The family behind one of the oldest pedigree dairy herds in Northern Ireland are retiring from the industry.
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A young William Campbell with a bull at Balmoral

The Campbell family’s Ballylagan Herd, which was registered in 1948 with the British Friesian Society by Hugh Campbell, will be sold later this month at Kilrea Mart.

They have farmed at Ballylagan, in County Londonderry, for almost 100 years – since 1923.

The Campbell family moved to the Coleraine area from Aghanloo – walking the cows 19 miles to their new pastures.

Back then, William A Campbell kept a herd of Shorthorn cows until his son, Hugh Campbell, took over the farming enterprise and established the herd of pedigree Friesians.

Soon, the family began showing their stock, enjoying success in the ring.

Hugh Campbell was one of the early adopters of voluntary TB testing in 1950, testing a total of 71 animals in that year,

The family have been very fortunate in that they have never had TB on their farm.

One of Hugh’s most notable achievements was a record price of 460gns for a British Friesian bull, Ballylagan Delight, at Balmoral Bull Show and Sale, which even got a mention on the news at 10.

Most recently, Ballylagan has flourished under William Campbell.

In the 1980s, William began introducing Holstein bloodlines with the aim of increasing milk production.

In the past 14 years, William and his wife, Lillian, have had the help of their son David, who returned after university and developed a keen interest in pedigree breeding.

Along with their long-established home bred cow families, new bloodlines were introduced with great success.

Embryos were imported from Canada from the famous ‘Blondin Supra’ family.

Most notable members of this family are Blondin Redman Seisme Red EX97 2E 5*, the first ever EX97 red and white Holstein.

Also from this family is the All American and All Canadian Blondin Goldwyn Subliminale EX97 3E LP120.

Hugh Campbell con la campeona femenina en el show de Coleraine 1961
Hugh Campbell with the champion female at Coleraine show 1961

From America, the Campbells imported embryos from the famous Ashlyn family, and have many direct descendants of Ashlyns Angel EX96 3E and Tri-Day Ashlyn EX96 2E.

In 2013, they made the switch to robotic milking to maximise the potential of the cows.

They have also introduced a couple of pedigree Fleckvieh animals, to satisfy a growing demand for dual purpose animals.

The herd average is currently 10,050 litres at 4.05 per cent fat, 3.31 per cent protein, on a simple grass-based system – among the top herds for average lifetime yield in the UK.

The family decided to diversify into other ventures and, as a result, have taken the difficult decision to sell their Ballylagan Herd.

Their latest move has been into holiday accommodation, with the prime location lending itself to establish a business of this kind.

EO Siemers Ashlyns Angel EX96-3E
EO Siemers Ashlyns Angel EX96-3E

David explained: “The Perch North Coast will be a unique luxury accommodation experience with spectacular views of the north coast.

“The site will operate entirely from renewable energy, from our own wind turbine.

“This is what I will be concentrating my time on going forward, and my parents are looking forward to a more leisurely pace of life.”

The Ballylagan Herd, with its renowned pedigree, will be sold at Kilrea Mart on 29 March.

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