Farmleigh has an estate of seventy-eight acres.
Outside of the house and pleasure gardens, Farmleigh is a busy working farm. There are horses, donkeys, and cows. Des Martin is herdsman at Farmleigh. All of the animals are cared for by the Office of Public Works, and live at Farmleigh all year round. Farmleigh has had many horses over the years; the current horses are Ellie and Tyrone. Ellie is black and Tyrone is ginger, and both are about twenty-five years old. Ellie arrived more recently than Tyrone, who has been here a number of years. The four donkeys all came from The Donkey Sanctuary in Cork, and are named Daragh, Ronnie, Barney, and Rosie. They are all about fifteen years of age, and love their new home at Farmleigh.
The Kerry Cow at Farmleigh
For many years Farmleigh was synonymous with the Charolais breed of cattle. When the State took ownership of Farmleigh, the tradition of keeping cattle there was continued, and it was agreed that the Kerry Cow, a native breed, would be ideal. The Kerry is widely recognised as Ireland’s unique native cattle breed. It is one of the oldest breeds in Europe, and it was dominant in Ireland up to about the end of the eighteenth century. In the 1980s, the breed was threatened with extinction. It represents part of our cultural heritage, and over the centuries it is the product of human and natural selection under difficult and demanding environmental conditions. The Kerry is a breed unto itself, a breed that has seen the Irish farmer through hard times. It has the ability to live on marginalised land, to calve without trouble, and to winter outdoors happily.
A survey conducted in 1998 stated that there were 135 breeds in Ireland, 22 in England, 7 in Scotland, and 2 in Wales. Farmleigh acquired our herd from Muckross House in Killarney. When Artur Rose Vincent went to live in Muckross in 1910, he set about establishing a herd of Kerry cattle which were his pride and joy. The herd was directed and supervised by Angus McLeod, a Scotsman.
In March 2002, Farmleigh began to build a herd of Kerry cattle, and Muckross House supplied twelve head to start with. Our first calf was born on the the eighth of January 2003. The Kerry are a sight to behold with their shiny black coats, and their magnificent horns. Visitors can see the herd from the paths around the grounds.