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Memories of a Friesian Groupie

The Irish Pure Friesian Club's own John Long shares his memories from the 1970s and '80s ... and he requested that the intro represent the other influence on his life back then... our graphics department tried their best.

Earliest memories of Dovea open days in the early '70s were of a big marquee and P. Prior blasting music for all to hear. If I close my eyes I can still hear Joe Cuddy singing “Any Dream Will Do”. From that to stock judging and farm visits arranged by the newly formed Tipperary-Waterford Club. It was an exciting and expanding time in the mid-70s. Silage pits, cubicle houses and milking parlours were being built everywhere. Every dairy farmer trying to milk an extra 5 or ten cows. Visits to early pedigree herds showed that they were a few years ahead of everyone else. I can remember seeing my first purpose built calving boxes complete with bailing gates and pulleys for swinging calves. I can also remember the first time I saw cow mats.

The object of the junior stock judging was to finish in the top 3 which meant automatic qualification for the RDS and the Fr Collins trophy. I had the honour of representing Tipperary-Waterford Club on 3 occasions with varying success.

Back then, you need never be stuck for somewhere to go because on farm auctions by Colin Johnson were always on within an hours drive from home. These sales by pedigree breeders, be they draft or dispersal were superbly organised and run by Colin Johnson and his most able clerk Walter Wheatly who was the most polite gentleman I ever met. It didn’t matter whether you bought a heifer or not you were fed like a bullock at these sales. Soup, sandwiches, tea & biscuits, you name it, it was there. The same went for the club field evenings where stock judging and looking at cows and buildings went on until it got too dark to see anything. You were fed royally by the women of the house before leaving, and because it was dark you had a strategy planned with watering hole for a pit stop on the way home.

In the '70s I was lucky to go on two Friesian tours to England and Scotland as a teenager and am proud to say I was in Taylor’s Hall Farm in Terling & Lavenham which was the mecca of British Friesian breeding since the foundation of the British Friesian Society. I remember a barn that doubled up as a banqueting hall and pride of place was Terling Marthus’s head. (He was stock bull there from 1923 to 1936.) Milking facilities were basic enough as were wintering facilities. I don’t remember much about the cows strangely enough, only that Terling & Lavenham was made up of twelve herds of about one hundred cows each and believe it or not the day we were there the cows were in and eating a diet of carrots and potatoes. Vegetable growing was the main enterprise on a vast estate east of London in tillage country and the cows ate the leftover vegetables. But most of all I remember the workmen on the farm. They were all elderly and gave all their working lives at Terling and were walking encyclopaedias of cattle pedigrees. I asked one to show me their best cow and he said of a big black cow “that’s the best one, mind you she’s not a show cow but you can’t live on show cows alone.” I often wondered what became of Taylor’s Hall after those men retired because they were irreplaceable.

Closer to home I was in Buckley of Ballenahive on the outskirts of Cork city twice. Once on a day trip and I attended the first Friesian field day in 1981 along with 20,000 others! Both times it was a hive of building positivity. There were excavators and Readymix trucks everywhere. Even at the open days health & safety didn’t count! They had a rotary milking parlour – another first for me to see a large scale dairy farm with about 300 cows under one roof.

John Long has the Roadmill herd in Thurles, Co. Tipperary and doubles as club historian.

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