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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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Clonagh and Jennalyn Simmentals: Meet the Behans who sold a bull for €52,000

Clonagh Herds has scooped national titles at nearly all agricultural shows across the country, and they have just set the bar even higher.

Last month, Garrett, and Lyndsey Behan, a Simmental bull, Clonagh Lucky Explorer, at Roscommon Mart for a staggering €52,000. The May-2019-born Manor Park Hansome son set what is believed to be a new Irish all-breed record price.

“From the moment he was born, he was special. He was called ‘Lucky’ for a reason, and we looked forward to his big day.” the Behans told That’s Farming.

“The presale nerve was a very different kind to usual. It has given the industry, as a whole, a great lift though!”

Laying the foundations

Before specialising in pedigree livestock, the Behans were involved in dairying until 2001. Garrett’s mother, Mary, purchased, Clough Sandra, the Simmental foundation cow, at the RDS in 1989.

Since their inception, Clonagh and Jennalyn Simmentals, which the couple run with Garrett’s father, Tom, have earned a remarkable reputation across Ireland and overseas.

The farm in Ballyfin, Co. Laois is home to a 120-strong suckler cow herd which calves from August to mid-April. They farm all pedigrees with commercial recipients sourced for ET work.

“The Simmental is the dominant breed in the herd due to feminine traits, excellent maternal instincts and abilities to rear and calf and of course, docility.”

Simmentals share the pastures with twenty Limousin cows, three Charolais (Jason’s herd) and four Aberdeen Angus (Jack’s herd).

The family sell bulls either at society sales or on-farm. Heifers are retained as part of a 30-36-month-old autumn-calving system based on genetics – if they wish to expand a family line or keep for showing. The remainder are sold at society sales. Heifers are retained as part of a 30-36-month-old autumn-calving system.

“Our ideal female has a feminine head, a good set of plates, good rib, plenty muscle down the leg and an ability to rear a good calf.”

Clonagh Darling Eyes ET
Image credit: (Alfie Shaw)
Expanding the herd

Garrett’s first pedigree, the £2,000 Clonaslee Wanda, was sourced locally. They retained daughters until the early 2000s to expand the herd. Of these initial purchases, three families remain, Sandra, Wanda, and Rosebud.

They purchased females at other sales over the years at various society and herd sales, Seabank, Millbrook, Lanmore, Hollowfield, Dovegrove. Initially, when building up the herd for the first decade, they retained all females.

“We try to abide by a rule of keeping the first daughter of every cow in case they can’t be made again.”

“Most years, we will keep our best breeding and future showing with the exception of our 30th anniversary sale last year selling Jubilant Fabulous and a number of others and this year’s Festive Females online sale.”

After the initial purchases in the 1990s, there were no additions for a period. However, grassland management practices, coupled with the retention of daughters from top cow families, and increased ET work, paved the way for expansion.

In 2004, Garrett bought Milton Senhorita as a 10-day-old calf at the Milton herd production sale. Milton Seabank also came home with her that day.

Since then, they purchased two more females from the Corlesmore herd. Furthermore, they acquired four from the Knockane herd, and Curaheen Gloria was purchased, introducing a polled line into the herd.

Milton Francesca, a full sister to Senhorita, was introduced to the herd as a weanling heifer to join her sister. A T-Rex daughter, Mohana Holly Fawn, going back to Clonagh Hazel, has been the most recent addition.

Clonagh Jubilant Fabulous – Overall Simmental of the Year 2019. Pictured day of selling €18,000 ISCS Premier Sale Female Record Credit: Alfie Shaw/Agriimages
Clonagh Jubilant Fabulous – Overall Simmental of the Year 2019. Pictured day of selling €18,000 ISCS Premier Sale Female Record
Credit: Alfie Shaw/Agriimages

95% of females are served to the current stock bull 22,000gns Manor Park Hansome, overall male of the year 2019. The breeders acquired Hansom, sire of European Simmental and Clonagh Lucky Explorer at the Stirling Bull Sales in 2017.

“He was the youngest bull in the sale, and he was doing 1.81kg/day. After arrival on-farm, he was doing 1.93kgs/day from birth up to the 21 months while working.”

Other animals that have left their mark on the herd include Ballybane Edward, purchased in Roscommon in the mid-1990s and a producer of some outstanding daughters still evident in the herd today.

According to the breeders, Banwy T-Rex put the herd “on the map”. “It cannot go unmentioned the impact that this bull made to our herd. On our last count, his progeny has accumulated 30 national champions and countless reserves and show and sale champions.”

“His own show record is still to be beaten after winning the National Livestock Show for a record three-years-in-a-row.”

Banwy T-Rex
Image credit: Alfie Shaw

Meanwhile, Kilbride Farm Dragoon, an “exceptional clean-bodied bull with extreme muscle”, has bred females to €18,000 and bulls to €12,500. His daughters are really starting to make an impact on the herd.”

Also, Bruchag Glenfididch, purchased privately and a renowned producer of highly sought-after sons, has left a mark.

Furthermore, Clough Sandra, the foundation female, still has a high presence in the herd. Dora the Explorer, Rubystar and Tilly Fiona are the most influential breeding females from her line, according to the Behans.

Seabank Rosebud, Temptress Posh dam of €12,500 Just a Dream and two AI sires Direct Debit and Frosty King, has also made the herd prosper.

Lastly, the aforementioned Milton Senhorita, a former national champion herself and dam of Miss World, Clonagh Darling Eyes, has been another powerful addition. “It is probably the most sought-after family in the herd, the Eye collection.”

Kilbride Farm Dragoon
Image credit: MacGregor Photography
Among the highlights over the years:
  • Banwy T-Rex – Supreme Breed Champion RUAS Balmoral 2009
  • Banwy T-Rex three times overall Simmental of the year 2009,10,11
  • Thirdly, Clonagh World Class, sold to Sacombe herd, English National Male of the Year 2012, and winner of the prestigious Burke Trophy.
  • Clonagh Dora the Explorer – Overall Simmental of the Year 2014 & 16, Miss Europe 2016
  • Clonagh Darling Eyes – Overall Simmental of the Year 2017 &18, Miss World 2018
  • Premier Sale Hattrick 2018 – Senior Male, Junior Male and Female Champion.
  • National Show 2019 – DOUBLE-DOUBLE champions, Overall and reserve overall female and male champions. Senior Female Championship consisted of only Clonagh cattle.
  • Clonagh Jubilant Fabulous – Overall Simmental of the Year 2019 later sold ISCS Premier Sale Female Record €18,000
  • 2020 – Lucky Explorer smashed records at €52,000.
Manor Park Hansome Image credit: Alfie Shaw

The Behan’s philosophy, “there is always room for improvement” may be simple, but it is the driving force behind their success. Top of their bucket list is to win the February Bull All-Ireland in Strokestown, the only national title, they have yet to scoop.

“Your cows are your herd; if your cows aren’t right, your herd won’t be. One good bull won’t fix that.”

“It could take years to rectify. We put every cow in calf with the aim to produce a female, the futures dams of the herd. Management and future planning are key. We are always planning ahead, especially when it comes to bulls.”

“Being a family farm, we love having the boys out and about with the cattle. They take a special interest in their few favourites, and we will try to nurture and develop that as best we can for the next generation.”

Festive Females Online Sale

The herd will host its Festive Females Online Sale on Friday, December 11th, at 7 pm. “They are the best bunch of heifers we’ve ever put forward for sale.”

“They are visually and genetically in a league of their own. The majority we don’t want to sell, but when you go to host an event like this, you must put your best foot forward,” they concluded.

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