WHEN a County Antrim dairy farmer held an on-farm dispersal sale back in the early Seventies, one of those in attendance was a young man called Ivan Haire. As the sale got underway and the auctioneer started talking about the pedigrees of this cow and that cow, it got Ivan thinking about starting a hobby.
Whereas many young men of his age were out playing golf or following the football of a weekend, these leisure pursuits did not hold much interest for Ivan. No! At that particular sale, which took place at Ligoneil around 50 years ago, Ivan decided his new hobby was going to involve pedigree cattle.
Ivan Haire grew up on Loughanhill farm in the townland of Budore, Dundrod, County Antrim. His father, Robert, kept a commercial dairy herd of crossbreds before starting into pedigree Ayrshires. Ivan attended Budore Primary School just down the road from his home before going on to study at Lisburn Technical College.
When the time came to enter the world of work, Ivan started off his career in the Nuffield Tractor and New Holland dealership firm ‘Stevenson’s of Lisburn’. “I remember going to Balmoral shows during these days and helping set up the machinery display on Stevenson’s stand,” Ivan said.
“Part of what I did at the show involved removing anything that could have been pinched off the tractors during the week. Knobs and such like were taken off and lynch pins were wired in.”
After spending some time with Stevenson’s, Ivan moved on to work in the stores of David Brown Tractors, based on Belfast’s Antrim Road. In 1970 his career path took a change of direction when he entered the insurance industry.
A couple or so years later “we” go back to where we started at the top of this page, at that dairy sale in Ligoneil where Ivan, having watched and listened to the auctioneer, decided his new hobby was going to involve the breeding of pedigree cattle.
It wasn’t too long after, on Saturday, November 24, 1973, that Ivan went to the dispersal of the Riverdale Hereford herd, which was based at 34 Shinna Road, Newcastle, County Down, and owned by David Deboys, MRCVS. One of the animals put forward was a seven-year-old cow named Riverdale Avril and Ivan purchased her for 170 guineas.
“It was money well spent,” he recalled. “I sold a bull off that cow at Balmoral for 770 guineas … his name was Dorepoll 1 Mizer”. By the time this bull was born Ivan, who had originally registered his Herefords under the prefix “Loughanhill”, had made the decision to switch from Horned Herefords to Poll Herefords. Taking the last four letters from his townland (ie, Budore) and adding them to the word “Poll”, the “Dorepoll Herd” prefix came into being.
At the RUAS Spring Show in 1974 Ivan purchased his first two Poll Hereford heifers. Following the lifting of a ban on importing females from GB, he was able to develop the Dorepoll herd by purchasing a succession of cattle. On one occasion two Poll Hereford heifers were secured at a production sale, held at West View, Crosthwaite, in the Lake District, on November 6, 1982.
Most of the cattle at this special sale were from the Cumbria herd and they were joined by several lots from a guest consignor, HW Coates Ltd of the Costhorpe herd” from Leicestershire. The sale was conducted by the official auctioneers to the North British Hereford Breeders’ Association, Wm Bosomworth & Sons Ltd, and by the close of business Ivan had purchased a female from each of the two herds. Ivan made a lifelong friend in Steve Edwards, who was stockman for the Costhorpe herd,
The first of these two purchases was Cumbria 1 Reva, secured at 2000 guineas, and the second Costhorpe 1 Sunlight, cost 900 guineas. Both animals came to Ivan’s farm via the ministry’s Quarantine Station at Tolan’s Point on the shores of Lough Neagh.
These cattle had been well bought; a daughter of the Cumbria 1 Reva would play an important role in promoting the Dorepoll herd in the showring during these early days. Her name was Dorepoll First Lady. She took a championship at Balmoral in 1986 as a yearling heifer before going on to even greater things.
Speaking about Dorepoll First Lady, Ivan said: “The organisers of Limerick Show wanted to have an All-Ireland Championship in 1987 so you had to qualify at various shows. We qualified at Balmoral with this heifer and then took her to Limerick where she won the All-Ireland two-year-old Heifer Championship and was actually Overall Champion on the day.” For Ivan this really was one of his most memorable shows.
This was one of the early showring successes and in the years that followed Ivan and his family have won a great many prizes with their cattle. Back at the start, however, there was much to learn.
“We were new to the game and really hadn’t much of a clue,” Ivan explained, adding: “We were on a steep learning curve, but it didn’t put us off. I suppose we had to start some place. Actually, some of the older, more experienced Hereford exhibitors were a big help.”
One of these more experienced Hereford exhibitors who stood out in this respect for Ivan was a rather flamboyant and interesting character called Harry Petticrew, who ran a pedigree herd at Ballymenoch, Holywood, County Down. Many FarmWeek readers will remember seeing this gentleman at shows.
“I got my first stock bull from Harry Petticrew, its name was Ballymenoch Diamond. Harry was really quite eccentric. At one time he’d have been seen smartly attired in tweed plus fours and the next he could be getting the cattle ready for the show ring with a black welly on one foot and a green one on the other! I remember Harry had a cow that kicked so when the time came for him to wash her he had to use a deck scrubber on a long pole! Harry and I went together to England a time or two.”
When Ivan purchased two new stock bulls in England he was accompanied by Harry Petticrew. The bulls were Ridgeway 1 Pall Mall of Canadian breeding and Windycote I Ringer of Australian blood and through their purchase Ivan wanted to widen the genetics in his herd.
“There was a year of difference in the age of these animals, and we showed them at Balmoral in 1982. The Ridgway Pall Mall was made champion and Windycote Ringer stood next to him as reserve.
