That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Sarah Malone (20) in this week’s women in ag segment. We discuss her dairy farming roots, role within the family business, Malone Agri Contractors and relief milking, her accountancy studies, and her desire to own her own herd someday.
“I live in Tinavera, Streamstown Co. Westmeath. Farming is a big interest in my family. My grandfather, Micheál, moved to Tinavera in 1946, purchasing the farm of 170-acres where he milked pedigree Holstein cows.
My grandfather was involved in the starting up of the Snowcream plant in Moate, Co. Westmeath, which opened in March 1958.
Micheál was chairman of the Snowcream Producers for four years and spent two years on the National Liquid Milk Committee.
He was a co-founder of the South Teffia Group, and he was one of the founders of the West Midland Friesian Breeders’ Club.
My whole life, Micheál would take the time to talk about cows with me, and he always encouraged my interest in farming.
I love working with cows and learning about them. Each cow has their own routine and their own ways.
I love being able to walk through the sheds or the fields and spotting my favourite cow.
Attention to detail is very important in my eyes in regards to dairying. Every day is a school day when it comes to cows.
Being able to know the cows well enough that you can spot a cow off form quickly is very valuable.
Malone Agri Contractors
Our home farm is in Tinavera, Streamstown, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath and our cow sheds and land are now leased out to a dairy farmer, as we are currently contracting.
We operate under the Malone Agri Contractors name and our customers are mainly across the Westmeath/Offaly area.
We have a mostly Claas fleet with one Deutz. Our fleet comprises a Claas harvester, a Claas Cougar for mowing and a Volvo loader.
We do pit silage, dung spreading, slurry spreading with the umbilical system, and we sow maize.
My main role is drawing in. I drive the Claas Axion 800 with the Smyth Fieldmaster silage trailer.
Between slurry, dung, and silage, I would work any of the machines, be it the pump, rake, tedder, trailer, or buck rake. I would give anything a go.
I suppose I have always had an interest in tractors and machinery.
When I was in primary school, I used to walk down the fields after school so I could drive up the Fendt when my father was finished pumping slurry in the evenings.
I used to drive the loader when the lads were out picking stones, and I think I enjoyed that job a lot more than they did.
Family time and weather
Furthermore, I suppose the best part about contracting is the time spent with family and the people that work with us.
Being able to laugh and enjoy your work is a major plus in any workplace. The sense of pride as the whole fleet heads off down the road together is a great boost for everyone involved.
I suppose the most challenging thing about the work would be the weather.
This year, for example, May was quite wet and not really agreeable for taking the first cuts, which added extra pressure on once the weather improved.
It always is a shock to most people when they see a woman driving a tractor. However, I think we are seeing it more and more often now.
I work at the contracting any chance I have as I do relief milking also in my spare time.
Outside of this, I am just after finishing my three-year course at AIT (Athlone Institute of Technology), which is now TUS, Technological University of the Shannon.
I completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Accounting, which I started in September 2019, and am due to graduate in October of this year. I started this course straight after I sat my Leaving Certificate.
In terms of plans, I would like to complete my Green Cert, possibly going further after that.
America and New Zealand are on the cards for the near future; I would like to broaden my skills and knowledge within the dairy industry.
Women in Ag
I suppose, in many cases, I am treated quite equal to any of the lads that work with us.
There is a handful of people who would maybe not see you as equal to what a male could do or a machine they could operate.
In those cases, it definitely would drive you to prove them wrong and improve your skills as a result.
The positive attitude towards women in ag does outweigh any negatives that you meet.
I suppose the positive support and encouragement from both men and women would allow the involvement of more women into the industry.
At the end of the day, I think if the interest and love for farming are there, then no one is going to be able to stop you from pursuing your goals.
My advice to younger people who are considering pursuing a career in agriculture would be to do what you want to do.
It is easy for outsiders to tell you what you ‘should’ be doing but whatever makes you happy is what you should be focusing on entirely.
I would like to have my own herd someday, and reckon with continued hard work and my strong interest, I will get there.
I know there have been a lot of new dairy entrants in the past two/three years, but milk price is going very well at the minute; you would like to see that continuing.
Regarding diesel, fertiliser and other costs, it seems to be ever-growing; you would not know how it will end up.
A good eye for cows and a love for farming are in my blood; I do not see myself spending the rest of my days anywhere other than on the land. It is where I am my happiest.”
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