HomeBeef‘When I was 13, I got my first job in a mart...
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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‘When I was 13, I got my first job in a mart canteen’

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In this week’s Women in Ag segment, That’s Farming, speaks to Amy Muldrew (26), the manager of a mart, Markethill Livestock & Farm Sales LTD and Hewitt Property Agents.

“When I was 13, I got my first job in a mart canteen; I worked every Saturday feeding the hungry farmers. When I was 16, I started in the office and clerking at Markethill Mart and have not looked back.”

Exposure to the world of work in her teenage years has been instrumental in 26-year-old Amy Muldrew’s success as the manager of a livestock mart and a property firm.

The 26-year-old is the daughter of Hampton, an auctioneer and the proprietor of Markethill Mart in Northern Ireland.

Agriculture

The Armagh native was “born and raised, surrounded by agriculture”. Her grandfathers both farmed; her father, Hampton, along with his aforementioned commitments, runs the home farm, and her husband, Mark, also works in the field.

“Agriculture is an intrinsic part of my life. I always remember being out on the farm as a child. At home, we finish cattle and winter sheep, so there are always plenty of jobs to do,” she explained to That’s Farming.

She purchased her first calf, a black Limousin heifer, when she was 8-years-old. Her father brought the animal home from the mart, and from then on, it was Amy’s responsibility.

“I loved getting up in the morning before primary school, mixing the milk and heading off to its pen for the first feed of the day. That is where I got my love for farming.”

“From that time on, I would buy batches of calves and rear them, and once weaned, I would buy my next batch. With our finishing system, we did not often have calves born on-farm, but when the odd accident arrived, I was always called upon to adopt.”

“I think women have a natural gift for this job, and I have spent many a late night bringing down hot water bottles and sugar water concoctions to struggling calves. Thankfully, the majority pulled through, and it is the best feeling in the world,” she added.

“Every autumn, we buy sheep to put out to the land over the winter. Again, none of these were ever meant to be in-lamb, but if any ended up in-lamb, I would buy them from my dad, lamb them and sell them through the mart. But sheep are never simple, and my true love is definitely cattle,” she laughed.

Markethill Livestock & Farm Sales LTD, women in ag, women in farming, farmers

Education

Amy commenced an undergraduate degree in 2013 at Queens University Belfast and qualified in 2016 with a first-class honours, graduating first in her class. During this time, she continued to work in the mart, clerking sheep every Wednesday night and at the store cattle sale on a Saturday.

“My university friends thought I was mad travelling down to Markethill for the sheep sale on a Wednesday night and going back up to Belfast after. Often, I did not arrive back to my university accommodation until 1 or 2 am after the sheep sale, but I loved every bit of it.”

In February 2013, the family commenced building a new livestock mart facility, and in September 2013, they opened their brand-new Markethill Livestock & Farm Sales, one mile outside Markethill.

“This development has enabled us to provide a much higher quality service and facilitate a higher throughput than we ever could have dreamed of at our old premises in the middle of Markethill town.”

She went on to study for her master’s degree in property development at University in Edinburgh.

“During this year away, I still ran the mart Facebook page, so even though I was in Scotland, I did not feel too far from home!”

Markethill Livestock & Farm Sales LTD, women in ag, women in farming, farmers

Markethill Livestock & Farm Sales LTD

Amy manages both Markethill Livestock & Farm Sales Ltd and Hewitt Property Agents.

Markethill Livestock & Farm Sales Ltd is one of Northern Ireland’s leading livestock markets, running weekly cattle and sheep sales as well as speciality breeding sales, pedigree sales, dispersal sales and machinery sales.

Hewitt Property Agents is the firm’s estate agency, specialising in rural, residential, and commercial sales and lettings.

In the mart side of the business, she manages the day-to-day running of the market. They hold three sales weekly, Tuesday (cull cows and drop calves), Wednesday (cull ewes, fat and store lambs, and breeders) and Saturday (store cattle, sucklers and weanlings).

