That’s Farming takes a look at those who made our headlines this week, as part of our Women in Ag, Student Focus and Farmer Focus series.
Gilligan hails from a farming background in Sligo and is currently studying veterinary medicine at Harper & Keele Veterinary School in the UK, having enrolled in the course in 2021.
She previously obtained an agricultural science degree at South East Technological University (SETU) based at the Waterford campus and graduated from there in 2020.
After graduation, she spent a breeding season working on a stud farm in Tipperary and began looking at options on where she could apply for vet med for the following year.
She told our editor, Catherina Cunnane:
“Vet med was always something I wanted to do for as long as I can remember, so I did a lot of research on studying at home and abroad.”
“When I got offered a place in the UK after interview, I was delighted. There are a lot of Irish students in the course here, so I definitely think there is a need for a second vet school in Ireland.”
“As a past student of SETU, I was delighted to see that they have a bid in to host a new vet school.”
Read more on this profile.
Long Acre Alpacas
Catherine and Matthew Myles initially bought two alpacas, Cecil & Harry, as lawnmowers for their garden in 2017, and they now have seven boys and two girls.
Shortly after buying their first alpacas, the noticed the positive impact the animals were having on them in terms of reducing stress and motivating them to spend more time outdoors, so they decided to buy more with a view to setting up an agri-tourism business.
Matthew told us: “The health benefits are very important to us as a family, as Catherine was diagnosed with MS in 2014, and stress is a contributing factor in flare-ups and relapses.”
“Alpacas are effective therapy animals and have a calming and centring impact on people.”
“So, what started as lawnmowers developed into a small family-run Alpaca trekking company.”
“We have two services we offer on the farm, and we also offer off-site services, such as weddings and nursing home visits.”
Read more about their venture.
Megan Connell, Mullingar, County Westmeath, has been involved with horses all her life, following in her mother’s footsteps.
Her horse riding career began at the tender age of three, and she has continued to compete in show jumping, showing and eventing at various levels since making her debut.
She told us: “Currently, I have four horses of my own, and I take horses in for schooling and competing.”
“Also, I am involved in coaching and also judge at showing shows, mostly as a ride judge. I have run clinics which have proven popular with many people.”
“I am very lucky to have my stables at my house, so I do not have to worry about travelling. Moreover, I have a lot of flexibility living on-site, especially with my son Theo, who is almost one and loves being out with the animals.”
“A typical day in my life is to get up and feed the horses, cats and dogs, get our own breakfast, muck out the horses and then start riding before turning out the horses for a bit of downtime and then doing night feeds.”
Read more on her profile.
22-year-old Sweeney has “never really thought of any other job I wanted to do since seeing my local vet perform a C-section on one of our cows when I was around 7 or 8”.
He hails from a small suckler farm in Kiltyclogher, which his father runs alongside a plant hire business.
He began his studies at University of Life Sciences in Warsaw in 2019 and is set to graduate in 2025.
Sweeney told us: “During my Leaving Cert, I heard of another previous student in my school who had started first year of veterinary in Warsaw, so I looked into it as it seemed like a good choice.”
“I applied for the entrance exam for Warsaw in April 2019 during my Leaving Cert and received a place in the course before I even sat my Leaving Cert, depending on the grades I received.”
“This took a lot of pressure off during the Leaving Cert, knowing I had a place already secured.”
“The Leaving Cert is not the end of the world. Travelling abroad to study is getting even more popular with Irish students, and it is like home away from home,” he added.
Read more on this profile.