That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with 20-year-old Meadbh Tyrrell in this week’s Student Focus segment.
“I am a second-year veterinary medicine student at University College Dublin (UCD), hailing from the Hill of Down in Enfield, Co Meath.
I live on a dairy farm where we predominantly have Holsteins and British Friesians.
It is a second-generation farm set up by my grandfather, who used to grow and sell carrots and milk 10 Friesian cows.
They were halter tied and milked individually in the old cow byre. My father took over the farm at 19 years of age and built it up to what it is today.
Also, I have a few pedigree Herefords, which I bought when I was 16-years-old. I always had a keen interest in showing cattle when I was younger and would halter-train some of the Friesian calves.
I always wanted to have my own herd, so I decided to purchase two pedigree Hereford heifers, and I have continued to breed and sell Herefords ever since.
I try to show them whenever I have the opportunity, and this year, I have taken over the role of secretary of the North Leinster branch of the Hereford Society.
Moreover, I have always loved animals to the extent that my mother says we have a zoo at home as a result of all the animals I have bought or brought home over the years. I have had rabbits, multiple cats and dogs, pet lambs, a horse and, of course, my own cattle.
Besides, I have tried to bring home a pig, chickens and goats, but unfortunately, I was firmly told no and that I had enough animals to take care of already.
From a very young age, I preferred to be out on the farm than stuck inside the house.
I knew I wanted to work with animals in some shape or form; however, my parents did not want me to become a farmer, so I decided I wanted to become a vet instead.
My dad’s initial reaction was, “brilliant – no more veterinary bills for me,”. I loved seeing the vet come to the yard and was fascinated when watching how the vet worked.
I especially loved watching the C-sections and always got the job of dealing with sick calves or cows which needed more attention.
Also, I found it extremely rewarding when the calf or cow would make a recovery which is the primary reason I decided to choose veterinary.
During transition year in secondary school, I did placement work with my local veterinary practice, Blackwater Veterinary Clinic, with a local equine vet and in Troy Town Equine Veterinary Hospital.
Veterinary medicine as a career
This really propelled me into veterinary as a career. I was determined to succeed as I could not see myself in any other profession, so I pushed myself in school to get good grades as I knew the points for veterinary were quite high.
Then, I applied to UCD in 2020 as it is the only university to offer veterinary in Ireland, and I applied to study veterinary medicine in Poland. I sat the Leaving Certificate in 2020 during Covid.
I did not get the points for veterinary in UCD with my predicted grades. At the time, I was offered a place in Warsaw to study veterinary, but I decided to defer my place to sit the Leaving Certificate exams in November.
I got the points for veterinary and enrolled into UCD in 2021. The only other basic requirement, along with the points, is to have 60 hrs of work experience with a farmer or a vet while in secondary school.
Veterinary is a very intensive course which requires a lot of hard work and study.
We have lectures Monday to Friday, 8 am-4 pm. The college year is split into two semesters, where we must study six modules per semester; five veterinary-related and one elective.
This semester, we will cover animal nutrition, reproduction, locomotion, pathobiology and food-animal systems.
We also spend one day a week on Lyons Farm, which I really enjoy as it is more practical based.
As part of our course, between 1st year and 2nd year, we must complete 12 weeks of EMS (work placement), 2 weeks each for dairy, beef, pigs, equine and companion animals.
This is to give students a broad overview of the farming sectors and to improve their animal handling skills. I had barely any experience working with sheep and pigs.
I found the work experience very interesting, and I gained a lot of knowledge and experience during the two weeks of work experience I did at the piggery and sheep farm.
There is also a veterinary society called VETSoc, which organises nights out or events for all veterinary years, such as the vet ball.
These are also great opportunities to make friends and socialise with the older years. FAVS (farm Animal Veterinary Society) organises veterinary talks for students from vets, which give first-hand information on cases they have seen and treated in their careers.
At this current moment in time, my main focus is keeping on top of college work and getting through exams.
When I graduate, I would love to spend some time travelling abroad and have the opportunity to practice in another country, such as New Zealand.
In the future, I would love to practice as a mixed vet as I enjoy working with both farm animals and companion animals, particularly cattle and horses.
I would eventually like to run my own practice, but at the moment, my goal is to get through the course and graduate.
For anyone considering veterinary as a career, I will say do not be dismayed if you do not get the points to study in Ireland.
There are multiple backdoor ways into veterinary such as studying agricultural science or animal science and then completing a graduate veterinary degree or applying to colleges further afield such as in Warsaw or Budapest.”
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