In this week’s Women in Ag segment, we speak to Maeve O’Reilly, a UL equine science graduate, suckler farmer and member of Kiernan Milling’s sales office.
24-year-old Maeve O’Reilly holds a degree in equine science but has carved a career in the agricultural sector.
The North Longford native hails from a 32-cow suckler farm, which she runs with her father, Thomas, and sister, Kate.
The herd consists of Shorthorn-crosses, Charolais-crosses, Belgian-Blue-cross-Friesians, and Simmental-crosses with two Charolais stock bulls.
“We calve in springtime. We find that calves do better when they are brought up on grass over the summer. It is also a lot cleaner to have them out from a young age, so it helps avoid illnesses and scour problems,” she told That’s Farming.
“We try to have our cows calve in batches. By doing so, we can group them by age and have more time to spend with them and monitor them as younger calves.”
“We have two Charolais bulls on-farm. In recent weeks, we bought a new young bull. Besides, we usually use Limousin or Shorthorn AI bulls on some cows.”
“Personally, I love the Shorthorn-Simmental-cross. They bring a lovely unique colouring, both breeds are very docile, and they usually produce well-shaped animals.”
The trio sells all calves as weanlings in the autumn, retaining some of their higher-end females as replacements and selling older cows.
They usually sell the oldest batch in September and the next group the following month. “It is hard to put a target price per kg on the weanlings with how much the market can fluctuate.”
“I love being outside and working hands-on with the animals. I am very close with my dad, and he is very laid back, so we have good fun when we’re farming together. Springtime with new-born calves and calving cows would be my favourite time of year.”
“I find balancing work and the lack of sleep during the calving season a challenge. But, when I know there is a cow calving, I would not be able to stay away anyway,” she laughed.
“My family have farmed for as long as dad can remember; it goes back several generations. My earliest memories are going with dad to check animals out at grass in the good weather and patching bales for dad and neighbouring farmers.”
Equine science graduate
Despite her passion for farming, she opted for an alternative route in college, graduating from University of Limerick in 2018 with a degree in equine science. She spent four years at the college, which her two older sisters also attended.
“I was not sure what I wanted to do in college, but I had a passion for horses and animals. Previously, I competed in a few horse and pony shows when I was younger.”
“Besides, I worked at Gearoid Mulligan’s yard down the road from me with horses for years when I was younger.”
After graduating, Maeve travelled for the summer before working at a stud in Kildare for a brief period. She held an assistant managerial position in an agricultural retail store for two-and-a-half years and has joined Kiernan Milling’s sales office in Granard in recent weeks.
“I am new to the role, but I am enjoying it. I enjoy building relationships with the customers, and I am learning a lot about poultry and pigs, which I would have had no experience in before.”
O’Reilly has always been interested in the science behind nutrition and animal health products and believes they both “work hand-in-hand to have a healthy animal”.
“I always enjoyed feeding animals and seeing how they progress on different feed. In addition, I enjoy reading up on the different types of feed and ingredients.”
“Although, I am lucky that dad lets me try different diets for the animals. Seeing first-hand how animals progress on feed is a great learning experience.”
Women in ag
“I think that more and more companies are getting on board with promoting women in ag. Kiernan Milling, for example, has several roles throughout the business filled by women, and I think it is important for younger girls to see that.”
“I know from my own experience in work I am seeing a lot more women getting involved in their family farms in the last year. Continuing to praise and speak about the great women currently in the ag sector will encourage more to join.”
“Encouraging younger girls to get involved and not to shy away from the stereotypical view of a farm being for boys is paramount.”
“A career in agriculture can be so rewarding – whether that is with your own farm or from getting feedback from farmers you have advised or helped. I think it is a very healthy and natural way of life.”
“Growing up, I was nearly embarrassed and tried to hide my interest in farming as a young girl, but as you get older, you stop caring what others think.”
“Being a woman in ag can have a huge advantage. I find particularly with sick animals or calves; we can have a mothering nature and a gentler hand.”
The Longford native desires to continue working in the agricultural sector – preferably in animal health or nutrition -while also pursuing her commitments on her home farm.
She has recently toyed with the idea of working on a large-scale dairy farm in Australia or New Zealand at some point in the future. “At the moment, I am more than content at home with my own animals.”
“I hope to have a few of my own cows and calves that I have bred myself and to work in a job where I can meet new and old customers, providing advice on animal health and nutrition.”
“I have always been partly involved in the farm growing up, but it is only in the last two years that I have really got stuck in. To be honest, I cannot remember a time that I have been as happy and content as I am now,” the equine science graduate concluded.
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