That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Jerry O’Neill in this week’s Career Focus segment. We discuss his dairy farming roots, studies at MTU, a stint at IFAC and current position as a senior ag consultant at Brady Group.
“My name is Jerry O’Neill, and I am a 26-year-old from the small village of Ballinadee in Cork. I grew up surrounded by farming, living in a rural area with my parents, Pat, and Theresa, who took over the family farm from my grandparents.
My brother, James, now runs the farm, Pat O’Neill Dairy Limited, alongside my parents, so it is entering the third generation, growing to a 200-cow spring calving dairy unit.
From a young age, I have helped on the farm at home, from milking cows to feeding calves, it is always a busy spot, but we would not have it any other way.
James works the farm full-time with mam and dad since finishing college in 2014. During the spring, I help as much as possible after work in the evenings and at the weekends.
I give a hand milking, feeding calves, taking them to the mart, or anything that can help take the pressure off at home.
I attended Cork Institute of Technology (now known as MTU – Munster Technological University) from 2014 to 2018 after I completed the Leaving Certificate, studying for a Bachelor of Business (honours degree) in accounting.
I have always had a massive interest in business and accounting since secondary school, so I decided to put this as my first option on my CAO and go the business route.
After I graduated from college, I completed a graduate programme with IFAC accountants in Bandon, County Cork.
IFAC is a national accountancy practice specialising in farm accounts, so it was a perfect opportunity to marry both agriculture and accounting for me.
I spent three-and-a-half years with IFAC completing my ACCA qualification and learning the different elements from financial accounting to management accounting.
Ag consultant at Brady Group
My current position is a senior agricultural consultant for Brady Group. Brady Group is agricultural consultants and land agents based in Cork city, but we cover farms nationwide.
There are currently five employees in the company who cover areas such as farm advisory, department scheme work, land valuations and act as land agents for sales and letting.
I started working with Brady Group in December of 2021, originally as a trial period to see if it was a good fit and ended up taking up a permanent position in April 2022.
Mike Brady is the owner and has been an excellent mentor over the past number of months. I have been in the farming industry for a long time, but this was a completely new role.
He has helped to guide me into the consultancy side of farming since taking up the position.
There is a huge variety in the work we carry out, which makes the job so enjoyable. I can go from meeting a client in Cork talking about their cow performance to doing a land assessment in Sligo in the space of two days.
Typical day in working life
A typical day is 9-5.30, but no two days are the same. I usually spend two days a week on the road doing different assessments and meetings and the other three days writing up reports and drafting lease agreements for clients.
Everyone in the company works closely and bounces ideas off each other. I work mostly alongside Mike himself and Mick O’Neill, the office manager.
The best thing about my position is the variety; every day, you are learning something new and talking to new people, so it is a brilliant place to learn.
At the weekends and evenings, when I am not helping at home or heading to hurling training with Courcey Rovers, I also do some relief milking for local farmers.
My career highlight to date has been getting nominated for the part qualified accountant of the year in 2020 during my time in IFAC. It was a nice recognition of the work I had put in and motivated me to continue to push on in my career.
I would not change anything about my career path so far; IFAC afforded me wonderful opportunities, and I gained vast experience and made great friends during my time.
I learned the ins and outs of the farm accounts game and discovered everything that makes a farm tick financially.
Starting with Brady Group, I was entering a different angle of the agricultural industry, and it was a very good change from speaking about purely financials with clients to discussing both financial and physical elements of a farm.
Next up on my career path is to complete the IPAV auctioneering exams to allow a stronger knowledge of the property industry and hopefully begin selling and leasing land.
For people considering a career in agriculture, my advice would be that it is a wide industry with a huge number of opportunities, and you should not set your sights on one section and limit your opportunities.
The agriculture industry is changing every day and will continue to grow and change over the next number of years.
I believe the environment is a huge consideration in the agricultural industry which needs to be respected before making any decisions on future career endeavours.
Decisions should be made to try and leave the industry in a better shape than you originally found it, and I believe everyone in the industry should lead by this example.
To succeed in the industry, it takes hard work and perseverance; not every day will go your way, but if people keep trying, you will succeed.
I would always recommend listening to people who have done it before you, take their advice on board and then make your own decision.
No two farms are the same, which is a very important point to note when seeking to thrive within this area.
Working in this sector so far has been a fantastic experience having had conversations with farmers and professionals about every aspect of farming while also discussing people’s hobbies and other areas that are important to them.
I have gone from sitting in an office crunching numbers to visiting farmers discussing their accounts to visiting farmers and discussing their future plans, the variety has been exceptional, and I am looking forward to what the future holds for me.”
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