Part-time dairy farmer, Susan Langrell, in conversation with Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, in this week’s women in ag segment. She outlines the similarities between her two passions – farming and childcare and how she became a full-time farmer overnight when the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
“My name is Susan Langrell; I am 32 and from the beautiful valley of Avoca where I currently live with my daddy, George.
My earliest memories include painting farm gates, delivering lambs and helping out with cows, plus a fair few tractor drives with my father.
Also, there are a few photos around of me sleeping in odd places – the likes of a meal bin and under haystacks. Basically, I would sleep anywhere if it was comfy.
Daddy has milked here for over 50 years, and his father farmed here before him.
Part-time dairy farmer
We have dairy and tillage enterprises here. The milking platform itself consists of 98-acres, but you could only put a tractor on about 30-acres, so the rest is on the brow of a hill.
Furthermore, we rent 120-acres of land for pre-calvers and tillage. We grow barley and kale as fodder for the cows over the winter. Our herd is a mixture of British Friesians and Montbeliard cows.
Because our farm is so steep, we find the British Friesian good and hardy on their feet as our milking platform is all uphill.
We have 80 milking cows running through the parlour in a spring/autumn calving system. Furthemore, we have a senior eight-unit parlour built into a side of a hill, nothing fancy, but it does the trick.
A relief milker, and also my boyfriend, Daniel, are a great asset to helping out on the farm.
Growing up, dad milked in a 5-unit pipeline; the newer parlour is above it now. The bulk tank is still in the same place, so that means now the milk drops 16ft into the tank.
For me, the most enjoyable aspect of farming is how not one day is the same, from dealing with a sick cow to dealing with time management to drying off cows.
Responsibilities and Macra na Feirme
The hilly ground can often be very challenging where we farm, but daddy has been a great role model by showing me the ropes.
My responsibilities on the farm are milking the cows, feeding calves, checking stock and making sure everyone has a full belly of food!
Before Covid-19, Macra was a huge part of my life. I represented Wicklow twice in Blue Jeans and Queen of the Land. I have made friends for life from it, and I am very grateful for all the adventures.
For the past year, I have been the assistant manager in Ashvale Creche in Wicklow Town. I studied in IT Carlow, graduated in 2011 and have been working in Ashvale since.
Childcare is like farming; every day is different. I love the unprovoked hugs, the giggles and seeing them all grow and learn in an environment we have shaped.
The girls at work always wonder how I do a full day’s work in childcare to go home to milk with daddy. To be honest, I don’t know any different.
When farming, I am in my happy place. It is like therapy; many go for a walk, run or cycle, but I milk 80 cows. When Covid-19 first hit us in March 2020, I became a full-time farmer overnight.
I farmed 24/7 until July, when the childcare sector opened back up. For that time, working alongside my daddy was the best ever. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Women in ag
With the growth of social media nowadays, I feel women in agriculture has grown. It is lovely to see.
I follow a few girls on Instagram, and to be honest, their support over Covid has been tremendous.
I personally feel a job in farming would be ideal for any woman. There is nothing that we cannot do. Joining Macra would be the ideal start to encouraging like-minded females to achieve a successful career.
Currently, my parents are unfortunately going through a separation. I would love to full-time farm in the future, but time will tell. My life as a woman in agriculture is my therapy.
Covid-19 hit us, and I am grateful for giving me time to spend with my daddy doing what I love most. If you want to pursue a career in agriculture, go for it. You will never look back.
The future of agriculture is very worrying for us small farmers. It will be very hard to maintain the high standards set out by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine,” the part-time dairy farmer concluded.
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