Herd Profiles

The Cloninaha Herd

Thomas Heenan farms in Cloninaha between Borrisokane and Ballinderry in North Tipperary. His 50 acre farm is mostly lime stone based, running to a small area of peaty soil. With only 22 acres of paddocks for grazing with cows around the farm yard, the 36 cow Cloninaha herd is made up of MRI and MRI crosses, with just a few British Friesian cows.

Tom says:-

My first MRI cow was purchased at the Firmount clearance sale in April 2003. My first MRI calves were born in spring 2004 and that year, I also purchased an MRI stock bull. 25 MRI calves were born in 2005 and those calves formed the base of my present day herd.

In the years 2009 and 2010, all early born male calves were sold. April and May bull calves are reared to the following spring, with all females kept for replacements which calf down at between 30 and 36 months.

Over the years, the MRI straws used include Peter, Marcel, Berry, Vespo and Rudolf.





The Ramon Herd


MRI Cattle -- Ramon Herd -- Cows on grassBilly and Anne McMahon from Breaghy, Ramelton in Co Donegal tell their story....

Up until 1992 Billy and his Dad were milking 25 Friesian cows, with a calving pattern from November until June. Earlier calving cows were bred to Friesian and then later ones to a beef breed. It was extremely difficult to increase cow numbers as there always a scarcity of replacement heifers born in the herd. There was also increasing difficulty in sourcing British Friesian genetics at that time as Holstein genetics were dominant, so the scene was set for an alternative.

In 1992 Billy saw an article about MRIs in the Farmers Journal, and later saw an ad for MRI semen, and 5 straws each of Mark 9 and Willie were bought. From these straws 6 heifers and 2 bulls were born in 1993. Those 6 heifers were the foundation of the MRI genetics in the herd.

Billy and Anne were married in 1993 and while on honeymoon went to see 2 herds of pedigree MRI cows. Following that visit we bought 2 pedigree in-calf heifers and a 9 month old bull - Wouter 20 - who was a Dutch import. We registered the herd as "Ramon" - the beginning and end of Ramelton, and decided that the entire herd would be bred to MRI, and that we would attempt to grade up to a full pedigree herd, with as few purchases as possible. Since then the only female stock we have bought have been 4 heifer calves.

Wouter 20 was here for 4 years, when we sold him on to another dairy herd. They kept him for a further 4 years, where he served up to 100 cows and 35 heifers annually - replacing 3 stock bulls needed previously. He then went to a further herd for breeding.

We started using more AI, and in 2000 Billy did the DIY course, since then the focus has been on AI breeding with a bull only used as a sweeper.

Currently we milk around 75 cows in a totally spring calving herd, 70% are pedigree and the rest are grade registered. Most of the cow paddocks are near vertical as the more horizontal fields are kept for silage so turnout is late, and housing is often early. Cows are usually on silage from the beginning of October to mid April, and are housed full-time for at least 5 months, so the silage pits need to be well-stocked! Therefore calving is held back until March to match turnout (80% of the cows will calve in a 4 week period), and will be finished by early May. We have milk recorded for 10 years and our 2007 figures were:- 305 day lactation, 1438 gall/ 6731Kg milk, 3.68%/ 248kg fat, 3.48%/ 234kg protein. All the cows are dried off the week before Christmas and Billy has a 2 month break from milking.

The cows are bred by AI for 6 weeks and then a bull is used for 3 weeks. The heifers are bred by AI for 3 weeks and a bull is used for 6 weeks, to calve down at 2 years old. The first 3 weeks of breeding is the most focussed period of the year as the next year's calving depends on it. Anything not in calf at the end of the 9 weeks breeding (very few) will be culled and beefed the next winter - Billy often says that "if you don't pay the fare, you don't get on the bus".

Replacement heifers, RamonHerd, MRI Cattle Society of Ireland

Until a couple of years ago we reared all bull calves to bull beef at 18 months old and averaged grade R3. We also sold surplus heifers at a year old. However, as the number of cows has increased, we now rear only our replacement heifers and a limited number of pedigree bulls. Calving is generally straight-forward - the calves are lively and easy to teach to teat feed. They are reared on whole milk, with surplus calves, both heifers and bulls, being sold at 2-3 weeks old.

