Monday, December 11, 2023
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HomeDairy‘I have completed four years of delivering between 1,800-2,200 calves’
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
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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‘I have completed four years of delivering between 1,800-2,200 calves’

In this week’s Women in Ag segment, That’s Farming, speaks to Theresa O’Shea, about her venture to New Zealand and experience on farms comprising 2,100 cows and over 2,000 calves.  

In 2017, Glencar, County Kerry native, Theresa O’Shea (25), ventured to New Zealand to “see what life is like the other side of the world”.

Travelling without a plan can often open doors to all kinds of possibilities, and that is exactly how things unfolded for her.

She hails from a farming background but was not born into a farm, and has previously worked in childcare and the hospitality industry as a café supervisor.

“I was in New Zealand just a few days and saw maybe five staff moving a mob of cows on the road, so I got out of my car and asked for a job,” she explained to That’s Farming.

“I started calf-rearing the next Monday and fell in love with the job. Then after calving season was over, I moved onto a lot of different backpacker jobs.”

“Until the next season again, where I secured a new job five minutes from my house, rearing 2,000 bull calves, and I still hold this position. I have completed four years of delivering between 1,800-2,200 calves.”

“I have helped with bulls and have also milked 1,150 cows. Furthermore, I worked with vets for a few weeks.” the Kerry native added.

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2,100 cows and calf-rearing

O’Shea’s employer runs two dairy enterprises consisting of 1,150 cows and 950 cows with a block for calves.

With invaluable experience under her belt, the 25-year-old was handed the calf-rearing enterprise’s reins this year.

“My boss let me manage the calves, and I was so happy that I had gained that trust. I had to make sure every calf was looked after every day, that nothing was missed, and ensure that milk was mixed correctly.”

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She was responsible for placing orders for milk powder, grain, bentonite, and any animal remedies/medicine. Furthermore, she had to liaise with three staff members, communicate with truck delivery drivers and complete tasks such as weighing, scanning, and administering injections and drenches.

“One of my favourite things every day is leaving the yard and hearing silence. That is how I know; I did a good job, and all calves are happy.”

“I love getting to know calves personally. Every year, I have at least ten calves that will remain pets for a long time.”

“My favourite thing is finding the weakest calves and making it my mission to get them big and strong. The hardest part is putting hours of effort into trying to get a calf better, and it passes away.”

“In New Zealand, there are a lot more opportunities for a woman to go farming as women operate a lot of farms over here. Herd sizes are a lot bigger here, and I feel like, in New Zealand, an animal is just another number.”

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Returning home

Although her love for farming is blossoming in New Zealand, Theresa will return to Ireland in the coming weeks after three-and-a-half-years across the waters.

She relishes the idea of continuing her journey in the agricultural field and has a burning desire to secure a farm-based position back home.

“I have always loved animals, and it is quite easy to get a job here in New Zealand. When I came to New Zealand, farmers were in calving season, and I just went from there. I would like to see, in more detail, the different ways of how farmers do things at home.”

“My advice to anyone who likes working in agriculture is to come to New Zealand; you will not be disappointed. I came to New Zealand knowing next to nothing about farming, and I am so grateful to have had to opportunity to learn. New Zealand has been a blast.”

“I have always been around sheep, and years ago, my grandfather had cows and calves. I always loved the outdoor farming lifestyle. Every year, I also got an opportunity to bottle feed pet lambs.”

“My grandmother had a heart of gold. She would bring any animal she thought was a little under the weather in a box in front of the fire in the kitchen. So, I grew up watching how to care for animals.” Theresa O’Shea concluded.

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