What are my special features?
The Irish Moiled Cattle is the only surviving domestic livestock breed native to Northern Ireland. They are a long lived, fertile and maternal breed, polled (hornless) and typically red in colour characteristically marked by a white line or ‘finching’ on the back. The face is often roan or flecked but they can vary from white with red ears and nose to nearly all red.
The name ‘Moile’ is derived from Gaelic and relates to the distinctive dome or mound on top of the head.
Moiled cattle are good foragers, they will eat rough grass and weeds and survive on quite a meagre diet. Furthermore, they are ready browsers, especially of willow, ash and ivy, which makes them ideal for extensive or conservation grazing situations.
They were traditionally a dairy cow, but earned a reputation as a dual-purpose breed, producing ample milk and superbly tender, well-marbled beef with a distinctive flavour. This pedigree breed requires a little longer to mature compared to other breeds, but it is this slow-maturing process that gives the beef its rich marbling and succulent flavour.
What is my history?
Until they were superseded by more specialist beef and dairy breeds, Irish Moiled Cattle were popular on small farms in Northern Ireland. They were traditionally kept by subsistence farmers in Ulster where the hardy breed were able to live outside in the cold and wet weather. Many people today still remember the ‘Moile cow’ that was kept at the ‘home place’, before and during the Second World War and into the 1950’s.
Having been formed initially in 1926, The Irish Moiled Cattle Society was revived in 1982 and now has a well-established DNA testing programme to ensure validity of pedigrees and the integrity of this important gene pool. In 2008 a breed conservation strategy was launched to help maintain the genetic base and reduce to a minimum any increase in inbreeding and ensure a successful future for Irish Moiled Cattle. Cattle have been exported to rare breed enthusiasts, including Prince Charles, making the breed less vulnerable to disease epidemics.
Why am I forgotten?
The decline in numbers was slower in Northern Ireland than the rest of the island, but even here by the late 1970’s the pedigree herd numbered only 30 breeding females and 2 bulls, maintained by only 2 breeders.
In the early 2000’s the breed was listed as ‘Critical’ by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Since the early 1980’s numbers have been gradually increasing and the breed is now listed as ‘At Risk’.
There is still much to be done to champion this breed, but everyone can help by buying and cooking this fantastic beef.
Don’t lose me… cook me!
Please read more about me and monitor my progress on the RBST Watchlist 2014.