MRI Calves on NZ type teat feeder, The Ramon Herd

We are very happy with the breed - they suit our spring calving system well as they are calve easily and so are easy to get in calf again, they are happy to have a calf a year, and are a pleasure to work with (and look at!).

For more information contact Billy on 087 249 2362.

The Sunnyside Herd


Frank and Trevor Bryan pictured with Sunnyside Daisy, the first calf born in Crohane in 1992Robert and Ann Bryan of Ballinascarthy near Clonakilty in Co. Cork look back to remember why they got into MRI cattle:-

Back in the 1980s here in West Cork, where milk quota was impossible to get, with less than 20,000 gallons of quota on a 50 acre holding, we had to look at other options to just milking cows with very low protein and fat. Our Holstein-Friesian cows also had poor fertility and lots of feet problems.

We started to look at other breeds and because we wanted an animal for beef as well as milk, became interested in this dual-purpose breed which we thought would be suitable for our circumstances. In 1991, we tried some MRI straws on our black and white cows, and in early spring of 1992, we bought our first in-calf MRI heifer. To our delight she produced a very nice red and white heifer calf. On her following four pregnancies she obliged us by having a heifer calf each time.



Sunnyside Daisy, now a senior cow....

In the meantime, we bought a pedigree MRI bull which we used on the entire herd. We were rewarded by seeing all resulting calves develop into strong, healthy animals. The bull calves were brought to beef and finished at 2 years old, coming up with excellent grading that would match continental breeds. Even MRI x Holstein bulls came to beef on fodder beet and very little meal. We kept the heifer calves for replacements using A.I. by now. We found that MRI cows gave no problems calving; they would literally look after themselves and we would often walk into the shed to find active, suckled new-born calves with their mothers. The calves were very healthy and easily managed. We also found they had a very placid temperament, just like their mothers.

Trevor Bryan using the MRI's docility for his own purposes

In 1994, we took to the agricultural show scene, competing in Limerick with our two MRI heifers. The following years we competed at Clonmel, Clonakilty and Tullamore shows; back in Limerick again in 1995 we got breed champion with a maiden heifer.

"Edward Adamson (left) of Carrickfergus, with the champion MRI at Limerick Show 1995, lead by Eric Bryan (right) on behalf of the breeder, Robert Bryan

Limerick Show 1995

In 1998, we had the breed champion and reserve champion at Limerick Show. In 1999, the same milking cow as had won the previous year, was again presented with the Barlow Trophy for Breed Champion in Limerick. Ten years later, this cow is still in the herd at 16 years and produced yet another heifer calf in 2008. She is from the same cow family as the top A.I. sire Rudolf, bred in Holland, now standing in Germany.

Ernest Beamish (right) presenting the Barlow Trophy for Breed Champion at Limerick Show 1999 to Eric Bryan, holding Clonsillagh Katy 1 (breeders: Donal & Ann Cronin)

Limerick Show 1999

Over the years, we have been very happy with the performance of our MRI cattle. Not only are they much easier to feed that Holstein-Friesian's, they have virtually no health problems and our 40 cows which are all milk-recorded, show very good protein and lactose readings. For 2007, the herd production summary for our herd (pedigree and upgraded animals) showed 1,417 gallons (6,633 kg) at 298 kg and 3.87% fat and 265 kg and 3.57% protein. Bull beef slaughtered at around 20 months regularly achieves R grades, whereas cull cows are graded O and R.

MRI cows at grass

We find there is good demand for both male and female stock, and we have sold a good number of females, both pedigree and grade-ups. Pedigree bulls have been sold to customers in various counties around Ireland. In 2002, we sold a bull to a customer in Co. Antrim and our latest sale in early 2009 was to a farmer near Powys in the U.K.

One highlight of our MRI breeding was in 2008 when we hosted an Open Day for MRI breeders, neighbours and friends. Though daunting when we began to organise it, it was a very enjoyable day and it was very rewarding to see everybody having a good time - including the cows. Through breeding MRIs we have made some very good friends and have gone to events which we would never otherwise have thought of travelling to.