Over the decades Herefords from the Dorepoll herd have won numerous prizes at all our provincial shows and beyond. Ivan exhibited an imported female called Mistress Tessa at the Scottish National Show and then a bull called Dorepoll 1 Jonathan was made junior champion at the Royal Show at Stoneleigh. The semen from this bull was exported to Denmark, Germany and the Republic of Ireland, as were straws from Dorepoll 1 Nationwide and Dorepoll 1 Headliner.
“Jonathan did a really good job for us and stayed a long time. He was getting on a bit, and we had used him a lot and had semen off him too,” recalled Ivan. “I wanted to give him a good retirement and as it turned out there was a lady in Norfolk who wanted to buy him. This she did and the condition was that he’d get his day on the farm.
“We sent him over and were able to say that ‘Jonathan had retired to an old people’s home in Norfolk’.”
Regarding females, one of the most renowned families was that of ‘Duchess’. “We sold a heifer calf to the Goulding Poll herd and this was one of their foundation females. That heifer went on to have a great career in the showring and was flushed for ET purposes. The Duchess family would now be a household female line in the Hereford breed.”
In 1985 Ivan took cattle to the Royal Highland Show. “That was an experience,” he recalled. “There was a lot of things to organise in transporting the cattle. We had to get the lorry packed to live and sleep in. We had to bring beds, a cooker, food and all that kind of stuff. The hard work paid off because we got the Supreme Championship with our cow Onondaga Vanity. We had bought her at a dispersal in Yorkshire and she’d been imported as a live animal from Canada.”
Before moving on from Ivan’s experiences as a cattle exhibitor, it is worth mentioning that a heifer he purchased actually took reserve female championship at the Canadian National Show. This was Remitall Sally.
“We bought her with no intention of bringing her home but just wanted her for flushing. The breeders at Remitall kept her and got a calf out of her each year for her keep. We had her embryos sent over … actually one of her offspring took the championship at the first Balmoral Show to be held at the Maze.”
Remitall Sally was bred by the Latimer family from Olds in the western Canadian province of Alberta. If you reverse the letters of the name ‘Latimer’ and add an ‘L’ one gets the word ‘Remitall’ – this was how the prefix was chosen. The herd was massive and described by Ivan as being, at that time, “the Hereford herd of the world”.
Actually, Ivan’s son William travelled to Canada and spent a very enjoyable and rewarding time on the Latimer family’s farm. The aforementioned heifer purchased by Ivan for flushing was the daughter of a bull which he regards the best Hereford sire he’s ever seen. This was Remitall Keynote.
“I was out in Canada and at the home of the Remitall herd when I saw Keynote. It was in the early 2000s and I guess he would be the best Hereford bull that I’ve set eyes on. He was in a paddock and just was my idea of a beef animal … great structure combined with length. He had traditional Hereford markings, and this is something I consider to be important.”
Over the years Ivan Haire has judged cattle at agricultural shows throughout Ireland and on the other side of the Irish Sea in England and Scotland. The first time Ivan pinned the judge’s badge to his lapel was at Enniscorthy in County Wexford.
“My first-time judging was a bit nerve-wracking, but I suppose over the years I have got more used to it. The biggest show I’ve judged at was the Royal Highland. I enjoy looking at cattle from a different perspective, it’s nice to get out and look at other people’s beasts. When you’re looking at your own cattle all the time you’re sometimes looking at them through rose-tinted glasses.
“There was more camaraderie at the shows back then. After the judging and all of that we used to socialise. You would have met at somebody’s tack box, and everyone would have brought the leftovers from their lunch box. It would all have been shared out and there would have been a bit of a party. I have met many people and made great friends from all over the world through the Hereford breed. These are people I would not have met otherwise.”
Ivan Haire has served several terms as President of the Northern Ireland Hereford Breed Association and was secretary for around two decades. The Haire family has hosted the annual barbeque on various occasions over the years. Back in the day, the NIHB committee meetings took place in the Railway Tavern in Moira, which was a pretty central venue.
“I suppose there’s not so many characters in the breed as there was when I came in. The old breeders really came alongside the younger ones and gave both encouragement and advice.
“There were people like Harry Petticrew, Dick Adams, Sandy Burnett, Frank Gittoes, Trevor Simpson, Derek Vaughan and others. I remember Jack Morrison had a very successful show bull back in the early Seventies called Ardmulhcan Coiner. Another person who was a great help to me was Sam McCully from Groomsport.”
After a lifetime of working with pedigree Hereford cattle, Ivan continues to have much confidence in the breed. He will cite its docility, beef of high quality and especially in these economic times, the fact that one doesn’t need to be going to a Hereford with “bags and bags of feed”.
After a lifetime of working with Herefords and having gained a great wealth of experience, Ivan still gets enthused about those calves being born in the Dorepoll herd and how, after all these years, the breeding programme continues to “dynamically unfold.”
During the course of interviewing Ivan for this piece the writer really enjoyed his company and the kind hospitality of his wife Sandra who, it has to be recorded, makes the best of pancakes. Ivan is friendly, has a great sense of humour and is very open about his experiences as a Hereford breeder.
Towards the end of the interview, when the writer asked Ivan what advice he’d give to a new Hereford breeder, he thought for a moment before saying: “Well now, let’s see … it’s good to start off with an old cow, because there’s a reason she’s an old cow.”
It has been a long and interesting journey since Ivan Haire of the Dorepoll herd embarked on a hobby that would develop into a great career with pedigree cattle. Anyone spending time in his company will readily conclude when it comes to breeding Hereford cattle, here is a man who ‘has been there, done that and … got the T-shirt’.
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