“I work alongside a top-class team, who provide a top-class service, all while having the craic. Each person plays a crucial role in ensuring the sales run effectively and that the livestock are brought in, sold and permitted out in the most effective manner.”

Markethill Livestock & Farm Sales LTD, women in ag, women in farming, farmers

Hewitt Property Agents

On the other hand, in 2018, the 26-year-old set about a complete rebrand of the firm’s property division.

Markethill Property Sales became Hewitt Property Agents, specialising in rural, residential, and commercial sales and lettings in County Armagh and further afield.

“Rural property sales are my personal favourite. I thoroughly enjoy meeting vendors, undertaking valuations, prepping particulars, and placing a property on the open market,” she explained.

“You learn the details of the property and the intricacies of the property you are selling inside out.”

“Showing properties to potential purchasers gives me a real thrill. I love to hear of their hopes and plans and love to see these become a reality. I have, on occasions, been invited back to properties post-completion. To see the new purchasers settled in and making it their own gives me a huge sense of pride.”

Throughout lockdown in 2020, she oversaw the renovation of its new property office. Amy set the goal of being operational by the end of 2020, and they moved in on Christmas week.

This new Main Street location has opened its business and paved the way for further expansion into residential sales and lettings markets.

Typical working day

“My working day is extremely versatile and varied. In the morning, I could be clerking at the calf sale, at lunchtime completing a pre-sale valuation on a residential dwelling, in the afternoon compiling catalogues for an upcoming dispersal sale and in the evening showing viewers a commercial rental unit.”

“No two days are the same. It is often fast-paced and hectic, but I love it. Most days, I bring two outfits and multiple pairs of shoes to work. You do not know what the day will bring. Of course, the wellies are always in the boot of the car if required,” she laughed.

“The thing I love most about my job is the people I come into contact with daily. From our team of staff to customers and clients, there is a real community in the mart that is hard to find anywhere else.”

Charity fundraising has been central to its ethos as a company from the beginning. Each year, they hold a special charity Christmas show and sale in the mart, with all proceeds going to a local cause.

“We are continually humbled by the generosity of our farming community, of our customers and staff, who support the event year in year out.”

“Over the last seven years, our charity Christmas show & sale has become renowned for top-quality stock on display. An incredible £245,000 has been raised for local charities.”

Markethill Livestock & Farm Sales LTD, women in ag, women in farming, farmers

Women in agriculture

“I am very passionate that women should be working in the mart and property agency fields. At times, it can be challenging working in a male-dominated environment.”

“However, I have found keeping your head down and continually working to the best of your ability speaks the loudest of your capabilities.”

“I think often one area where women exceed in our field is in the empathy they can share with clients and customers. Resultant property sales from the passing of a loved one or the dispersal of a carefully curated herd due to ill health often cause much distress for the vendor.”

“I am conscious never to underestimate the role we play in what can be the most difficult period of someone’s life,” she added.

Future plans

Presently, Amy is working towards achieving her RICS accreditation to become a charter surveyor and valuer specialising in the rural sector. Once passed, this will allow her to work in a much wider field.

“We have lots of exciting plans for the mart side of the business too. Along with my dad and my brother, James, we will be working towards these over the coming months and years!”

“In the short term, we are looking forward to the sales post-Covid controls. As experienced by all businesses, it has been a very challenging year.”

“We are very grateful to our staff who have continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure the mart, a key link in the food chain, continued to function for both sellers and purchasers.”

“My top tip for any younger person coming into the agricultural sector is to work hard, work hard, work hard! See the work that needs to be done and do it.”

“There are long hours and arduous jobs, but sticking in and seeing them through makes you very attractive to any employer.”

“Also, never pass on an opportunity to learn something new. Keeping on top of new work processes, recent legislative developments, and current market trends is vital in maintaining a resilient business,” she concluded.

Read more Farm Girls stories

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

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