17-year-old student, Molly Bradley, who has vast experience of breeding, judging and showing cattle, features as part of our frequent Women in Ag segment.
17-year-old Molly Bradley from Killylea, Armagh claims she has been farming on her grandfather’s Thomas Lester’s, enterprise all her life.
Over the years, the farm has evolved and expanded, and is now home to dairy and pedigree suckler cattle.
They farm Blonde d’Aquitaines, Limousins, and more recently Simmentals – all of which they farm under the Dernasigh prefix.
“My grandfather and I have always been close. He has taught me everything I have needed to grow and expand my knowledge of farming. Also, my grandad has been a huge support to me starting my own Simmental herd,” she told That’s Farming.
“Some of my earliest memories of farming come from me spending time with my granda going to shows and sales. I feel this is where my passion for pedigree cattle has stemmed from.”
“The day-to-day running of the farm is very much down to my grandfather and uncle, Alastair. I am in full-time education at Greenmount Agricultural College.”
Dairy and suckler herds
Presently, the family run a 40-cow dairy, which are mainly Fleckvieh-cross and Jersey-cross cows, with their pedigree cattle.
They milk their dairy herd twice-a-day using a 4-point swing-over parlour. In general, they calve all-year-round as this allows them to have a sustainable milk supply and links in well with their year-round-calving pedigree herd.
In 2008, her grandfather, Thomas, began the farm’s pedigree breeding venture and joined the Limousin and British Blonde Cattle societies.
Molly then followed in his footsteps and joined the Northern Ireland Simmental Cattle Society in 2018. This is when she “began her pedigree journey and reignited my passion for showing cattle”.
“I believe having quality cattle on the farm is every bit as important as having a quantity of them,” she added.
Molly began showing cattle in the shadow of her brothers who exhibited prize-winning Aberdeen Angus cattle. She spent her early days showing under the auspices of the late Thelma Gorman, a well-renowned Simmental figure.
In particular, some of Molly’s achievements to date include preparing and showing a first-prize-winning Limousin-cross steer at the Northern Ireland Beef and Lamb Championships and winning the young handler award and presenting her home-bred Blonde heifer as overall reserve champion.
“Over the past two years, I have started to show our home-bred stock. I am entirely involved in the turnout of these cattle right through to preparing them for the ring. I have won numerous championships with these animals.”
“When I’m not showing, I enjoy taking part in stock judging competitions winning overall champion in both Simmental (2019) and Limousin (2020) stock judging competitions.”
“These competitions help me to gain experience of what judges are looking for in the show ring and learn specifics for breed types.”
In 2019, the 17-year-old student officiated as a judge at the autumn sale of the Northern Ireland Simmental, British Blue, and Blonde Cattle societies.
“This experience was an education as you know how the person at the other end of the halter feels and the hard work and preparation everyone put into it.”
“Whether you place them first or tenth, the same hard work would have gone into preparing these animals for shows. It was an experience that I truly enjoyed. I hope to possibly have the opportunity to do it again in the future.”
As mentioned, Molly is currently studying an Advanced Technical Extended Diploma in Agriculture at Greenmount Agricultural College and hopes to graduate in mid-2023.
Like many other students, Molly has had a year like no other with a transition to remote learning.
“Student life has been unpredictable as our week-to-week timetables have had to change based on government guidelines and health and safety surrounding Covid-19. However, this has not stopped me from meeting new like-minded people and getting involved in a new environment.”
“We are all eager to return to face-to-face classes and, of course, the farm at the campus before starting practical placements later on this year.”
“So far, I am thoroughly enjoying my time at college, and I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge of farming and other aspects of agriculture which I have otherwise had little experience of such.”
Women in ag
For Molly, as a female in a male-dominated industry, the biggest motivation to succeed is for someone to tell her she “cannot do something because of my gender”.
“Being a woman in agriculture is about normalising women in wellies, driving farm machinery, breeding, and caring for our stock.”
“Women are resilient and motivated, and there is as much a place for us in this industry as any other. So, I will happily prove anyone who says I cannot wrong.”
“In saying that, people’s perspectives have changed drastically over the past few years. One only has to look at our YFCU and NFU presidents this year to see that women are getting the recognition they deserve in the agricultural industry.”
“The majority of my experience as a female in agriculture is positive. However, I hope that all of our experiences will be positive in the years to come.”
In the future, Molly hopes to finish her studies with a degree and pursue a job in the agricultural food industry.
She has a burning desire to “continue working on and expanding the farm at home, keep smashing the gender stereotypes of this industry and be happy as a woman in wellies”.
Interview conducted by Catherina Cunnane
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