“I feel very lucky and grateful that I get to wake up every morning to do something I love because not everyone gets the opportunity to do that.”
Just from those words, you can sense Louise O’ Dowd’s burning passion for agriculture.
The 19-year-old, who hails from a mixed enterprise in Ballycrispin, Castlemaine, Co. Kerry, takes pride in carrying on a long-standing family tradition.
“I have always been out on the farm since I was born. My dad used to carry me out on his shoulders when going to bring the cows in for milking.” the fifth-generation farmer explained to Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming.
“I would also be given little jobs like collecting eggs from hens, bedding turkeys and chickens and spraying the cows’ teats with iodine until I was able to put clusters on cows.”
Louise oversees the running of the farm with her parents, Michael and Sandra and siblings, Katie, Michelle, Garrett, and Sharon.
The farm is home to 50 dairy cows, consisting of British Friesians and pedigree-registered Kerrys with calves reared up until 12-months of age.
The O’Dowds produce oven-ready turkeys and chickens that are reared from one-day-old.
They also have an orchard containing 1,000 apple trees that Michael set one decade ago. “We have several varieties of apples that we sell and also use to produce pure apple juice called the Ring of Kerry Apple Farm.”
“We have 40 beehives. The honeybees pollinate the apple trees and produce high-quality honey for us which we also sell.”
“The most enjoyable aspect of farming for me is getting to do it alongside my family, forming bonds with the animals and the fact that the variety of jobs on the farm differs each day.”
“One day you could be collecting honey from bees and dosing cows the next – it certainly never gets boring and that’s what I love most.”
“Obviously, I find a lot of the physical jobs challenging but I still get it done. I don’t mind facing challenges as there are always obstacles in life, but you just have to find a way to overcome them.”
Louise admitted that she is most passionate about the dairy farming aspect of their diverse enterprise. “I love cows and calves – we really form a bond with all our cows having names for some of them.”
“I’ve grown up watching my dad treat each and every cow with the best care possible which explains why we have cows in our herd up to the age of 13 or 14 years.”
When she is not to be found on the family farm, O’Dowd is based in Institute of Technology Tralee where she is studying a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Science (Honours) degree since 2019.
“I chose this four-year programme as agricultural science was always my favourite subject in school.”
“IT Tralee has a very good name for ag science which made it easier to choose. It is also very close to home so I can still return after college to help out on the farm.”
“The course is certainly meeting my expectations and more. It is a tough course but if you put in the work, you will get the results you want.”
“I have made so many new friends with all different farming backgrounds and learn something new every day.” she added.
Women in ag
Louise is of the opinion that women in agriculture are “not getting the recognition that they deserve”.
“On my farm, I am certainly treated the same as my male counterparts. My dad has four daughters including me, so he knows we are all capable of farming and completing the same tasks as my brother on the farm.”
“My mom works side-by-side with my dad on the farm yet, she is only classified as a housewife, but most women like my mom are the backbone of running the farm.”
“She gets very little or no recognition which does explain the small number of women in agriculture.”
“I think women should consider a career in agriculture as it is a great quality of life. Looking back at my own childhood, it was great to be brought up in the countryside with animals, having the freedom to roam around which you definitely wouldn’t have in the capital.”
Set to graduate in 2023, Louise does not have her sights fixed on any particular career path as of now.
“There is an endless amount of career opportunities in the sector for course graduates. I would like to travel and further my studies at some point.”
“I have three years to decide so I am relaxed about it at the moment and will just going with the flow.”
“For younger people considering a career in agriculture, I would say go for it, especially if it is something you are passionate about.”
“My life as a young person in agriculture is challenging but enjoyable and I wouldn’t change it for the world.” she concluded.
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