A History of the Irish Pure Friesian

By Charles Gallagher

The Friesian cow takes its name from Friesland in Northern Holland and was imported into the UK in 1909 where the first pedigree herdbook for the breed was established known as the BFCS. Naturally they found their way into Ireland with the first known herd registered by Carl Jones Henry, Ardtarmon herd,  in Sligo in 1918.

It was after the war years that the breed became more popular and in 1965 a club branch for the breed was established in Ireland, the IFBA, with Brendan Dunleavy as its first secretary.

The Friesian is a renowned dairy breed with some outstanding examples of the breed having 12 to 15 lactations to their credit, emphasising their inherent natural fecundity. One of the great strengths of the Friesian is the ability of the male calf to finish and grade satisfactorily, either in intensive systems, or as steers, extensively.

The breed flourished until the mid 80’s when the Holstein was crossed in to improve milk yield and size. A number of breeders remained convinced that the traits the breed is well known for should remain pure and have staunchly defended the breed.

The registered pure Friesian cow on Irish farms today is derived from the early Friesian as the herdbook was under UK control.

However, the breed was developed separately  by Irish breeders to suit Irish conditions, with emphasis on quality milk and duality where the male calf and the cull cow add immense value to the overall profitability of the farm enterprise. Great praise must go to the late Dermot Cahill, manager of the Dovea & South Eastern Cattle Breeders, who stood against the tide and sourced pure Friesian for these enthusiastic breeders.

Today there is strong demand for registered Friesian males to cross onto the Holstein to add strength and robustness. Many cows on Irish farms have a breed fraction of 75% Holstein and 25% Friesian vindicating his decision.

There is also demand from British Friesian breeders in the UK for Irish proven Friesian males to broaden the gene pool.

The breed is an easy care breed very suitable for the variety of grazing systems as practiced in Ireland especially where there are heavy soils and upland pastures.

The Irish Pure Friesian Club was formed in 2003 by a group of Irish farmers with a keen interest in breeding British Friesian cows to help promote the Irish Pure Friesian. The club operates under the auspices of the Irish Holstein Friesian Association (IHFA) and shares a commitment to breeding pedigree registered quality animals suited to sustaining family farming in Ireland.

The Irish Pure Friesian club welcomes new members. Our committee can be reached at irishpurefriesiancommittee [@] gmail [.] com.