profit.

HerdPlus uses data from many different sources including animal events data, ai data, carcass data, genomic data, milk recording data, weight data etc.

The ICBF database then combines this data and compiles it into various profiles, reports, and applications, such as each animal’s Eurostar rating.

Chairperson, Michelle McCauley, presented a gift to Denis and on behalf of the Irish Moiled Cattle Society thanked him and his family for making everyone so welcome and going to such effort in making the breeders’ day a success.

Ukelele Irish music is not something you get to hear often, but on Rutland Island, Denis ensured that before breeders left, they got to hear a local group of talented musicians playing ukeleles and singing Irish folk songs, and it was magical.

An island steeped in cultural history, beautiful scenery, music, food, good people and of course has one of Ireland’s oldest, surviving indigenous breeds of cattle, the ‘Irish Moiled’ grazing on it, it was simply ‘magical’.

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