Katelynn Bracken may only be 21 years of age, but she already has significant agricultural experience under her belt.
Hailing from an organic beef and tillage enterprise, she has worked on farms and for an agricultural contractor in Ireland and had a stint in a large biogas plant overseas.
Farming is a strong family tradition spanning over seven generations with her father, Aidan, responsible for the daily running of the main farm, which is approximately 10 miles from their home and grandfather’s holding.
“Farming is a huge tradition in my family. My earliest farming memories would be coming home from school and racing up to the farm to see if there had been any new-born calves.” Katelynn Bracken told That’s Farming.
“Other memories revolve around spending my summer holidays with my dad during the harvest season. Coming from a large family with four brothers and two sisters, we have always shared working responsibility on the farm.”
Organic beef and tillage enterprise
The family converted to organics in 2011 and claim it has been the “best” decision they have made for their beef and tillage enterprise.
The Brackens purchase animals from a local organic farmer and attend organic sales in marts such as Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim.
They farm approximately 60 head of Charolais, Limousin and Simmental cattle which they slaughter in Good Herdsmen in Cahir, Co. Tipperary.
“My father does bale contracting with a McHale Fusion and tillage contracting. Due to having all our own machinery, we sow organic oats to feed to our store cattle.”
“We also supply feed to some local organic farmers and send artic loads to Flahavan’s for organic porridge production.” the ag student added.
While studying and assisting with the running of the family farm, the 21-year-old is also employed by Killiskea Farms. The large-scale dairy and bull beef production system has two Lely robots.
“I enjoy working with cows and rearing calves. The main area I have a great interest in is driving farm machinery, spreading slurry using a trailing shoe and zero-grazing.”
“After spending the last four summers working for a silage contractor, it is something I enjoy doing. I love working long hours and driving large machinery.”
Katelynn always knew she was destined for a career in agriculture aid is currently a fourth-year Agriculture and Environmental Management student at GMIT/Mountbellew. She enrolled in the course in 2017 and will graduate from the level-8 degree programme later this year.
“Although this course wasn’t my first choice, I never intended on going to Galway. I didn’t secure enough points for the likes of ag science at WIT or UCD. It left me with having to attend college in Galway.”
“I always knew I would be studying something with agriculture as I have no interest in anything else.”
The day after she sat her final Leaving Certificate exam, she travelled to the south of England, to work for Apsley Farms, a large biogas plant.
“My role here was drawing whole crop where it was then put into pits and eventually fed to the anaerobic digester. While working in the UK, my parents sent me a photo of my Leaving Cert results.
“When the time came to finalise what college I wanted to attend, I had lost complete interest in going. I wanted to stay out in the UK for the maize harvest. My parents kept pressuring me to come home and get myself to college, so I had to do that to keep them quiet.”
She regards a 12-week work placement with Anneville Dairies, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath as the highlight of her college experience. “This farm had calved down 650 cows in the spring I had been working for them. I made great friends and good connections.”
Career-wise, the Offaly native relishes the idea of carving out a career as a farm manager and has plans to travel further.
Spending a silage season in New Zealand and time in the UK for the corn and maize harvest are on her bucket list.
“For the next few years, I plan on enjoying farm work with little responsibility and to spend my summers at home with the silage contractor.”
“The journey I have taken began on my home farm. I learned a lot of my skills from my father and brother, which led me to work for other contractors and farmers.”
“From my early days working on the home farm, it influenced me to take up a career in agriculture.”
“Working with the contractor and farmers, I have advanced my skills within livestock and machinery operations. I am still learning to this date, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I’m living the dream.” Katelynn Bracken concluded.
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