Garrett Behan is a suckler farmer based in Ballyfin, Co.Laois. His name is well-known in show rings across Ireland for the quality progeny of his herd; the renowned Clonagh Herd.
The Clonagh Herd is home to approximately 300 head of pedigree cattle, primarily Simmentals, with a selection of pedigree Limousin, Charolais and Angus cattle also.
Clonagh Herd made the headlines both at home and further afield two years ago when they sold a Simmental bull – Cloonagh Lucky Explorer – for an impressive €52,000.
An online-sale of pedigree-registered heifers is currently underway this weekend on the farm and earlier this week, Agriland traveled to the farm to find out more.
The faces behind the Clonagh Herd
Garrett and Lyndsey Behan are farming 270ac of land with the help of Garrett’s father, Tom, who is semi-retired.
Speaking to Agriland, Garrett explained: “We grow about 24ac of barley, 15ac of beet and 27ac of maize.
“Contractors cut the barley maize, silage and beet, and then we undertake all other works ourselves.”
The Behans keep pedigree suckler cows, the majority of which are Simmental.
Garrett explained: “We have about 115 cows due to calve this year some of which are cows carrying embryos.”
Commenting on his preferred cow-type for carrying embryos, Garrett noted his preferred type are: “Simmental crosses out of a dairy herd.”
He explained: “They’re easier to handle, they have plenty of milk and they’re well able to calve. I don’t section any of my embryo calves here and I use donor cows sourced from herds clean of disease.”
The farm routinely tests for Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) and Johne’s disease and remains free of both. The herd is BVD and TB clear also.
The Clonagh herd was established in March 1989 with the purchase of Clough Sandra, a prize winner at the Royal Dublin Show that year.
“I only got into Angus a few years ago – more of a mid-life crisis than anything else,” Garrett laughed.
“My youngest son was born that year and we got into Angus for him. Jason is five years older than Jack and he has the Charolais cows,” Garrett explained.
He added: “I bought in two Angus cows from the Gigginstown Herd and before that we imported embryos from the Netherton Angus Herd in Scotland.”
Commenting on the sale, Garrett said: “There’s a total of 28 heifers in the sale ranging in age from 16 months to seven months. There are 19 Simmental, six Limousin and three Angus heifers on offer, as well as four Simmental bulls and four embryos (three Simmental and one Limousin).
“All heifers are export tested, scanned and are clean and ready for breeding.
“A lot of these heifers would have national champions behind them in their mothers and grandmothers,” he said.
As recent as this week, a Clonagh Herd Simmental bull – Clonagh Hanniffys Hunk – was recognised as Simmental Champion of Europe by Simmental Breeder.net.
The bull’s half-sister is on offer at the Behans sale this weekend (Lot 4: Merdedith Fabulous).
Commenting on some of the better-known names in the sale, Garrett noted : “Our bull Bawny T-Rex bred Dora the Explorer and Darling Eyes and there’s daughters of those two cows in the sale (Lot 15,16 – Dora – and Lot 26 – Darling Eyes).
Two of the heifers in the sale are full-sisters of Cloonagh Lucky Explorer – the famous €52,000 bull – by Manor Park Handsome out of Dora.
Behan’s Simmental cow Dora the Explorer won the Tullamore Show overall Simmental champion twice (2014 and 2016) also won the Simmental breed’s ‘Miss Europe’ title in 2016.
Clonagh Darling Eyes – another of Behan’s twice-winning Tullamore Show overall Simmental champions and 2019 Simmental Miss World winner – also has progeny on offer in the sale.
Commenting on Darling Eyes’ success, Garrett said: “She should have won it [Tullamore Show] three times but she got bet the third time by one of my own heifers.”
Commenting on the overall offering of stock at the sale, he said: “There’s not a lot between the heifers, so if one goes over a buyers budget, they can go to their second choice.”
Concluding, Garrett remarked: “I wouldn’t fancy my odds competing against some of these heifers in the show ring next year, but best of luck to the new owners if I do.”
The online-only sale – in association with Mid-Tipp Mart – titled ‘Festive Females’ is currently underway on MartEye where further details can be found on each lot in the sale. Bidding will draw to a close on a lot-by-lot basis on Monday (December 13) night.