That’s Farming journalist, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with 21-year-old Jane Stocker, Cork, in this week’s Women in Ag series.
She discusses her non-farming roots, studying an arts degree for two years before beginning her current course in veterinary nursing, working as an EDIY milk recorder with Munster Bovine and rearing calves.
“I do not come from a farming background at all; in fact, far from it.
I went to the school in the city and studied chemistry, history, French and biology as my Leaving Certificate subjects, so I did not even do ag science.
But, I have always had an absolute love and adoration for animals. I would bring home rescue animals – dogs, kittens and birds; you name it.
I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to do something with animals and had both veterinary or veterinary nursing in my head for after school.
However, I was the first year to have predicted grading, and we had to do our Leaving Certificate during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I had no idea what to do, and I was unsure what points I would get, so everything was just up in the air.
From arts to vet nursing
So when I was filling out my CAO form, I went with what most people usually do if they do not know what they want, and I did arts.
I did English and history at UCC for two years with the intentions of becoming a second-level teacher.
I ended up doing that for two years when I realised I really was on the wrong path, and I went back to do veterinary nursing.
Currently, I am studying veterinary nursing at Cork College of Further Education, Douglas Street Campus, Cork, having enrolled in the two-year course in 2022.
It was from doing work experience with different practices, both large and small, that I realised, I loved being on-farm.
From TB testing to C-sections, I loved everything to do with the large animal side of things. It was from there on that I knew I wanted to be involved with large animal practices.
Within the last two years, I have been involved in a calf-to-beef system. I have started rearing 20 calves up until around the 16-month mark, and we leave them off again and then take in the new bunch.
Also, I do relief milking a few times a week with different herds, and I have never been happier doing that.
I absolutely love the dairy industry, and I also work with Munster Bovine milk recording, and I have numerous different herds around West Cork direction.
It is a lovely job as you get to meet people and be involved in herd health, and teach farmers how to do their own recording as well.
It is a suitable line of work for a student as you can work milking and recording into your own schedule.
Studying and working
Whilst not at college during the summer, I would be milking up to 5-7 times a week.
I am also working with Munster Bovine doing both manual and EDIY milk recordings on-farm. I have also been doing bar work since I was 16, so that keeps me busy during the weekend as well.
With Munster, you could be sent anywhere, but west Cork direction would be my typical area.
You could be as far as Schull, or you could be close to the city side of things.
It is a great way to get out and about on different farms; you would always learn something new coming away from spending an hour or two recording.
Every farmer has their own unique set-up and their own unique way of doing things.
As I said, it is a brilliant way to meet people and chat away and be involved in herd health and teaching farmers how to carry out their own recordings.
The recording makes a massive difference; it has major impacts on the prevention of udder-related issues, and it can also detect new infections quickly.
That way, a farmer can knuckle down immediately and contain its spread. Other benefits include identifying cows that would be most ideal for breeding, and it aids in the evaluation of the drying-off period.
Even though some farmers are reluctant to carry out the recordings, I think the powers that be will make them mandatory eventually.
It is only in the last eighteen months that I have started milking, and I regret not starting ages ago.
I absolutely love it, and it is the best job in the world when things are going right, and the cows are cooperating.
There are some cold mornings that would not entice you to get up at that hour, but from what I have learned from speaking to different farmers out there whilst, on recordings, farming is not a job for people who want to earn millions.
People do it for the love of it, and I definitely see how addictive it can become.
For now, I will continue milking, recording, and we will continue to grow the beef herd year by year.
After college, I will hopefully be vet nursing and farming, so it will just be about finding the right balance.
In the coming years, I am hoping to do the Green Cert as well. The very end goal is to go milking for myself; I am not sure how obtainable it will be, but the will is there; it is just to find the way.
At the moment, I am trying to grow a following on my online platforms as well.
I am documenting my journey as a young woman trying to get into the industry and everything I am learning along the way. I feel now is the time for women to come to the forefront.
There has always been an us and them mentality of women trying to enter the industry.
Women just want equal opportunities, and this conversation is coming centre stage within the last few years with people such as Karen Moynihan, Sophie Bell and Vicki of Legendary Holsteins, among others, using social media to document their journeys too. It is something like this that I am hoping to achieve.
I am still learning as I go, and I love it. I would nearly learn something new every week.
You can find me on Instagram under the following handle: JaneStocker_ and TikTok: @janestickers.”
To share your story, email Catherina Cunnane – [email protected]