Kerry cattle are believed to be one of the oldest breeds in Europe. The Kerry is descended from cattle kept by the early Celts (milk and milk products played a very important part in the Irish Celtic diet) and was the first breed to be developed primarily for milk production. The breed is indigenous to Ireland and is named after the county of Kerry.
Kerry cattle are closely related to the Dexter. (Through the early 19th century both breeds were produced from the same herds and registered in the same herd book. Shorter, stockier animals were registered as a Dexter.)
Despite their popularity in Ireland, before the 17th century Kerry cattle were little known elsewhere. Kerry cattle were first exported to America in the early 1800s and a small population still exists there today.
However, imports of other breeds and crossbreeding subsequently led to a significant decline in numbers in Ireland. The Kerry was also popular in Great Britain though the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but by the end of the 1960s the British Kerry had died out.
Kerry cattle have since been reintroduced into Britain and while still viewed as a minority breed here in Ireland, numbers have increased.
Kerry cattle – Characteristics
Kerry cattle have a coat that is almost completely black. Their white horns have dark tips.
Kerry cows typically weigh around 360 kilos. They are active grazers able to produce an average of 3000 to 3700 litres of milk in a lactation period. Kerry cows are renowned for the quality of their milk which has small fat globules making it easy to digest and ideal for cheese and yoghurt making. The butterfat content is around 4%. Cows are active, hardy and calve easily.
Kerry bulls typically weigh around 450 kilos. Bullocks can take a little longer to mature than other breeds. Although Kerry cattle are fine-boned with a light frame, they still produce a fair amount of beef.
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