When Clodagh Sherman completed her Leaving Certificate, she initially enrolled in a specialist language programme at University College Cork.
The Galmoy, Co. Kilkenny native, who has strong dairying roots, later decided this pathway was not for her. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the 20-year-old as the college had just launched its new agricultural science degree, delivered in collaboration in Teagasc.
“I have always had a love for agriculture and had gotten to know UCC and Cork so well. When UCC introduced agricultural science for the first time in 2019, I felt it was the ideal opportunity for me to continue my studies in Cork.”
Now in her second year, she will be one of the first to graduate from the four-year programme.
“I am enjoying the course so far, but I am still adjusting to the new online learning. Last year, we had practicals one day a week at Clonakilty Agricultural College.”
“These days were the highlight for me. I love being outdoors and being on-farm, so those days were delightful for me.”
“Students complete a 28-week work placement in the second semester of third year. I would love to go abroad, perhaps, to New Zealand. Hopefully, the pandemic won’t prevent us from doing so!”
Sowing the seed
Farming has always been a tradition for generations, with the farm itself, Clodagh said, in the “family as far back as the earliest records we have”.
Her father, at the age of twenty-one, inherited the farm from his father back in 1995. “One of my earliest farming memories is when I got my first milking apron. My dad cut one of his old ones down to size to fit me, and I was delighted with myself!”
“The farm is located on a hill, and the towns land the farm is situated on is called Kyle, so we usually refer to the farm as Kyle Hill. It’s very much an all hands-on deck family-run farm.”
Clodagh, her parents, Niamh and Brendan and younger siblings, David and Amy, are involved in the running of the dairy enterprise.
In 2006, her parents decided to leave the dairy industry to run a part-time beef farm. “My mam works full-time as a secondary school teacher, and my dad is also a fencing contractor, so life was hectic at the time!”
“They felt it would make more sense to run a part-time beef enterprise to continue to work off-farm.”
A return to dairying
In 2019, they decided to return to dairying and place more focus on the farm, becoming the main enterprise in the household.
They currently milk 48 British and Holstein Friesian-cross cows in a refurbished 8-unit parlour.
“This year, we decided to keep the calves and rear them as our cow numbers are still low. We hope to increase our herd to 70 cows gradually.”
“The biggest challenge on-farm at present is winter housing. We are currently in the process of upgrading and expanding our cubicle sheds so sufficient space shouldn’t be an issue by next winter.”
The dairy industry has continued to evolve by leaps and bounds in recent years, and Clodagh’s expanding knowledge is invaluable when it comes to the continued growth of the family farm.
“I had a great advantage when we decided to go back into cows because I have been exposed to the latest techniques and information while doing practical work as part of my college course.”
“I also try and make suggestions to make improvements on the farm with the knowledge I learn while studying at college.”
When she is not in college, her primary responsibilities on-farm include calf-rearing, general farm maintenance and animal husbandry.
“I am most passionate about farm management. A farm must be managed correctly to run smoothly and sufficiently. I believe that farmers need a system in place that suits them and their farm for them to be successful.”
Looking ahead, when she completes her undergraduate studies, Clodagh intends to travel, which she believes is vital for personal development.
“I believe travelling encourages a person to be more open-minded and open to taking risks. I hope to work on dairy farms in different countries and gain experience in the global dairy industry.”
“I’m still not fully sure where I see myself ending up. I know for definite that I want to see as much of the world as I can.”
“If anyone is considering pursuing a career in agriculture, I couldn’t encourage them enough to do so. One of the things I am most grateful for in life is the lifestyle I had growing up on my farm,” she concluded.
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