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Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a fifth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the company in 2015.
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‘The female farmer still has to fight harder for everything they do’

As part of this week’s Women in Ag segment, That’s Farming speaks to Aoife Chambers of Derrybrock Farm.

23-year-old Aoife Chambers is making waves in the cattle, sheep and horse breeding circles.

The Newport, Co. Mayo native is the fourth-generation of her family to farm the land at Culfers, which is nestled between Mount Eagle and Buckagh, in Derrybrock Valley.

Aoife runs a mixed farm with her father and partner’s help whilst working as a sales assistant in Homeland Westport. She is carrying on a long-standing family farming tradition, having developed a passion for agriculture as a child.

“Hill sheep farming is a major tradition in my family. One of my earliest farming memories is when my grandad, Johnny, brought me back to see his ‘red whitehead’ cow that had twin calves.” Aoife of Derrybrock Farm told That’s Farming.

“His donkey, Jessie, was in the shed. I was only about five; he put me up on her back and let’s just say, she gave me a quick spin around the shed.” Aoife laughed.

cattle, beef farming, Shorthorn cattle, livestock

120-strong flock

Derrybrock Farm is home to 120 pedigree Mayo Blackface ewes, six pedigree Beef Shorthorn cattle, seven commercial heifers and Connemara ponies and Irish Sport horses (six in total).

Her 120-strong Mayo Blackface flock usually lamb from the first week of April, with a view to producing replacement ewes for hill systems.

“I enjoy going to the hill for a big gather. Lads, dogs, Mary Kilker in Shramore and I have the craic on the hills, gathering sheep in one go!”

“If young people are not shown the ways, I think hill farming is endangered. With national parks wanting fewer sheep on the hills, there will be a big change on the mountains, in my view.”

Pedigree Shorthorns

Having gained access to leased land to expand her sheep enterprise in recent times, the young farmer will celebrate another milestone this spring with the arrival of her first crop of home-bred pedigree Shorthorns.

The Mayo native established her own pedigree Shorthorn herd last year with subsequent progeny to arrive from March to July.

“When our cows all calve, we will decide what we will do with their progeny. We will probably aim to have them prepped and ready for the Shorthorn pedigree sales.”

“I plan to increase my livestock numbers all-round as I am only getting started. I want to have good quality stock, even if it means fewer numbers but to increase slowly.”

“The Shorthorn and Mayo Blackface meats deserve an equal chance to be on the top shelf. The meat is just as tasty or even nicer than commercial meat with a lower carbon footprint.”

Shorthorn, cattle, suckler farming, beef, beef farming, Mayo, cattle shed, livestock buildings

Horses

The AIT Business in Equine graduate intends to steer her newly established pedigree herd in the same direction as her equine enterprise.

She exhibits her horses in show jumping and performance classes in agricultural shows around the country and aims to replicate this activity on the cattle show circuit.

“I produce horses to a high standard, with good flatwork and an ability to jump a track of fences comfortably. I always have one or two horses/ponies to sell and focus on the rest to compete and improve them myself, as a rider.”

“The ultimate goal is to win at the Dublin Horse Show in any of the classes with one of my own home-bred horses and to win a champion ribbon with my Shorthorn herd.”

horses, equine, horse jumping,

Future

Looking ahead, Aoife has a burning desire to expand her farm and make her thriving enterprise “more profitable and economical”, whilst progressing her agricultural career.

She is passionate about producing quality animals and “would not change what I am doing”. “I love farming and being outside. Yes, farming is hard at times, and it can test my patience, but in the end, it all works out.”

“The female farmer still has to fight harder for everything they do on-farm and industry level. Yes, it has improved, but there is always more room for improvement.”

“My life as a young person in agriculture is amazing. I am out, busy and keeping fit throughout Covid lockdowns. To be honest, I am lucky that my father has taught me so much from a young age and has helped me out to get started. I am looking forward to what the future holds,” concluded Aoife Chambers of Derrybrock Farm.

Like Derrybrock Farm’s Facebook page here.

To share your story, email – catherina@thatsfarming.com
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