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HomeBeef‘I worked on sites as a machinery, dumper, and digger operator’
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 worked on sites as a machinery, dumper, and digger operator’

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Tiegan Dunne, an ag student from Laois, in this week’s women in ag segment. They discuss her family’s previous association with farming, construction industry roots and studies at Gurteen Agricultural College.

“I am 21-year-old Tiegan Dunne from Mountmellick, County Laois. My family are initially from a farming background.

However, my grandfather, Christy, and his brothers, Mick, and Eamon, decided to work in construction. They developed their own civil engineering and plant hire company, Dunne Brothers Ltd, which my father and uncle now run.

Eamon decided to go back into farming on the family farm. My grandfather and my father both operated a small farm.

However, my father stopped farming a few years ago after my grandfather died to focus on construction.

When I was 17, I started to work for my father and uncle in construction during the summer and midterm holidays. I worked on sites as a groundworker and machinery, dumper, and digger operator.

Laois ag student 

I have always loved working with my father, and I often got days off school to help him. Ever since I was young, I have always loved animals, and I always wanted to get back into farming.

We had a small suckler farm with between 15-20 cows, mainly Limousin, Angus and Charolais cattle.

Therefore, I decided to go to Gurteen Agricultural College to do my Green Cert – advanced dairy herd management and am currently in my final year.

Some of my earliest memories revolve around farming with Dominic, brother, Nathan, and my sister, Clodagh, feeding the cows. I recall going to my grandfather’s, where there would always be a few calves for us to feed.

I developed an interest in farming when I was very young as we were always out in the fields in our free time.

Honestly, I considered becoming a butcher or construction worker like my father or a healthcare assistant.

I loved them all as I worked in all those fields, but those paths just were not for me, as I loved being outdoors and with animals.

21-year-old Tiegan Dunne from Mountmellick, County Laois, Ireland is an advanced dairy herd management student at Gurteen Ag College.

Gurteen Agricultural College

After my Leaving Cert, I planned on taking a year out to work for my father in construction.

However, I ended up doing a course in healthcare to become a healthcare assistant, caring for elderly people. I enjoyed that work, but I loved being outdoors and with animals more.

I completed my healthcare course one week before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. However, I never went any further with it, so I stayed home to help my father in construction.

Then, I enrolled at Gurteen Agricultural College in 2020 and am now in my second year. This course appealed to me as it had everything I wanted, and it was the closest agricultural college to me.

The thing I found the most challenging was when I went to agricultural college; I did not have a lot of experience as we stopped farming years ago.

Therefore, I had to learn a lot of things from scratch. I previously completed a hoof pairing course with Dunmasc Genetics and began placement on Bernard Ging’s 320-cow spring-calving farm this week.

One of my highlights of doing my course so far was when we went on a farm visit to in Westmeath.

I enjoyed this a lot as David Clarke talked about the different enterprises, hosting auctions, and the livestock sourcing/transport arm of his business, where he travels across Ireland, England and many more countries.

I am enjoying the course as it has a lot to offer. However, sometimes it is hard. Because of lockdowns, we could not be on-campus learning and had to remain at home, to learn remotely.

This course has a lot to offer; it has classroom-based theory and hands-on/practical learning.

This is great as we learn about the essential theory, and then we get to go outside and get the hands-on experience, which I believe is critical for setting us up for a successful career in the field.

We learn all about the business side of farming, grassland management, animal husbandry and many more essential skills.

21-year-old Tiegan Dunne from Mountmellick, County Laois, Ireland is an advanced dairy herd management student at Gurteen Ag College.

Macra na Feirme

I am a part of my local Macra na Feirme. This has given me some more confidence, and I have made some new friends.

My boyfriend, Shane, and I proposed the idea of doing a light-up truck and tractor run for a charity, which turned out to be a huge success on the night.

All proceeds went to the Cuisle Centre Portlaoise, which helps people living with cancer and their families.

21-year-old Tiegan Dunne from Mountmellick, County Laois, Ireland is an advanced dairy herd management student at Gurteen Ag College.

Women in ag 

Being a woman in agriculture can be challenging, and to be honest, it all depends on who you are talking to or working with.

Some male counterparts out there have always supported me, working in both farming and construction. They will always praise me and want me to go further and become the best I can.

But some people have tried to belittle me, asking me if I would prefer to work in a ‘woman’s job’.

When I joined the agriculture world and started college, my biggest supporters were my father, my boyfriend, and the rest of my family.

If you want to do something, just go for it; do not be afraid and do not let anyone dictate and tell you that you cannot do something.

I do not feel women in agriculture are getting the recognition they deserve, but it has started to get better in the last few years.

Social media 

Some farming women on social media are an inspiration to many other women and I. These women also promote and prove that women are as good as others in the ag industry.

A lot can be done to encourage more women to get into the agricultural sector.

An example is using social media to showcase how women participate in the sector by providing an insight into a day in their lives.

On the other hand, it is important also to show that if you come from a farming background or not, you can always become a farmer.

Females should consider a career in agriculture as it is a great job. You can travel and gain new experiences. Also, it keeps you active; you can care for animals and meet some great people out there with the same interest.

Life as a woman in agriculture can be challenging at times. As I am only starting, it can be tough at times. I am still learning and gaining new skills and experiences I will need in the future.

21-year-old Tiegan Dunne from Mountmellick, County Laois, Ireland is an advanced dairy herd management student at Gurteen Ag College.

Making an impact

In the future, I would like to travel abroad to New Zealand or Australia and farm out there to learn new skills and practices. Someday, I hope to own my own dairy farm, either at home or abroad.

Overall, I hope to make a difference and inspire some younger people to get into agriculture.

Life as a young person in agriculture is a great way of life, as I love being outdoors, and I enjoy the work that comes with farming.

Pushing myself into working and studying agriculture must be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The future of agriculture in Ireland is bright as farming is constantly improving and expanding. Furthermore, the world’s population is getting bigger, and the demand for food is growing.

The agricultural sector needs to attract more younger people, and we need to focus and do our part to improve and slow down climate change,” the Laois ag student concluded.

See more women in agriculture profiles.

To share your story like this Laois ag student, email – [email protected]

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