That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Kelly Duffin, as part of this week’s women in ag segment. The WIT ag student discusses her family-run beef finishing farm and her desire to become an agricultural college lecturer.
“My name is Kelly Duffin; I am 20-years-old, and I live in Kilhile, Co. Wexford.
I come from a family farm where farming has been a tradition for many years, stretching back two generations.
At present, we are running a beef finishing system, and my dad and grandad are running the farm in partnership.
Some of my earliest farming memories are helping to feed the cattle. I used to have my own little blue bucket, which I would have full with meal.
We also used to have sheep when I was younger, and I would be down helping my dad and grandad lamb the ewes. Besides, I used to love feeding any pet lambs with the bottle.
Another memory was getting to go to the marts in New Ross with my family.
I remember, in particular, the days my grandad would take me to Kilkenny Mart on a Thursday, just me and him.
We would head off for the day and sit at the ringside, viewing the cattle. I was always treated to dinner in the canteen before we went home.
My interest in farming started at a young age. I always loved being down on the farm, helping out whenever I could.
This led me to know I wanted to pursue a career in agriculture. I never considered any other career path because, as they say, you will never work a day in your life when you do what you love. I can confirm I am doing what I love.
My home farm is in Nuke, which is just down the road from where I live. My father, Shommie, and my grandfather, Shom, are in partnership, and they oversee the farm’s daily running. Besides, my family and I give a hand when we are not in college and working.
We currently run a beef finishing system where we purchase cattle and fatten them for the factory all under 30 months.
We mainly buy continental heifers between 14 and 18-months-old with the main breeds being Limousin, Charolais and Belgian Blues.
Depending on when we buy cattle, they are either finished straight off grass or at winter housing.
The cattle, when housed indoors for the winter, are fed a beef ration which we purchase from a local co-op as well as round bales of silage.
The cattle are fed on slats with straw lie-back and also stored on slats with rubber mats. We aim to let cattle out to graze from mid-February, weather permitting.
We are lucky in the area that we farm as the land is reasonably good and dry, which allows us to get the cattle out early.
Furthermore, we divide each field into 5-acre grazing paddocks, which we rotate cattle throughout the grazing period.
We cut silage from mid-May; we normally make 2-three cuts of quality silage each year. Furthermore, we mow, round bale and wrap all our own silage.
My most enjoyable aspect of farming is getting to work outdoors and with livestock and driving tractors, and operating machinery.
My favourite time of year is when we are at silage as I enjoy baling and wrapping.
Also, I enjoy looking after the cattle and doing everyday jobs on the farm.
The thing I find most challenging is that I want to spend more time out on the family farm helping, but I cannot always do this due to college and working on another farm.
Over the past few years, we have entered a heifer into the New Ross Mart show and sale, which we have been lucky enough to have won the overall supreme champion a number of these years.
WIT ag student
I am currently studying level 7 BSc in Agriculture at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). I started this course in 2019, and I am currently in my third year.
Furthermore, I hope to proceed onto the four-year level 8 degree BSc in Land Management to complete my degree and graduate in 2023.
After finishing my Leaving Cert, I first went to Kildalton Agricultural College, to study its beef and sheep course, which I enjoyed.
I loved gaining the experience of both practical classes and in-class learning.
My favourite aspect of Kildalton was the practicals, as it helped us so much when we went on work placement and doing jobs at home on our own farm.
The college lecturers in Kildalton are extremely helpful and go above and beyond to help their students in every way
From Kildalton, I furthered my education by accepting the agriculture course in, WIT which I am currently studying.
I chose to continue my studies in agriculture as my dream job is to become an agricultural lecturer.
The agriculture course in WIT is a fantastic course which I am really enjoying.
I love how the course entails blended learning of lectures, labs and practicals, which are held in WIT and Kildalton College.
Placement on dairy farm
During year two of this course, we complete 12 weeks of farm placement. I completed my placement on Pat and Carmel Banville’s dairy farm in Barry’s Cross, Taghmon Co. Wexford.
This herd is a spring-calving closed dairy herd made up of pedigree Holstein Friesians on a 100 ha farm.
Each day, my main jobs on the farm were helping with milking morning and evenings, rearing calves, disbudding, checking on cows close to calving, assisting with calving, scraping, and liming cubicles.
I enjoyed my placement with the Banville Family. They were extremely good to me and always made time to explain any questions I had regarding their farm.
I had no dairy experience before going there, and I enjoyed the challenge of learning how a dairy farm operates.
I was one of two students who won the ASA travel bursary for my placement which stakeholders, including Glanbia and Seedtech, sponsored.
Usually, the bursary is for students who choose to go abroad for placement, but due to Covid-19, we were unable to do so. All placements took place in Ireland, therefore, allowing all students to apply for the bursary.
I first had to write an essay about work placement, and then I got chosen to be interviewed by a panel of judges, to which I was chosen as the award winner for the bursary.
Being a student during Covid-19 has been tough. Thankfully, as part of our course, our practicals and labs were still held in WIT and Kildalton. We still got to go to college once every two weeks, which I was grateful for.
It also allowed us to catch up with friends on our course. Now our course is back fully on-campus with lectures and labs in WIT and practicals held in Kildalton.
Women in Ag
I feel women are now treated very similar to our male counterparts. Besides, I feel the idea of working in a male-dominant industry is after fading out with more and more women entering into agriculture.
Also, I feel nowadays women do get the recognition they deserve in the farming industry, and it has been accepted that women can do farm work just the same as our male counterparts.
I feel more webinars, conferences and advertising, including more college courses for women in agriculture, needs to happen to encourage other females to see that there is a future in farming for women.
Honestly, I have never found being a woman in agriculture challenging. I know in my mind that I am well able to do the job at hand.
Once I put my mind to it, I will get the job done. Of course, you will always have someone say a negative comment about women in agriculture.
However, you have to ignore them and not let their comments get to you and go and prove them wrong.
After I complete my level 8 degree in WIT, I plan to become an agricultural college lecturer. This has always been my ultimate goal, and I am hopeful that I will succeed and make my goal a reality.
I hope to teach students from the knowledge I have gained from attending college, practical farming, and my own research.
Also, I would like to experience farming in another country. I had initially planned on going to New Zealand for my college placement. However, due to Covid-19, I missed out on this opportunity.
Therefore, I will travel after I complete college to work in the farming industry in New Zealand.
My advice to any young person who is considering a career in agriculture is to go for it.
If you are interested in farming and are willing to learn, then I would definitely do it.
The agriculture course is well suited to all learners as you have practicals, labs and theory. This gives all students the opportunity to succeed in this course,” the WIT ag student concluded.
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See more women in agriculture profiles on That’s Farming.