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The late Michael O’Connor – a pioneer in farming

THE death took place recently of Michael O’Connor, Drumquin, Ballyncally, who
contributed much to the farming community in Clare and spearheaded the
introduction of the Simmental cattle breed to the county. Thelatemichaeloconnor

Aged 88 and a native of Birrinfadda, Cranny, he was a son of Jim and Susan O’ Connor. He was educated locally and his early years in employment were spent in West Cork in the Agriculture College in Clonakilty.
He returned to Clare in 1953 to join the staff of Clarecastle AI station. After three
years on the road with the operators, who travelled all over the county in their
familar white coloured Volkswagen Beetle cars, Michael became progeny tester at
the station, a position he held for over 30 years. He said that eventhough some
farmers were sceptical about the AI scheme in the early years, it turned out to be a
great success story.

He was responsible for milk recording, carrying out tests in the progeny of the cattle
bred by AI and comparing them to animals bred by natural mating. The work also
involved comparing Friesian bulls from England, New Zealand, France, Dutch
Friesians, Canadian and Irish.

Writing in Taking Stock, published by Clare IFA to celebrate the 50th year of the
organisation – Michael outlined that due to the fragmentation of a number of farms
in the county, it was not possible to specialise in dairying. A mixed farming system
was essential.

Consequently, a good beef stud was necessary in conjunction with the dairy stud in
the AI station. At a later stage the introduction of the continental breeds brought
about a great improvement in the cattle industry. They were a wonderful asset to the
farmers of Ireland, as it gave them the raw material for the European market when it
opened up after Ireland joined the EU. The advantages of the continental breeds
were also seen in the sale of weanlings at Clare Marts.

Golden Vale ran Clarecastle AI Station for a good number of years when they
acquired it from the Dairy Disposal Board in 1976. Kerry Group was the most recent
owner when they took over the Golden Vale concern in Charleville.
After a rationalisation of the country’s AI station Clarecastle was closed in 2002.
Michael took a great interest in the Simmental cattle breed and introduced the first
Simmental cattle to County Clare. He also promoted the breed as president of the
Simmental Cattle Society in Ireland between 1991 and 1993. His advice to farmers
was that due to the size of cattle herds in Ireland in relation to other countries, they
had to specialise in top class production. It was essential to cater for the premium
markets in the EU. The basis of the breeding policy should be to produce a product
that will be acceptable to the consumer and also give the best possible return to the
producer.

Also a breeder of Blonde D’Aquatine cattle, Michael was a noted cattle judge and
travelled to officiate at show all over the country. In addition, he was a great supporter of the County Clare Agricultural Show Society and organised the cattle section of the show for many years. Due to his efforts the cattle section grew from strength to strength. He was also a past chairman and past president of the show
society, as well as a trustee.

Paying tribute, Bernard Hanrahan, chairman of the County Clare Agricultural Show
Society, said Michael played a big part in promoting theirs how every year. The cattle section was his speciality and it was due to him that it continued to have big entry numbers, even during years when it was difficult to bring cattle to shows. He was a great worker on behalf of the society.

Michael also served on the board of Clare Marts from 1984 to 2000.
Married to the former Betty Garry, who died in 2008, Michael was in respite in
Cahercalla Community Hospital when his death took place on February 25. His
funeral took place to Kilchreest cemetery.

At his funeral, Michael was described as a generous man, who had great time for his
family, neighbours and the farming community. He was also described
as a very socialiable person, who enjoyed meeting people, discussing topics from
cattle to politics.

Michael’s career and contributions to life in general were referred to by Michael’s
brother, Jim when he spoke during the funeral mass.He also thanked the family for
the loving care given to Michael over the last few years.

Michael is survived by his son, Eugene (Drumquin), daughters, Mary, Ardnagla,
Ballynacally and Bernie, Cornfield, Ballynacally; brother, Jim (Dublin); sister, Sister
Mary Ann, Australia; sons-in-law, John and Brian, grandchildren, great grand
children, nieces and nephews.

 

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