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Suckler farmer ditches plan to become teacher after studying ag course 2

Growing up on a 45-cow suckler farm, many may be under the impression that it was a natural progression for Saoirse McGovern to pursue an agricultural-related career.

The 18-year-old was torn between accepting her CAO offer for teaching or studying the Teagasc Green Cert programme.

Saoirse went with her heart and is currently attending Ballyhaise Agricultural College, Co. Cavan. She has just completed a level 5 in agriculture and is progressing to undertake a level-6 certificate this year.

“I decided on this course during my sixth-year in 2019 as something to do on a year-out before I went to college.” the Castlefore, Co. Leitrim native told Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming.

“I chose Ballyhaise because its only 40 minutes from my house so it meant I could still work and live at home.”

New experience

As part of her course, Saoirse had to complete 8 weeks of work placement on a host farm. She was placed on a dairy enterprise in Cavan, approximately 20 minutes from her home.

“It was something very different to what I was used to being from a suckler farm and doing the drystock level 5 course.”

“In saying that, I really enjoyed it and was so happy to have been given the opportunity to learn new skills such as milking cows, operating new farm machinery and feeding and looking after calves.”

Suckler farming

The knowledge that Saoirse is obtaining through her studies is allowing the 18-year-old to make a valuable contribution to the thriving family farm.

The farm, which is located in the townland of Castlefore, has been farmed by the family for over 200 years.

The suckler-beef enterprise consists of a mix of Charolais, Limousin, Hereford and Belgian Blue breeding females, with a Charolais stockbull, all of which are farmed as part of a block grazing system.

The family exhibit some pedigree Shorthorn heifers at local agricultural shows.

“My responsibilities on-farm include feeding cattle, checking on cattle, cleaning out sheds and everything else that comes along with it.”

“The most enjoyable aspect of farming for me is definitely working with cattle. From a young age, I have always loved being around animals and have my own horse.”

“I love the animal aspect of farming but do also have an interest in driving tractors and operating machinery too – especially when it comes to silage season.”

“One thing I do find challenging at times is real strenuous work, although I hate to admit it, but I wouldn’t give up easily all the same.”

Women in ag

Saoirse believes women in agriculture are gaining the recognition they deserve at farm and industry-level. “I would agree that I am treated the same as males but that’s not always true.”

“I think women should consider careers in agriculture just as much as men. It is good to seek the opinions and outlooks of both genders on certain topics, subjects and ideas.”

“I wouldn’t say life as a woman in agriculture is tough – I mean it can be challenging, but that’s what makes it interesting and enjoyable.”


Once she completes her current course, McGovern, intends to pursue her studies a step further.

“I have now decided that from doing the level-5 that I don’t want to do teaching but now think that a level-8 in agriculture would be more interesting for me.”

The young suckler farmer intends to travel and work abroad on a farm for a period before coming home and obtaining her own herd number to farm in her own right.

“My advice to people looking to pursue a career in agriculture is to follow through with it because you’ll never go too far wrong if you’re truly passionate and determined to succeed.” Saoirse concluded.

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