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HomeDairy19-year-old soaring to success on dairy show circuit
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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19-year-old soaring to success on dairy show circuit

Rachel Corley may only be 19-years-old, but she has already competed in numerous cattle shows across the island of Ireland, the UK and Europe.

A prominent figure on the dairy show circuit for a remarkable fourteen years, the Smithboro, Co. Monaghan native continues to add prestigious accolades to her cabinet.

“Farming has been a major tradition in our family – My father is currently the third generation to run our dairy enterprise in the hills of Monaghan,” she explained to Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming.

“As far back as I can remember, I was always out on the farm with my grandad and my dad. I loved helping with farming chores and from an early age, I was always very keen to learn how everything is done.”


65 high-yielding Holsteins

The 19-year-old continues to play a major role in the running of the family’s 150-strong herd of Holsteins (with some Jerseys), which are farmed under the Cornboro prefix.

She farms alongside her father, Brian, and 18-year-old brother Dylan, who is undertaking an agricultural mechanics apprenticeship.

“We are currently milking 65 high-yielding pedigree Holsteins through an 8-unit abreast parlour and we find this system very effective as we are able to keep our milk production high throughout the year.”

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Calving begins on the Monaghan-based holding in mid-October, with 40% of heifers and cows calving during this period, while the remaining cows calve down from January to May.

They AI their herd using mainly sexed semen and a pedigree Hereford bull mops up. All Friesian heifer calves are retained as replacements, while bull calves are sold at 3-4 weeks of age.

“My main role is calf rearing, which involves feeding calves colostrum and maintaining good housing facilities for them. I also do the evening milkings to allow dad to catch up on any other jobs that need to be completed.”

Images provided by Rachel Corley

“The most enjoyable aspect of farming for me is getting to show our cattle. We compete in local and national shows and competitions and I find it is a great way to meet people of similar interests,” explained Rachel, secretary of Breffni Oriel YMA.

“I have been showing cattle since I was 5-years-old and was delighted to win champion handler at the IHFA National Calf Show in 2019.”

“My responsibility is to train and clip our cattle for the shows, and this has led me to work with other farmers getting their cattle ready for the shows in Ireland and England.”

Her most memorable achievement to date is representing the Emerald Isle at the European Holstein Show in Belgium in April 2019. “Each country had two representatives. We were given calves on day one and we had to wash, clip and halter train them in the days leading up to the show.”

The young farmer was placed third in her showmanship class and second in her clipping class, while, overall, team Ireland ranked in third place.

Images provided by Rachel Corley

Rachel has been soaring to success in the show ring whilst farming and balancing her animal science studies at University College Dublin (UCD).

She enrolled in the four-year degree programme in 2019, following the completion of her Leaving Certificate.

“I picked this course as I had spoken to previous students who enjoyed the wide variety of modules you can choose from and a much broader spectrum of areas to specialise in.”

“I feel this course will enhance my job prospects in the coming years along with broadening my knowledge.”

“In third year, we can also go abroad for our work experience and I would like to travel to America/Canada and experience the different farming systems away from home.”

“The highlight has definitely been meeting many new friends and joining the different societies, for example, AgSoc. I have made many friends from across Ireland and it is great as we all share the same interests.”

“I am absolutely loving the course, although Covid-19 has changed the structure of learning from March, which is now mainly online. This has left the modules a little more challenging and has decimated our social life,” she admitted.

Images provided by Rachel Corley

Once she completes her undergraduate studies, Rachel has her sights set on combining her passion for travel with an agricultural-based career in animal nutrition or genetics.

“Since starting college, I have developed a keen interest in animal nutrition. I feel that nutrition, combined with good management, are an essential element in getting animals to their full potential and, therefore, increasing output targets.”

“I feel in this day and age, women in agriculture can compete for jobs on equal levels as their male counterparts, although in certain sections, it is still perceived to be a man’s job.”

“Machinery and technology have left women capable of carrying out most of the physical tasks associated with farming and there is a world of opportunities.”

“Life as a young person in agriculture is fulfilling, enjoyable and hectic. I do not fully know where my path will lead to, but I am enjoying the journey. I have loved farming since I was little, and it will always remain in my blood.” Rachel concluded.

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