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HomeFarming NewsStudying an ag science degree and farming 500 breeding ewes
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Studying an ag science degree and farming 500 breeding ewes

Hannah Grimes relishes the idea of combining a part-time farming enterprise with a career in agriculture.

The 19-year-old and her father, Daimen, run a mid/late season lambing flock of approximately 500 breeding ewes in Kells, Co. Meath.

Their flock mainly consists of Suffolk-cross and Texel-cross ewes, with Suffolk, Texel and Belclare rams selected to serve mature ewes, while a Charollais ram is the breed of choice for ewe lambs. 

“Lambing commences during the last week of March. One of the reasons why we run a mid/late season lambing flock is because we lamb outdoors,” she explained to Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming.

“The main reason we opt to lamb outdoors is because it is less labour intensive and I also feel that the chance of diseases are minimised and lambs are far healthier.”

All ram lambs are sold as stores from August onwards, while 200 superior ewe lambs are earmarked as replacements and bred from November onwards.

The remaining ewe lambs go under the hammer at their local mart along with ram lambs.

“I am particularly interested in the prospect of increasing productivity per hectare through improved genetics and grassland management.”

“The most enjoyable aspect of farming for me is that every day is different and I am always learning something new. The aspect I find most challenging in farming is the volatile weather.” the Virginia, Co. Cavan native added.

Studies 

Hannah juggles her farming commitments with her studies at the Institute of Technology Carlow (Wexford Campus). The 19-year-old will graduate with a BSc (Honours) in sustainable farm management and agri-business in 2022.

“This was my first choice on my CAO application. I liked the idea of having a well-rounded degree which would provide me with a greater number of career prospects upon graduation compared to a science or business-focused degree.”

“There is also one huge advantage to this course and that is the small class sizes; my current year has 15 students in it which is beneficial as lecturers are very attentive and obliging.”

IT Carlow is a short distance from Johnstown Castle where students complete a number of field practicals; they also attend IT Carlow’s main campus on Kilkenny Road for laboratory-based practicals. 

Upon completion of second-year, the course provides an exit award of the Green Cert, as well as the opportunity to receive a professional pesticide user certificate (PPU). 

In third-year, a six-month professional work placement is a component of the degree programme. “I have a particular interest in animal research, and I would like to gain an insight into research.” explained the ITCarlow AgSoc member.

“The idea of undertaking a final-year research dissertation, although daunting at first, excites me, as I look forward to undertaking my own research and gaining knowledge and transferable skills.” 

“I am very happy with my decision and would recommend the course to anyone interested in pursuing a career in agriculture and would like a well-balanced and structured degree.” 

Women in agriculture

Hannah believes that females in the sector are not “fully treated” the same way as their male counterparts, but stated that there are “great efforts being undertaken to achieve equality”. 

“As each generation matures in Ireland, there will be changes and eventually, we will get to a stage where there isn’t a stigma around women in agriculture.”

“In industry and at business-level, women are given equal opportunities and it is looked at more if they have the right skill set for the job regardless of gender.”

“Women who are driven enough and are willing enough to work hard will progress through the ranks.

“More girls are going to study agriculture; for example, 25% of my year in college are females and that trend is seen throughout the 4 years of the degree.” 

Future 

Looking ahead, Hannah is working towards her goal of graduating from college with at least a 2:1 degree.

She expresses an interest in continuing her studies with either a masters degree or PhD; possibly in the area of animal nutrition or breeding. 

“I would also like to have my own flock of pedigree Texels by the time I am finished my four years in college.” 

“I am constantly being encouraged by my family and friends to do what makes me happy. I am always crossing paths with like-minded positive people that allow me to grow my knowledge.”

“Being an agricultural science student, I am glad to know what hard work is and appreciate where the food we see in our kitchen comes from and how much effort is put in by each segment to produce this high-quality product for consumers,” she concluded. 

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