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HomeDairy‘Just because we are women does not mean we should get a...
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-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 firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Just because we are women does not mean we should get a pat on the back for milking cows or driving tractors’

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Aoife Hayes, in this week’s Women in Ag series, a BSc in agriculture graduate. 

My name is Aoife Hayes, a 23-years-old from a small village just outside Thurles, Co. Tipperary called Drombane.

There is a farm in the family, and it is owned by my uncle, Padraig, who took it over from my grandfather in the mid-90s.

He is the fourth generation to farm the land, which is home to a dairy and beef enterprise.

My earliest farming memory is bottle-feeding calves with my grandmother, and I was probably more of a hindrance than a help, really.

During my Leaving Cert year, I went to a career advisor and her recommendation was for me to pursue a career in caring.

The career advisor said agriculture was too tough of a job for a woman. I never considered the caring route; I was always going to end up in agriculture, but I only went to the advisor to please my mother.

Currently, I have been working with FRS and farmers for some time now.

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This has been an invaluable experience, and it has given me time to consider my career path in agriculture.

While working with FRS, I worked on many different farms, all with very different setups.

Whenever I am free, I try to help my uncle, whether it is milking cows or doing odd jobs around the yard.

Education

I graduated from Munster Technological University, formally known as Cork Institute of Technology, where I studied for a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, since 2018.

I finished my fourth and final year of college in May 2022 and had my graduation in November 2022.

As part of my studies, I completed a work placement with Eurogene AI Services in Cahir Co. Tipperary in the second semester of second year.

I wanted to see what an industry placement would be like, and I had an interest in bovine genetics and how the AI process works.

This was in 2020 when, unfortunately, COVID-19 hit, and we went into lockdown, which made things slightly more difficult, but we adapted.

I was able to experience a variety of jobs during the 15 weeks I spent there.

Some of my tasks included packing orders for farmers, driving around to farmers with the sales team and also partaking in an AI course in the Rathdowney factory.

Unfortunately, factories closed as I was halfway through the course due to Covid 19.

Course content

I loved the course and would recommend it to anyone remotely interested in a career in agriculture.

The course covers a wide range of topics in a short amount of time, with anything from accounting to soil management.

I loved the way there was a practical element to the course, such as working with animals or machinery as well as the theory part.

Clonakilty Agricultural College was where we completed our practicals and studied animal and some soil modules.

Heading to Clonakilty during the week was definitely one of the highlights of the course, as Clonakilty was a more relaxed atmosphere surrounded by your own people with similar interests. Weekly trips to Inchydoney beach also helped me get through the course!

In my course in college, there were only four girls with thirty-odd boys. But even though there were only four of us, we managed the finest.

Women in Ag

My experience so far is yes, I am treated the same as men in the sector. I have not got any special treatment or have had any comments passed to me.

It does not matter if you are male or female heading into the creamery or into the mart around here; everyone is treated the same.

Agriculture has been a mainly male-dominated field, but in recent years that is changing as more women are coming onto the ag scene.

It is not unusual to have female farmhands doing jobs, so when farmers need help, they do not care whether you are male or female as long as the job gets done, in my experience.

I feel that women in agriculture are getting the recognition they deserve both at farm and industry level.

Social media

I think social media plays a great part in opening people’s eyes to women in farming. For example, Maighréad Barron and Karen Moynihan have a big following and are great role models.

It is becoming the norm now to see women farming or partaking in some parts of agriculture, which is great as this was not seen six or seven years ago, in my experience.

It is about farmers supporting farmers. I do not believe that just because we are women that we should get a pat on the back for milking cows or driving tractors.

If you are able to do and enjoy it, it should not make a difference whether you are male or female.

More and more women are entering the sector. You cannot force someone to do something they do not want to do.

Seeing as women in ag are more common now, more women will feel and believe that they can farm or work in the sector as it is the norm now.

I would not say life as a woman in agriculture is tough or challenging.

The job itself can be tough at times if cattle become ill or something like that, but that is just life on a farm; that has nothing to do with being a woman.

Things can be unpredictable, which keeps things interesting as no two days are the same, which I love.

I have always loved being on the go ever since I was young, and I have always loved being outside and out with animals.

Seeing my grandmother work hard on the farm all her life inspired me. She is one reason why I believed I could have a future in agriculture.

Future

My plans for the future are to travel while I am still young and able.

I intend to work full-time in Ireland for the next year to save up to travel the year after. It has always been a dream of mine to see how New Zealand operates and the differences in how we farm.

That is number one on the bucket list, anyway. We will see where else it takes me after that.

If you were thinking of pursuing a career in agriculture, I would say do it.

There is nothing like it, and it is such a rewarding career; you will never get bored, as no two days are the same.

Agriculture is very broad, so if the physical part of farming is not got you, there are still so many more careers involving ag, such as in sales or as advisors, that you could turn your hand to.”

To share your story, email – [email protected]

See more Women in Ag profiles.

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