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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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‘We are milking 107,000 cows across 6 farms in Saudi Arabia’ – Longford native (29)

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Conor Bohan (29) in this week’s Career Focus segment. The Longford native discusses his pathway from mechanical engineering to agriculture, working in New Zealand and Chile and now Saudi Arabia, where he is a senior unit manager since November 2022.

“I hail from Newtowncashel, County Longford and am not originally from a farming background; my mother was a teacher, and my father was a guard.

My grandfather was a farmer, and I loved farming with him up until he retired when I was around 6-years-old.

I got back into farming in my teenage years and just loved working with animals and the job satisfaction.

I spent two years at Ballyhaise Agricultural College in Co. Cavan, where I completed a Level 5 Certificate in Agriculture and a Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Dairy Herd Management, from which I further progressed to undertake a two-year Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management (Level 7 Special Purpose Award).

As part of this, I completed a six-month placement on an approved commercial dairy farm and studied between Kildalton Agricultural College and the Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre in Moorepark.

I began my agricultural education journey in September 2013 and then graduated with my latter degree in September 2017.

Moreover, I would have quite an interest in mechanics and how machines work, ect, so I completed one year of mechanical engineering in Galway before I decided it was not what I wanted to do.

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So, I applied for Ballyhaise at the end of that year, so you can say agriculture was my second go at third-level education


After I finished college, I moved to Chile for two years (2017-2019), where I was the production manager for a Chilean-based farming company owned by an investment company in London.

In this job, I had responsibility for the performance of our 2,700 cows that were split across three farms (860 cows, 820 cows and 1070 cows).

This was quite a Kiwi-inspired intensive, pasture-type system with Kiwi-cross cows and a focus on grass utilisation. This was a fantastic job that gave me lots of room to grow and develop my farming and management skills.

I returned to Ireland, where I took a farm managerial position with a share milking partnership in east Galway, milking 220 cows. This was a pasture-focused farm with Kiwi-cross cows, and I completed two seasons here before I left in late 2021.

Dairy farming in Saudi Arabia

Currently, I am a senior unit manager at Al Rabiah Dairy Farm for the Almari Company in Saudi Arabia.

I interviewed for the job in July 2022 and moved out at the start of November 2022. John Miller from FRS Recruitment was there for every step of the way from application and advised and assisted me during my visa process.

We are milking 107,000 cows across 6 farms in Saudi Arabia. We milk and calve all year round, and our milk is processed at our own facilities to all forms of dairy products to meet demand in the Middle Eastern market.

There are seven divisions on the farm, and as senior unit manager, I am responsible for the day-to-day running of my division.

My current remit would include organising staff to complete work efficiently, data recording and ensuring the smooth operation of the day-to-day work; the assistant farm manager would be my direct superior.

My working day can vary – depending on what division I am in.

There is so much to like about a new country and a different farming system. My job is very different to anything I have done before, but I am still working with cows which I am quite familiar with.

Effectively managing the team to efficiently manage the workload can be challenging, but this position meets my expectations.

Everything I have done has brought me to where I am today, and I think it is important to appreciate that journey and its negatives and positives.

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At the moment, I plan to stay in my current job for the foreseeable future. You have to enjoy your line of work – it is very difficult to roll out of bed at 4 am every morning to milk cows if you do not love it.

Do not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, as that is where you learn and grow as a person. You want to go for the opportunity that gives you that bit of excitement.

To succeed in the ag industry, I believe you need a good head for numbers and organisation with a strong work ethic.

Over the last ten years, I have learned at home and abroad and have become quite a good stockman, people manager and problem solver.

There have been ups and downs along the way, but it has all taken me to where I am, and I would not change that for anything.”

For anyone interested in a career with Almarai, please contact John Miller from FRS Recruitment. There currently are a number of open vacancies for 2023.

John has been working in partnership with Almarai since 2016, and he will assist you with the entire job application process and assist you in securing your working visa.

For a confidential chat, you can reach John Miller on 087-9955439 or email queries to [email protected]

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