Deirdre Toal, area manager and cattle breeding advisor with Progressive Genetics features as part of our Women in Ag series.
The AI (artificial insemination) industry may be predominately male-dominated, but Deirdre Toal has been making waves in the field for just under two decades.
Born and reared on a dairy farm outside Strokestown in Co. Roscommon, the UCD animal science graduate, works as an area manager and cattle breeding advisor with Progressive Genetics.
The company is the largest dairy and beef stud in Ireland offering a wide range of services including dairy & beef straw sales, AI, milk recording, farm software and pregnancy and disease testing.
“I credit my daddy with my interest in farming – he always encouraged us to work on the farm and always brought me to lots of farming events. Both my parents were and continue to be a great source of encouragement to me. I always had an interest in cattle breeding from working on the home farm.” Deirdre Toal told That’s Farming.
Family and working life
Deirdre now resides in Smithborough, Co. Monaghan, with her husband, Thomas, who farms a 75-cow dairy herd, and their sons, Sean (12) and Barry (8).
“My job with Progressive Genetics offers certain flexibility which is important when you have a young family. There’s no doubt that it’s a challenge working full-time when you have children, but Thomas is a great support and together we juggle family/farming and my job”
“The number of women working in the ag industry has increased greatly since I joined it over 20 years ago. A degree in ag science opens many doors and many possible career paths.”
“I have classmates working in animal nutrition, advisory, teaching, department jobs, in the financial sector, journalism, farm management, sales – and all under the umbrella of the ag industry – not many degrees offer that many possible careers.”
“I have always enjoyed working in the ag industry and I don’t see any difference in how women or men are treated nowadays. If you are confident in yourself and your product/service and are willing to work hard and give your best to your customers, you will succeed and be well respected whether you are male or female.”
Before moving to fill her current role, Deirdre held other positions and worked with Teagasc as a dairy advisor after graduating.
“When that contract ended, I did an interview with what was North Eastern AI, owned by Lakeland Dairies based in Cavan, for a job as a cattle breeding advisor.”
“I got the job, but while I was finishing out my contract with Teagasc, Lakeland sold what was then North Eastern AI to Progressive Genetics.”
“I am very happy with Progressive Genetics; it is a great company to work for. We have great support within the company as regards technical advisors and a great team in our offices/lab and on the road. I enjoy my work.”
Deirdre covers Monaghan, Cavan, Longford, and Leitrim, offering advice to both dairy and beef farmers.
“I am at the end of the phone to offer advice to the farmer on what are the best bulls to use in their herd, whether that be dairy or beef. I am also responsible for selling straws to farmers who do their own AI, and I manage the AI technicians in those four counties.”
“What I like about my job is that, besides Covid-19 times, you are out and about meeting people. I would not be one for being in an office 9-5. You are meeting different people when you’re out and about and you’re seeing cattle.”
“At this stage, I am going to people I have been dealing with for over fifteen years. I have a good relationship built up with these people and, in some cases, I might be dealing with the next generation of farmers.”
“I am seeing progeny on those farms out of bulls I have advised people to use and see the impact they have had on their farm, which is very important and rewarding.”
Since Covid-19 hit, Deirdre, like many others, across the country has faced changes in her work life. Due to Covid-19 restrictive measures, her position is now more office-based.
When the initial lockdown came around St. Patrick’s Day last year, peak breeding season was just around the corner. “All of a sudden, we were based at home contacting farmers and giving advice across the phone rather than being out in people’s yards.”
“It’s been very different doing up recommended panels of bulls for farmers, giving them suggestions via email and discussing recommendations by phone. It has worked very well, thank God.”
“We have had a very good year and sales are up. It was just a different approach to what we are used to but, of course, we must think of the safety of all our customers, our families, and ourselves.”
“As a company, we are always aiming to provide the best genetics and advise to our farmers to increase the profitability on their enterprises,” Deirdre Toal concluded.