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).