New Breed Arrives In Derrytresk

Law graduate and County Tyrone farmer Shay O’Neill plans to revolutionise beef farming in Northern Ireland with the introduction of Beefmasters on his family farm at Derrytresk near Dungannon.

S&T Beefmasters, Shay and his father Thomas have already imported embryos from the United States, which have successfully calved.

Shay said: “We fell in love with the Beefmaster breed in early 2015, and from then worked on sourcing the best genetics from around the world to import to Northern Ireland.

“After completing my degree at the University of Stirling, I wanted to start an agricultural business aimed at providing farmers across the UK and Ireland with the most profitable cattle genetics in the world.”

The family farm is traditionally a dairy farm. “As fifth-generation farmers ourselves, we know first-hand the difficulties facing cattle farmers in Northern Ireland. Beefmasters have been shown through extensive US department of Agriculture trials to be considerably more feed efficient than many more common European breeds.”

Tom Lasater developed Beefmasters in the early 1930s, from a systematic crossing of Hereford, Shorthorn and Brahman cattle.

“Lasater’s goal was to produce cattle that were more sustainable and more productive than existing breeds, cattle that would produce and make money during economically hard times in the harsh environment of South Texas and that is where I see the market here. These cattle are renowned for thriving in harsh environments. So, with a somewhat more desirable climate in the British Isles, the sky is the limit for Beefmaster performance.”

Shay went on to explain: “The six essentials that the Beefmaster breed was founded on – Weight, Conformation, Milk Production, Fertility, Hardiness and Disposition. These essentials became the economic strength of Beefmasters and have made them favourites with those who depend on cattle for a living. Beefmasters are the only beef breed specifically developed to excel in these factors.”

While brownish-red is the most common colour, the breed has no colour standards, Performance and production are more important than looks. Beefmasters were recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a pure breed in 1954. In the early 1970’s, the breed began rapid expansion from its South Texas birthplace. Beefmasters have survived several volatile times in the worldwide cattle market without adversely affecting their growth and demand. From 1974 to 1998, membership in Beefmaster Breeders United (BBU) grew from 300 to nearly 7,000.

Data from the United States Department of Agriculture shows that Beefmaster bulls, steers and heifers rank at the top of the list for feed efficiency and conversion rates, far surpassing many conventional continental breeds.

“We aim to provide the benefits of the powerhouse Beefmaster cow, with her ability to calve unassisted every year and produce a heavy calf at weaning, with minimal feed input. Add that to the fast-growing, easy fleshing bulls, that calve easy, grow fast and sell well. You can’t afford not to use Beefmaster.” ​

The Beefmaster females are excellent mothers, raising a heavy calf each year, and the bulls are aggressive breeders, but what has driven their enormous popularity throughout the world is their ability to do well in a variety of difficult environments with a minimum of attention.