AMIDST all the doom and gloom of Covid-19, there was some joy for Robert McConnell, a 15-year-old young farmer from Glenwherry in County Antrim, who has made history with his newborn calf Glenfield Isobel.

Born last Monday on the McConnell family farm, Isobel is thought to be the very first of the Riggit Galloway breed to be born in the country.

Riggit Galloway are recognised by the white stripe running down their spine. The term ‘riggit’ is a Scottish vernacular reference to this stripe, and is said to be Scandanavian in origin.

Other characteristics of the breed are that it is naturally polled, of medium frame, with beef confirmation, a thick coat, and the ability to thrive on poor pasture.

Isobel was born without any help out in the field: “I’m very pleased the calf arrived without any problems,” said Robert. “I imported the calf’s mother from England in the autumn last year when she was pregnant.

“I found her along with another two younger Riggit Galloway younger heifers for sale one night I was searching the internet and decided to buy them for myself and start a wee herd to boost the breed. Now she has calved with a fine healthy heifer calf I am very pleased. It is a good looking animal, black in colour with the breed’s traditional stripe going across the calf’s back.

“It just goes to show that there can be some positivity in the middle of this serious coronavirus pandemic. I can’t wait until the other two heifers are the correct age to calf as well. Then my herd will really start to grow,” he added.

The McConnell family are well known also for breeding the Irish Moiled cattle breed and are usually found exhibiting their animals at the local agricultural shows, but not this year.

Robert's father Richard said: “We are told this calf is the first from the Riggit Galloway breed to be born in Northern Ireland. There are not so many breeders in the UK or Ireland that work with the Riggit Galloway.

“Robert is on cloud nine. He is so happy the calf was born healthy and is a good size. The fact that it is female is an added bonus because he can breed from her in the future. Sadly there has been no exhibiting at the agricultural shows this year due to them all being cancelled. But there is always next year to look forward to,” he said.