“From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been out and about on our family farm with my parents and late brother, Calum.” Michaela McComiskey (25) explained to Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming.
“Since my brother passed away in 2007, it has just been my father and I farming. Calum was the type that could put his hand to any aspect of farming with ease – I really hope I’m making him proud.”
Michaela works for a civil engineering company and runs a flock of 250 Blackface and Mule ewes along with a herd of 80 cattle, mainly Limousins, with her father, Gerry, in Mayobridge, County Down.
“Lambing and calving season is my favourite time of the year – it’s very rewarding seeing your hard work during this time reflected in how well the lambs and calves thrive.”
“We start lambing mid-March and our cows then start calving about a month later in April. Our lambs are sold at the mart when they reach on average 21kgs.”
“Our calves are brought right through to finished beef and sold at an average age of 21 months.”
The young farmer said prices for finished beef and lamb can be challenging at times, adding that “it is difficult to accept a poor price for livestock you have spent many early mornings and late nights caring for”.
As sheep farming has always been her main passion, Michaela has her own flock of Mule ewes – some of which have been home-bred from hill ewes out of a Blue Texel ram, while she purchased others.
“I find the Mule ewe to be an excellent mother – their natural instinct is strong right from their first lambing.”
“Recently, my boyfriend and I bought in calves to rear, which is a new learning curve for me so I’m hoping it will go well,” she added.
When she is not tending to the herd and flock, Michaela is fulfilling her duties as a construction administrator at AG Wilson Ltd.
Some of her responsibilities include being involved in the tendering process for potential new projects, administrative management of the company’s plant and equipment and all associated mandatory testing along with assessing and organising staff training requirements.
“Most mornings, I liaise with the managing director assessing the current tenders we are pricing.”
“From then on, tasks vary greatly from new employee inductions to organising testing of a 13-tonne digger,” added Michaela, who holds an extended diploma in Business from Southern Regional College.
“It is challenging to plan ahead your day or week as no two days are ever the same, however, that keeps me constantly busy which I enjoy as it makes the days fly in.”
Women in ag
Speaking about her life as a female in the agricultural sector, Michaela firmly believes that a woman should follow her passion and never be deterred because that passion may be in an industry that seems dominated by men.
“I’ve never felt I needed to prove myself because I’m a woman – I focus on working hard and earning not being given.”
“I feel that women are a crucial part of agriculture, from the farmer’s wife like my mother right through to women working the livestock and land like myself, we’re all doing our part.”
“In agriculture, like many other industries, you will come across people who have the opinion a woman can’t do the job as well as a man but I think any stigma towards women in agriculture is just a negative reflection on those who believe so.”
Looking ahead, Michaela’s plans for the future are to keep the family farm “going strong and take each day as it comes”.
“I am very proud to be a farmer’s daughter and feel lucky to have grown up on a farm. Every day there is something new to learn and improve on.”
“I believe the outlook for the future of farming is positive – at the end of the day, you can never be sure of what the future holds, but keeping positive and working hard will hopefully serve me well.”
“My advice to anyone thinking of pursuing a career in agriculture would be to definitely go for it if you have a strong passion.”
“You need to love what you’re doing to be able to stick to the long hours and hard work it requires,” Michaela concluded.
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