That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Emma Kirby-Boyle (22), Clonmel, Co Tipperary in this week’s Women in Ag segment. We discuss her non-farming roots, passion for dairying, completing the Green Cert-part time, her professional career as an occupational therapist and a desire to establish her own beef herd.
“I got into farming when my partner, Brian, and his father, Seamus, converted from sucklers to dairy in 2018.
They milk almost 100 cows in South Tipperary and have taught me everything I know about farming.
They have encouraged me and given me every opportunity to be involved, and have been incredibly patient as I asked a million questions.
I recently graduated as an occupational therapist, so the plan is to do that and farming going forward.
Currently, I work as a relief milker with FRS on farms across South Tipperary.
I spent the spring working on a spring-calving dairy farm, milking 120 cows.
My responsibilities included milking cows, rearing calves, calving cows, and any other job the farmer may have required assistance with.
I love being outside every day in all weather. Furthermore, I have a huge interest in working with livestock, whether it is feeding or moving or any other animal husbandry-related task.
I think springtime on a dairy farm is magic, and I feel privileged to be a part of rearing calves and watching them grow and develop.
Some farmers I worked for will know not to let me near a reel (that is a story for another day).
But on a serious note, I suppose I am not as physically strong as my male counterparts, but thankfully there is plenty of equipment now to help with that.
Also, I get far too attached to calves and make pets out of them.
Currently, I am completing the Distance Education Green Cert through Teagasc Thurles, having enrolled in the course in 2021.
After I finished my occupational therapy degree, I enrolled to get my Green Cert as a part-time student. As part of the course, I completed both placements on Brian and Seamus’ farm.
The course – which I will graduate from in November 2022 – encompasses a level 5 certificate in agriculture and a level 6 specific purpose certificate in farming.
Women in Agriculture
When I started relief milking, being a woman in the farming field worried me at first.
However, I have been so lucky to work with the most welcoming farmers who are happy to see a woman come down the yard.
This comes up in discussion a lot down the yard, and from what I can see, farmers are delighted to see more and more women involved in the industry.
I am relatively new to farming, but from what I can see, the recognition of women’s work in agriculture has come a very long way.
Although it remains a male-dominated industry and the work women have done in the past has been largely invisible, I think women are getting more recognition for their work on Irish farms.
Government-led initiatives such as increasing the grant rate to 60% for women under the Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) and women in ag groups are hugely inspiring and encourage more women to become an active part of running Irish farms.
I think women have a huge amount to add to farms. Making farms a welcoming environment for women is so important. I would have loved the opportunity to do agricultural science, but it was not an option for us in an all-girls secondary school.
I think that giving women opportunities to get involved is the most important thing.
There is no shortage of jobs to be done on a farm, so girls/women have ample opportunities to give it a go.
Life as a woman in agriculture can be challenging because I am not as strong as my male counterparts.
But, in saying that, I do not let that hold me back. I do what I can and ask for help when I need it.
Dairying, OT and own beef herd
Looking ahead, when I have my Green Cert under my belt, I hope to rent some land and have my own small-scale beef herd.
And I stress that it will be small, but it will be mine, and I will be the first in my family too.
I want to continue learning about the dairy industry and putting the skills I am learning through my Green Cert studies into practice.
If you wish to carve a career in agriculture, go for it; get stuck in.
From my experience, it is an incredibly rewarding career, so if you are willing to work hard and get yourself dirty, you will get on just fine.
So, in summary, I want to have my own little beef herd, continue to be an active part of Irish dairy farming and practice as an OT too.
I love being involved in Irish dairy farming. Although I do not have my own herd, as of yet, I am so proud to be part of the Irish dairy industry in my own way.
Farmers are the most resilient, hard-working people, and I am delighted to work with them daily.
Future of farming
I hope farming in Ireland continues to go from strength to strength.
Irish farmers produce extremely high-quality produce that is recognised worldwide.
This year, more than ever, I think people will recognise where their food comes from and continue to support Irish farming,” the occupational therapist.
To share your story like this farming occupational therapist, email – [email protected]
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