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A breed thought to have descended from the times of the ancient Celts. According to archaeological records the type has been in Ireland for at least 4,000 years. It's a breed noted for its hardiness and relatively good milk yields from poor quality grazing.
It's a pure dairy type, being lean and slender, and is a black breed - some cows having white markings on the udder. Occasionally red calves are born, a throwback to the 18th century when it was found in a variety of colours including brown, black and brown, black and white and red. Adult cows weigh about 350kg, but can reach 450kg on good pastures. The typical yield is 3,500kg of milk per lactation at four per cent butter-fat, with small fat globules, which make it more digestible.
The breed is now under threat, both in Ireland and Britain - most notably from the Friesian - and something must be done to preserve it; only 90 breeding females are said to survive on British shores. For more information, contact: British Kerry Cattle Society, Blair, Achitibuie, Ullapool, Ross-shire, IV26 2YN. Tel: 01854-622262.. www.kerrycattle.org.uk See 'Rare Breeds Survival Trust'
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