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HomeBeef‘I love working in the mart’ – 22-year-old suckler farmer
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 love working in the mart’ – 22-year-old suckler farmer

This week’s Women in Ag segment features Caroline Doherty, a 22-year-old Mountbellew Agricultural College student, suckler farmer and Drumshanbo Mart employee.

22-year-old Caroline Doherty juggles multiple roles as a suckler farmer and part-time Green Certificate student with two jobs.

The Keshcarrigan, County Leitrim native, farms a 35-cow suckler herd with her father, Gerard, on land that has been in their family name for over a century.

Their commercial suckler herd comprises various Charolais-crosses, Limousin-crosses, Shorthorn-crosses, Belgian-Blue-crosses, and Friesian-crosses, with Limousin-cross-Charolais being the most prominent-type.

They calf their herd from late spring through to April, with some later-calvers in July and September. They duo AI heifers and calf these at 36-months-old, while two Charolais stock bulls serve cows.

“This is close to grass season, which our aim to put the cow and calf out after being born. We sell progeny in the early spring in the special sales. We aim to sell 400 kg heifers at €1,090 and €1,190 for bulls when they reach 450kg. Prices vary annually, depending on circumstances.” Caroline told That’s Farming.

“Watching a calf being born and trying to get up afterwards is the most enjoyable aspect of farming for me. When it sucks itself, you can breathe! I enjoy walking around the fields looking at cows and calves either lying out or running around.”

“Winter months, short days and trying to get all the jobs done before dark are challenges that I face when farming.”

Farm girl, family farm, farming family, farming in Ireland

Education and off-farm work

Caroline juggles her farm commitments with her studies at Mountbellew Agricultural College, County Galway and a position in retail and a livestock mart.

The level 6 in sustainable food production holder is completing the Green Certificate on a part-time basis in the college since 2020.

Furthermore, in 2015, she began working in Drumshanbo Mart as an office administrator following her LCVP work placement.

“I love working in the mart. You will see very few women in livestock marts. Still, in the last few years, I have noticed more women around the premises or coming into the office,” added Caroline, a deli/shop assistant at Scollan’s Gala in Drumshanbo since 2016.

“It does put a smile on my face. Years ago, as a child, I went to the mart with my father, and there may have been only one other girl or none. Dad used to bring me once, twice, or even three-times-a-week. Now you go to a mart, and there are more girls there.”

“I enjoy meeting all the different characters at Drumshanbo Mart and there are quite a few. I like to go down the yard to collect cattle passports and see what is coming in whilst chatting away to whoever I meet along the way.”

“You walk into Drumshanbo Mart, and you do not know what is going to happen for the night. You have good nights or bad nights.”

Caroline outlined that a move to online-only sales, fuelled by Covid-19 restrictions, has changed her working life. “There is a lot more work in the office. Mart life is completely different from what it used to be before Covid.”

“I ring people to ask if they wish to accept prices. Often, for whatever reasons, they do not answer their phones, and the purchaser could be standing there looking at you.” the Drumshanbo Mart employee added.

Charolais cattle, farm girls, women in ag, suckler farming

A love of labour

Caroline admitted that working the land, in retail and a mart, coupled with her studies, is a juggling act, but she thoroughly enjoys the variety.

“I have my hours. I know when and what time I am, and I work around it. If we were moving cattle, cleaning sheds, or doing jobs that take time, Dad and I would plan to do that on days off. Them days do be busy.” she laughed.

“Being a person in agriculture, the social life is great. I have friends in different parts of the country that you might only meet in marts or agricultural shows. I think this is a nice environment to be in as you all have similar interests.”

Women in ag, women in farming, suckler farming

She acknowledged that the agricultural sector is changing rapidly in recent years, particularly due to technological advances, as she shared her future outlook.

“I am just scared that the suckler herds will reduce to clear as it has been around for so many years. To be honest, I hope some support comes its way where you can make more money when farming suckler herds.”

“I would love to be a full-time farmer and expand the herd maybe, but it is not financially viable currently.”

“In recent years, media is showcasing women in agriculture more. I follow a few girls on Instagram, and I love watching their stories or posts about farming. When some people hear the words farming or agriculture, they automatically think of men. At times, I feel that some people do not take me seriously. We need to break that stereotype.”

“If agriculture is something you have an interest in and enjoy doing, then go for it. You will not regret saying you wish you had if you did not even try,” Caroline concluded.

Caroline Doherty, suckler farmer, farms in Leitrim

Are you a woman in ag? To share your story, email – [email protected]

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