Anne and Richard Keating originally began making cheese more than 20 years ago in an attempt to increase the income from their circa 50 acre disadvantaged farm near Clogheen, Co. Tipperary. Early experiments in the kitchen of their home lead to what was to become a well-known, multiple award winning brand of Irish farmhouse cheese.
In 1987, the Keatings' 17,000 gallons of milk quota were filled by 19 cows. Originally milking Holstein-Friesians, Richard not only complained about the cows' frequent foot problems but found their milk too low in solids for successful cheese making. To increase milk quality by raising protein and lactose, he decided to move to MRI cows.
Apart from now getting excellent milk for their budding business, Anne and Richard found the MRI ideally suited to their farm. They were hardy cows, didn't suffer from any foot problems and had a good temperament. Richard recalls, "The most magical thing compared to the Holsteins was, that the MRI were easy calvers."
MRI cows supplied milk for Bay Lough cheese until a few years ago. During that time, Anne and Richard built up a thriving business. Now 70 years of age, Richard decided to sell his dairy herd 3-4 years ago. "Anne and I have 4 sons and 2 daughters," says Richard. "Two of our sons live in the States, and when the two boys living here at home got married and their priorities changed to their own young families, we decided to give up milking. When we advertised the herd, the phone nearly lit up with enquiries and we could have sold our animals twice over. I loved the cows and was sorry to see them go. If I was younger and could live my life again, there is no doubt in my mind that the MRI would be my first choice of cow. I have nothing but the highest of praise for the breed!"
Anne and Richard Keating are now buying their milk from a local farmer. "He is not milking MRI, but his herd has a lot of Norwegian Red blood," explains Richard. As the Scandinavian breeds were originally founded with Dutch MRI and old German Rotbunt bloodlines, this is an alternative that Richard is happy with.
Available in good delis around the country, Bay Lough cheese in its wide range of delicious varieties has gone from strength to strength. This is undoubtedly attributable to Anne's and Richard's hard work and determination, but we would like to think that their MRI cows made a not insignificant contribution to their business.
The MRI Society wish Bay Lough cheese continued success and would like to thank Anne and Richard for having shared their story with us!