That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Lisa Millerick in this week’s Career Focus series. She discusses her dairy farming roots, studying agricultural science at SETU Waterford and her current position as a microbiology lab technician at Dairygold.
“I am 23-years-old, and I live between Killenaule and Fethard in south Tipperary. Both my parents come from farming backgrounds, and they now farm together.
I am kept up-to-date on what is happening on the farm on a daily basis, whether I am in college or at work.
I was brought out onto the farm from a very young age.
There are pictures of me in a pram with cows, stories about me falling asleep standing up in a digger, falling asleep on the mudguard seat while mam was levelling a field.
Catherine and Liam Millerick (my parents) farm together and have been milking once-a-day since 2014.
We have a crossbred dairy herd that are ranked in the top 1% in the country on EBI according to ICBF.
Our herd is mainly Jersey crossed with Holstein Friesian; almost all cows have a certain percentage of Jersey in them.
I bought a pure-bred Jersey heifer calf two years ago from Peter and Paula Hynes. She calved in the first week of February and had a little heifer.
We run an OAD grass-based system with low meal intake. All fields have some clover in them, and we also have 20 % of the milking platform in multispecies since 2021.
AI has always been a part of our breeding programme, and lots of thought goes into our choice of bulls every year; Liam practices DIY AI. In the last three years, sexed semen has been used on the top 30 % of the herd.
Currently, we are milking 120 cows plus in-calf heifers and yearlings, and most males are sold as calves.
The most enjoyable aspect of farming for me is the springtime when all the calves are born, and I see the excitement of the calves as they grow and thrive week to week.
My role on the farm is mainly to help my parents in the busy times, such as calving in the springtime and with silage in the summertime.
However, my parents always encouraged me to find my own career path and this led me to my course in agricultural science, combining what I learnt at home on the farm with science I learnt in college.
I attended Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), now South-East Technological University (SETU), from 2018 – 2022.
I received my bachelors (hons) degree in agricultural science in 2022. Before I had put ag science on my CAO, I had considered doing architecture.
However, I felt doing ag science would open more doors and possibilities than doing architecture, so I definitely think I made the right choice.
Ag science in WIT was my first choice, and I got my first choice as I knew the course would be more practical and closer to home, plus, the thoughts of going anywhere else had no appeal.
I went straight from secondary school to college. First year was definitely the hardest, but it got more practical and interesting after that.
First year was about getting a good base of everything for the following years.
I had considered doing a masters, but as I had no particular job in mind, I did not think undertaking a further 1-2 years in formal education was going to be of any benefit to me at this time.
I would definitely consider furthering my education in the future if work required it or if it was going to further me in the workplace.
But I knew coming out of college that I was not going to get a job using my degree straight away, so while I was looking for a job in a lab (this is where I wanted to start my career), I got a hospitality job for a few months while I helped out on the farm for the summer.
Then, I got a lab job in a food testing facility which I enjoyed, but I knew I wanted to be in a company that was more aligned with my degree.
Now, I work in the micro lab in the central lab in Dairygold in Mitchelstown.
A microbiology lab technician at Dairygold
My current title is a microbiology lab technician in the central lab in Mitchelstown, a position which I filled in September 2022.
Dairygold is based mainly in Munster, and its businesses can be broken down into three segments.
Food ingredients where Dairygold supplies premium cheeses, infant formula, and protein powders to the global market, Agri-Business where Dairygold provides services to the farmers, and the retail network of co-op superstores and stores provide goods to the communities.
I do shift work in the lab, so I do four 12-hour shifts, four days working four days off, which I know some people would not like.
However, I get a considerable amount of work done in those four days in the lab, and you have lots of time to relax or take short holidays on your time off.
Each day varies, depending on what needs to be tested; there are eight people on my shift, and we all work together really well, which I think is a very important part of working as a team.
Each day we come in, agars have to be made up, and numerous samples come from on-site and off-site facilities such as the cheese plant below us, Mallow, Castlefarm and Mogeely. A range of products and areas are tested.
Outside of work and farming, I am a member of Macra and am currently the South Tipp treasurer and Fethard club secretary.
I find Macra is great for socialising with like-minded people and fostering new friendships.
When it comes to Macra, I am never stuck for somewhere to go between sporting events, balls, and other social nights out.
There is something for everyone at Macra. I am also a member of the Agricultural Science Association.
I am currently quite happy to continue my journey in Dairygold for the next few years in the lab and see how I get on and have that experience under my belt.
For anyone thinking of doing agriculture or agricultural science definitely enjoy the college experience and take advantage of placement with the college, whether it is going to another country or doing two types of placements within industry or farming.
That is the time when you will realise what you want and what you definitely do not want to do as your job after college.
Also, you make contacts during your placement and any interactions with the industry.
Always put your best self forward as the ag community, especially in Ireland, is quite close-knit and interconnecting.
In regards to looking for a job, one of my lectures said to me in my final months in college that “it is always easier to get a job when you have a job”.
So that may be a case if a job opportunity arises that might either lead to something else or be surprisingly a perfect fit for you.
The future of agriculture is ever-changing and evolving.
In recent years, I have seen a shift in farmers’ outlooks on traditional farm life and adapting new techniques and being more open to new methods and technology.
There are continuous improvements being made in the agricultural sector, and it is good to see most farmers moving with the times.”
Previous farming news article on That’s Farming:
- Studying agriculture, horticulture or forestry at SETU Waterford (once known as Waterford IT): An Interview with Eleanor Kent
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See more articles from farming journalist, Catherina Cunnane