MRI Open Day May 2008

Open Day 2008

We are particularly proud to have sold our bull "Sunnyside Don" to Dovea Genetics in 2012, where he now stands as one of their MRI A.I. bulls. Don is out of a Doris 249 dam and was sired by Binkart. He has been allocated A.I. code SJD and semen from him is freely available.

MRI bull Sunnyside Don

Anyone getting involved in MRIs will be well rewarded for breeding these very lovable red and white animals.

You can contact us on 023 88 392 70 or phone Robert on 087 211 4227.


MRI Cattle: Red & White and proud of it!

The Releagh Herd


The Releagh Herd heading for home

In 1997, John and Heike O'Sullivan of Bonane, Kenmare, Co. Kerry started looking at alternatives to the Holstein-Friesian type animals they ran on their 80 acre farm at the foot of the Cork and Kerry mountains. The farm is rugged and wet; there are only about 9 acres with good soil, the rest is stony and peaty. The land can only carry up to 20 milking cows plus replacement heifers.

Heike remembers:-

At that time, Teagasc was pushing dairy farmers to select modern Holstein-Friesian A.I. sires with high RBIs. John and I knew this was not the right route for us due to the marginal nature of our land. The Holstein cows we bred needed plenty of meal supplementation and were simply unhappy, standing with hunched backs in wind-swept paddocks. The type of land we own doesn't grow the kind of grass these cows needed, nor does it produce the quantity of grass required to maintain such cows. The paddocks at the far end of the farm necessitate a long walk from grass to milking parlour. I remember John constantly paring the hooves of lame cows. Come calving time, cows needed careful attention and assisted calf births were the rule rather than an exception. Coming from a non-farming background, it seemed an awful waste of resources to me, having to sell "unwanted" Holstein bull calves for peanuts, happy that someone would take them off our hands.


In 1997, we started considering breeds other than Holstein-Friesian. We crossed Normande sires on a couple of black and white cows; in '97 and '98, we bought two pure-bred registered Dairy Shorthorns and in spring '98, we bought a pure-bred registered, in-calf MRI heifer. The Shorthorns were given a chance to prove themselves on our land until spring 2000 when they were shown the road. One had no yield, the other no protein. The Normande crosses, too, didn't stay. Despite having a rather dairy-type frame, they had no milk.

The MRI springing heifer duly produced a heifer calf and milked well in her first year, amazing us with 3.46% protein - not something we had been used to from our black and white cows. This cow continued going from strength to strength, the protein averaging 3.87% in her 4th lactation, yielding around 1,000 gallons annually on poor grass and next to no meal. Throughout her life, she showed in calf after the first insemination, duly producing a calf per year. Until the end of her life after her 8th lactation, she never had any foot problems, and she topped everything by having a lovely temperament. It would be fair to say, this cow converted us to become MRI breeders.

Releagh Herd - Photo 2

Coolkirky Belle 2

We started using MRI straws on some of our Holstein-Friesian cows but concentrated mainly on pure breeding by purchasing maiden and in-calf heifers and breeding them to A.I. In spring 2009, there will be 18 pure- and cross-bred MRI cows and heifers calving down in our herd. Because we prefer our heifers to calve at three years of age, we run three generations of followers. As we don't have the capacity to rear the bulls for slaughter, they are usually sold at less than six weeks of age as commercial calves, with the exceptional bull calf being sold for breeding. The big difference between selling MRI and Holstein bull calves is, that the MRI or MRI X calves achieve prices very close to or as high as continental calves. Now, rather than being grateful to sell a surplus bull calf, we have buyers coming into the yard, looking for them and paying good money for a good animal.

