In this week’s Career Focus segment, Conall McGrath, discusses sheep farming, studying at UCD and his journey after graduation with Bridgeman Ecosystems Ltd.
Although Conall McGrath hails from an equine-based background, he set his sights on the agricultural industry at an early age.
The Ashbourne, Co. Meath native now divides his time between farming, working at Bridgeman Ecosystems Ltd and agricultural contracting.
The 23-year-old and his friends: Carson, Oisín, and Séan, help out during busy times on his father Pearse’s sheep enterprise and also makes small square bales. Conall has been square baling hay and straw for about eight years.
“I make about 5,000 bales a season at the height of it some of which as contracting work. The rest of the straw I buy on the flat, bale up and sell on. Also, I top about 200-acres a year for local farmers, and I carry out groundskeeping work for an athletics club. I have a couple of ewes just as a hobby to keep the grass down about the place.”
“I enjoy sitting back after a long day stacking and knowing it is finally finished. Dealing with broken-down machines in the summer can be challenging when there is a small window in the weather to get the work done.”
“If I want something done, I have to go do it myself or organise someone to help me do it. Be it buying machines, maintenance, organising straw from farmers to be baled, selling bales, looking after the sheep, renting sheds for storage or building new ones. It’s my thing so it’s all my responsibility and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Conall graduated from UCD with a degree in agricultural science majoring in agricultural systems technology (AST) in June 2020.
He found it challenging to decide between agricultural science and engineering and felt AST was a good hybrid between the two.
He is currently production manager at Bridgeman Ecosystems Ltd, an equipment manufacturing company that produces innovative material separation solutions for the recycling industry.
“I am responsible for liaising with suppliers mainly fabricators organising transport of machine components, assembling machines in the workshop, suggesting and implementing design changes, drafting owners manuals and parts manuals, patent applications and some light fabrication work.”
“Furthermore, I work closely alongside my father in the business as he is the managing director. Also, I work closely with our suppliers and fabricators arranging collections and discussing potential improvements that could be made to the design of our machines.”
A typical day in Conall’s work-life entails farming, opening the workshop at 8 am and completing jobs that are high on the priority list. Then, he accepts deliveries and collects any items from suppliers. He finishes work at approximately 5pm before turning his attention to ongoing projects, the most recent being, rebuilding an old cattle trailer.
“In general, balancing work in Bridgeman with getting farm work done can be challenging, especially during the summertime. I completed my Professional Work Experience module, with Bridgeman so, I knew what to expect coming into the role.”
Like many other young people, Conall hopes to work and travel when Covid-19 restrictions permit. He has a burning desire to gain more experience and knowledge of the agricultural/engineering sectors.
“I’ll never finish learning, but I have no ambitions to further my studies. People who are considering pursuing a career in agriculture, I would say go for it. If it is what you really want, then grab onto every opportunity you can and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
“I’d say to get out and try as much as you can. The great thing about agriculture is that it is a diverse sector. There is always something different you can try out and learn from. You’ll never know where you might end up.”
“There have been dark days on my journey to date but, help is always available in the ag industry and, that is what makes it so special. From getting help studying for an exam to getting a lend of a tractor, someone will always help you out,” Conall concluded.