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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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Lockdown inspires suckler farmer to return to college at 26 to become ag science teacher

In this week’s Women in Ag segment, That’s Farming, speaks to 26-year-old Roisin Murphy about her desire to become an ag science and biology teacher. The Kildare native holds a bachelor’s degree in science, a masters in Agricultural Extension and Innovation and will return to UCD in September to complete a PME.

“If this year has taught me anything, it is to do what you truly want to do. That is why I have decided to go back to college to become a biology and agricultural science teacher.”

Those are the sentiments of 26-year-old Roisin Murphy, a third-generation farmer who grew up on a suckler enterprise and has two degrees under her belt.

The Kildare native will return to UCD this September to complete its (PWE) Professional Master of Education programme.

Ag science teaching 

She enrolled in Maynooth University’s science course after her Leaving Certificate in 2014, before progressing to complete UCD’s Agricultural Extension and Innovation masters programme.

“Science in Maynooth was always my first choice. I did not get enough points in my Leaving Cert to do agricultural science at UCD. However, that did not stop me from getting there if it did take me a little longer than expected.”

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“I always wanted to do something with agriculture, and UCD is the place to do that. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and enjoyed the wide range of modules we got to take during the year.”

“There were loads of opinions that were great for students like me who did not attend UCD for their primary degree.”

The Kildare native said the course exceeded her expectations because of UCD’s teaching staff and the friendships she formed. This experience has influenced her decision to return to the world-renowned educational institution to complete her next degree.

“During lockdown, I decided to go back to college and do something I have always wanted to do. The only decision you will regret is the one you did not make.”

“I will have to complete my teacher training and school placement during the two-year course while attending UCD for lectures. Honestly, I am looking forward to starting.”

women in ag, farm girls, suckler farming, agri careers

Suckler farming

Murphy is involved in her family farm’s running whilst working part-time at a gym, K Leisure in Naas.

The family runs a 39-strong spring-calving system, comprising Simmental-cross and Limousin-cross, on their 40-acre holding. They utilise AI, retain some females as replacements and sell male progeny as weanlings annually.

The Murphys have a functional work dynamic on the farm, sharing responsibilities with Roisin’s primary role revolving around animal husbandry.

“I run the farm with my mam, Catherine and my dad, Pat. My youngest brother, Fionn, also helps and is interested in farming. My other siblings, Aine and Paudie, are our gap stoppers when moving the cows,” she added.

suckler farming, sucklers, cattle,

Grassland management and genetics

“Grassland management has become a big thing for us in the last few years. We have increased our stocking rate compared to the years gone by. Now that my parents have the extra help, we can afford to keep more animals on the farm.”

“Sharing a common interest with my parents and spending time with them is a big part of it for me. Also, I love the calf rearing part of farming. I love seeing them grow and develop into fine animals that do well when we sell them in the mart.”

“Both my mam and I are passionate about breeding and producing high-quality calves. We choose five-star bulls and plan our AI/ breeding season well in advance, so we know exactly what cow will get which straw.”

“This has improved our herd in the last few years, and it shows in the replacement heifers we keep and the price we get for our weanling bulls in our local mart.”

For the 26-year-old, maintaining a work-life balance with employment, football, farming and socialising can prove a juggling act. “Although, if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life,” she remarked.

“I always remember animals being a big part of our lives. Having to feed the cows on Christmas morning always stands out. We would open our presents and then head to the farm with mam and dad before starting to get the dinner ready,” she laughed.

women in ag, farm girls, suckler farming, agri careers
[“The kittens appeared on the farm last year during lockdown. They are our farming cats now; they are always out among the cows.”]
Women in ag

Murphy shed light on her experience as a woman in agriculture.

“I would like to think I am treated the same as my male counterparts in the sector. Women are just as capable as men to be farmers once we are given the same opportunities.

“In terms of recognition for women in the sector, I think we are making steady progress, but it has taken a long time to get here, and there is a long way to go.”

“I think the attitude that farming is a male career needs to shift as farming is for everyone once you love it.”

“Each day brings a new challenge, whether you are a man or woman. It is all about having the right attitude.”

Limousin cattle, Simmental cattle, farming news,

Ag science teaching and farming 

And the next challenge for the Kildare farmer is to fulfil her life-long dream of becoming a teacher.

She hopes to qualify as a secondary school teacher and work locally so she can “have the best of both worlds and continue to farm alongside my parents”.

“Teaching ag science and farming in my spare time would be the dream for me. People are surprised that a young woman is so interested and invested in farming.”

“I have grown up with it, and so has my mother, so I am following in her footsteps. I hope that I can achieve half as much as she has and make her proud when I eventually take over the running of the farm.”

“Looking ahead, I think the future is bright for agriculture in Ireland. Young people need to be given the opportunity to be involved in their family farm.”

“Also, I think this will improve the quality of farming in Ireland and allow for this sector’s continued growth and development,” she concluded.

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