Releagh Herd - MRI Heifer & Calf

Noreen & son

We find the advantages of milking MRI cows are manifold. They are very easy to feed and don't hide near the ditch on a rainy, windy day - quiet happily feeding away in the middle of the paddock with their backsides to the wind. There are virtually no health or foot problems; calves are easily born without assistance and are up and sucking within minutes; the cows clean quickly thanks to their slightly sloped rump. Milk yield has not suffered and herd protein has improved greatly. At the end of their long productive lives, cows don't become a waste product but are easily fattened, with cull cows returning very attractive cheques from the factory. The odd cow that is culled from the herd early in life for one reason or another finds a ready market as a suckler cow because the breed qualifies for all suckler related schemes.

MRI Cattle - Releagh Herd - Flossie



MRI Cattle -- Releagh Herd - Valerie


As small producers, our time may soon be up but as long as we're in dairying, we will be milking MRIs. In our situation, on our land, this is the cow for us, living up to the promise "Milk & Muscle".

Releagh Herd - Belle 2

Belle 2

Releagh Herd - Diane



Stock is occasionally for sale. For enquiries, please phone John on 087 749 7660 or Heike on 087 287 1123.

Latest News

A.I. Sire Statistics 2014

Here is the Top Ten of most used MRI A.I. sires in Ireland with live offspring born in the calendar year 2014:-

AI Code

Bull Name

MY %

AI Company

2014 Offspring




Dovea Genetics





Dovea Genetics





Progressive Genetics





Progressive Genetics



Sunnyside Don


Dovea Genetics





Dovea Genetics





Eurogene / LIC





Eurogene / LIC





Eurogene / LIC





Eurogene / LIC


(Source of data: ICBF)

Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) 2015 - 2020

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine are currently posting the application form for the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) 2015 - 2020 to herd owners. By entering into the programme farmers are committing to meet the requirements of the BDGP for a full six year period. The closing date for applications is 29 May 2015.

We would like to remind all keepers of MRI cows for suckling purposes, that - as a true dual purpose breed - the MRI are eligible for inclusion in the BDGP as well as all other beef payment schemes.

MRI cow with Limousin bull calf

Progressive Genetics’ MRI Sires 2015

Laurence Feeney, Marketing Manager for Progressive Genetics, has confirmed availability of semen from the following MRI sires:-

Laurence also confirmed that SiryX sexed semen from Dutch MRI sire Marcello is still available at a cost of €45 per straw. Due to the high cost and low usage of sexed semen Progressive Genetics do not carry stock of sexed Marcello semen. Progressive Genetics therefore require intended users to order some weeks in advance, to enable the company to import the semen.

For more information about SiryX sexed semen click here.

To arrange delivery of semen to your local A.I. technician or your own flask, please phone Progressive Genetics on 01 4080743.

Dovea Genetics’ MRI Sires 2015

Pat O'Connor of Dovea last week confirmed availability of semen from the following MRI sires:-

Please note that there may be limited availability of some of the sires listed above!

To arrange delivery of semen to your local A.I. technician or your own flask, please phone Dovea Genetics on 0504 21755.

Damian DN available from Dovea Genetics

Dovea Genetics of Thurles, Co. Tipperary are introducing straws from Dutch MRI bull "Damian DN" for the 2015 spring A.I. season.

Born in Holland in 2007, this Duisenberg x Guido bull's bloodlines may suit many Irish breeders. Damian is classified 100% pedigree MRI, and at time of writing, the following production values apply: Irish EBI 152 (Milk 49); Dutch NVI 162 (Milk 197); German RZG 119 (Milk 121).

According to the German RSH (Rinderzucht Schleswig-Holstein), Damian DN daughters have proven to be well built, with a wide pelvis and sound, well positioned feet and legs. In Germany and Holland, Damian DN is considered easy calving and suitable for heifers. His Dutch ratings for somatic cell count are excellent, no doubt aided by his daughters lengthy teats, however, teat placement is not always ideal. The RSH suggests to pay attention to the udders' comparatively weak central ligament and the slightly low rear udder height.

Official breeding values show Damian DN's daughters to be blessed with immense longevity in Dutch dairy herds, the rating of 251 vastly surpassing the advised average value of 100.

ICBF has issued Damian DN with A.I. code S2301, and any enquiries and orders should be addressed to your local Dovea area representative or their head office (ph. 0504 21755).