Bygone Days: Conference of cattle owners held in Belfast to promote Friesians (1922)
A public meeting connection with the Irish Milk Cow Improvement Association which was held during this week in 1922 in Messrs Robson’s Auction Mart, Chichester Street, Belfast, under the presidency of Mr Thomas English, JP, reported the News Letter.
There was a good attendance of members and the chairman said the association had been operation for almost two years, “during which time had been active, principally through its members scattered over the county, propagating knowledge as the best way of breeding and improving the milk cows of Ireland in order increase national wealth without any appreciable extra expenditure”.
He added that: “The great increase in the number of cows tested for milk yields was largely due to the efforts of that association, which had not only pointed out the way, but had also offered large prize inducements.”
Captain James Gregg proposed the following resolution: “That public meeting of farmers and others interested remunerative cattle farming is of opinion that the Ministry of Agriculture, Northern Ireland, should, when giving premiums owners of stock bulls, pay particular attention to the milk parentage of breeds accepted for premiums by county committees.
“It is desirable, in our opinion, that the ministry should encourage the importation, breeding, and use of bulls whose progenitors have been milk recorded for lengthened period.”
Continuing, he said that dairying had not been farmers had not been paying, and farmers had gone in for store cattle instead. He said they wanted the ministry to get dual purpose bulls that could breed up the milk of the country and “bring it back to something like what it used to be”.
Mr Harry Burn, MP, in seconding, said he was interested in the question from the point view that they wanted “a plentiful and pure milk supply at a price which would bring it within reach of even the very poorest classes”.
Mr William Calwell said: “No other country has the climate, the pasture, the other opportunities for dairying that Ireland has, but instead being the top in the industry were are at the bottom, with an average production of 400 gallons per cow.
“We would not be talking about Friesian today if the old Irish cow sixty years ago had not been banished. When I returned to this country after a quarter of a century’s absence I found that the cows of my early days had disappeared and when I asked old farmers the cause, their answer was, 'department bulls'. That is what the department had done for milk production.”
He continued that he was in sympathy with the attempts that were being made now at that time, “but it is like looking the stable when the horse has been stolen”.
He added: “The Ministry is asking Mr Greacen, the inspector, to build up stock of milking cows, but he does not have the material at his disposal, for we have many cows which cannot feed their own calves. The only way to improve the milk supply was by breeding. The Fresian breed has absolutely revolutionised the dairying industry the United States and Canada, and, in fact every country except Ireland.”
Continuing, Mr Calwell criticised the action the Irish Department Agriculture in preventing the importation of cattle into Ireland, a breed which, he said, “was sweeping everything before it”.
Now, he alleged, there was scheme in Northam Ireland discredit the Fresian by subjecting them to unfair test.
He said: “A few years ago there was only one 2,000 gallon cow in the British Isles, now there are 63, and of these 60 are British Friesians. The only hope for this country is to import some these cattle, then Ireland would soon lead the world in the dairy business.”
He urged those attending the conference in Belfast to “press on the Ministry of Agriculture on the absolute necessity of importing Fresians.” The motion was passed.
Mr John Boyd, JP, moved: “That this meeting considers that much harm is done to dairy farming by the small farmers of the north selling their best cows for export when they come their prime, instead of keeping the same for improving their herds. We consider that the ministry should extend the premium system to cows of exceptional merit whose owners belong to the small farmers of the six counties.” He added that farmers “stood in their own light selling their best cows for export”.