That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Caoimhe Fallon (25), an MTU Kerry veterinary bioscience student from Claremorris, Co Mayo, in this week’s Student Focus series.
“My grandad ran a dairy farm when I was younger and then changed to suckler-beef later.
I also had two granduncles that ran a farm containing sheep and beef, and I then had another granduncle who ran a beef farm.
So, yes, I definitely do come from a family with a major farming background. In the last couple of years, we have started running our own small enterprise, which is a dream come true.
Some of my earliest memories would definitely be when I was out in the milking parlour with my grandad in the evening time when the cows were being milked.
My very important job was hosing down their legs with water (bear in mind I was only about 6), and I also used to give the cattle their nuts when they were housed for the winter. My granny owned 7 hens, and I used to collect the eggs every day for her.
Now, we run a sheep enterprise, with Suffolk, Kerry Hill and Texel-cross types with Suffolk/Blue Leicester lambs on the way.
Our farm is Bord Bia approved, and as a result, the health and welfare of our livestock are the number one priority.
Each of the fields are rolled and topped starting in the spring when the land has dried up.
We conduct a paddock grazing system so that each of the fields get a rest before livestock are moved into them. Before movement, all the stock are placed into a footbath to ensure there is no crossing over of harmful organisms from one field to the next.
Vaccinations and dosing are of great importance in order to prevent clostridial and pasteurellosis disease and flystrike.
All of our ewes are used for breeding. When selecting a breeding ram, we always look for a good hardy ram with good muscle, conformation, good fertility and a good health status.
Also, we always look to cross our ewes with a different breed as the mortality of offspring is reduced significantly.
Lambing is the main event on the farm. As every farmer knows, it is a very stressful and busy time.
From the arrival of these lambs in April to the selling of them in September, these few months are comprised of making sure they are suckling, vaccinated, tails docked, ears tagged and stress free weaning.
They are closely monitored by waking every hour to ensure they are healthy, alert and getting a sufficient amount of nutrients.
I own 3 horses, and we also have 2 donkeys which also contribute to the paddock grazing system that we have in place. At the minute, we have 17 sheep, 3 horses and 2 donkeys.
The most enjoyable aspect for me would be lambing season. I love the hustle and bustle of it all.
My horses are also a major contribution to my farming life. Being out on the farm mucking out the stables and pens while listening to music is one of my favourite things to do.
Once this is done, I tack up one of the horses and hack through the fields, checking the sheep as I go.
The most challenging thing that I have found in the past was when a ewe would lose a lamb. The stress of trying to find a foster and getting the ewe to take to the lamb can be challenging at the best of times.
Animal husbandry is what I am most passionate about. Making sure that all the animals are safe and healthy and have all the essentials around them, i.e., water, food, and shelter, is the number one priority for me.
My responsibilities involve feeding, watering, stable/pen cleaning, vaccinating, dosing, tail docking, ear tagging etc.
Whilst assisting with the running of the farm, I am studying a four-year veterinary bioscience at MTU Kerry, Tralee, Co. Kerry since 2020.
I am very interested in science, and I felt this college had the right resources available for someone with this interest. However, what really attracted me to this course was the fact that it was very veterinary-orientated.
It goes into great depth about the different aspects of veterinary, including parasitology, anatomy, haematology, and physiology, for example.
After completing my Leaving Certificate in 2016, I went on to complete a Level 5 in Animal Care and a Level 6 in Animal Science, both at what was known as Westport College of Further Education at the time and is now called Mayo College of Further Education and Training.
From there, I did apply to a range of different colleges that offered any veterinary-based courses, including Athlone, Letterkenny, UCD and, of course, MTU Kerry.
I am completing my work placement at DKD Veterinary in Claremorris. Over the past few years, due to the different courses that I have undertaken, I have completed work placement in a small animal hospital and an equine hospital.
This time, I want to experience veterinary from a livestock point of view. I am very excited about this placement due to living on a farm, having grown up with farming life all around me and the fact that I can learn from the vets that have helped out our livestock from time to time.
The main highlight for me was studying all the veterinary-based modules. They are of great importance to me because it is the road that I want to pursue after graduating.
I love the course. It is tough at times, but once my head hits the books and all my assignments are up-to-date, then I am flying it.
It is a very science-based course, so we would be in the laboratory a good bit each week.
The lab work is very interesting and hands-on, which is great because you get a feel for the different tests and techniques that are performed on a regular basis in a laboratory/veterinary setting.
This course was not my first choice. Veterinary medicine was always my first choice, but unfortunately, I knew I would never get the Leaving Cert points to be accepted into UCD vet med.
The back route
Therefore, I took the back route, which involved doing my PLC courses which got me into MTU.
After graduating from MTU, my plan is to go abroad to Budapest, where I can continue my studies until I am a fully qualified veterinarian.
However, I feel that the course I am doing at the minute is setting the foundation for what is to be expected when I do go out to Budapest, and for that, I am grateful that I got the opportunity to study here.
It has been my dream to become a vet for as long as I can remember, and I am determined to make it come true.
My ultimate goal is to qualify as a veterinary practitioner and to specialise in cancer research in companion animals.
Life as a young person nowadays is very rewarding. There are so many more opportunities out there in regard to research, apprenticeships, and further study than there were 20 years ago.
Farming and livestock are a major part of my course, and as a result, I can put what I learnt into our farm at home.”
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