For the last eight years, the Agricultural Science Association (ASA) and the Irish Farmers Journal have offered a number of students bursaries to financially support their professional work experience (PWE) placements abroad. This year’s recipients include six third-year students from University College Dublin (UCD), South East Technological University (SETU) and Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT) who are currently gaining a variety of experiences in Germany, Finland, Canada and New Zealand as part of their undergraduate degrees.

In the first part of our PWE diary series, our students introduce themselves and explain what they are working on overseas as part of their work experiences.

These travel bursaries have been made possible by the ASA, Irish Farmers Journal, Tirlán and Seedtech.

Ciara Smith – Dundalk Institute of Technology

“My name is Ciara Smith. I’m a 21-year-old, stage 3 Bachelor of Sustainable Agriculture Science student specialising in Food Production and Agri-Business in DKIT. Growing up on a diverse farm in Co Meath/Cavan, I’ve shown a keen interest in agriculture from a young age. On the farm, we operate beef, free-range poultry and dairy farming.

Ciara Smith (DKIT), PWE student.

“Diversity and innovation have always been a big part of our family’s success. Growing up in this setting gave me an understanding of the need to innovate to maintain value and relevance.

“This summer, I must complete 12 weeks of work placement within the agri-food industry. When choosing this placement, I wanted to obtain knowledge from all three of the sustainability pillars (environmental, economic and social), [so these things would have to be] woven into the future of their business.

Ciara Smith- (Dundalk Institute of Technology) stopped off at the famous Diddly Squat Farm in England on her drive to Germany.

“I have decided to carry out my work experience with a premium pet food company that produces pet food using the byproducts of meat production. I’ve been offered the opportunity to work with one of Europe’s leading premium pet food companies, Landguth, [which is] located in Northern Germany.

“Throughout this placement, I will compete two weeks in each department of the business.”

Cian Mongey – University College Dublin

“My name is Cian Mongey. I’m from Stackallen, Co Meath, and I am studying Agricultural Systems Technology at UCD. Growing up, my passion for agriculture sprouted after spending countless weekends and summers working on my grandfather and uncle’s dairy farm.

“I love working with my hands. I would always have different projects going on at any one time: designing, making and building. I am also interested in technology, and how it can be implemented in agriculture in precise ways. Combining all these key interests, I decided that Agricultural Systems Technology was for me.

“I have begun my third-year PWE component with the AGCO, who own many big-name brands such as Massey Ferguson, Fendt and Valtra [to name a few]. I am based in a city called Jyvaskyla in Central Finland.

“I am working as a prototype engineer as part of the AGCO Smart Ag Engineering team. Our team of approximately 15 people strive to create retrofit solutions to farmers’ current problems in a quick and professional manner. Retrofitting can unlock modern capabilities to a machine many years older.

“My first month with the team has been an amazing experience.”

Mark Norse – University College Dublin

‘’My name is Mark Norse, and I am currently on my professional work experience in New Zealand. I will be spending the first half of my PWE here (in New Zealand) until I head to Australia, where I will complete the remaining half.

Mark Norse- (University College Dublin) on PWE in New Zealand.

“I come from a sheep and tillage farm in Co Wicklow and am studying Food and Agri-Business Management back at UCD. I have taken this valuable semester run by the university to broaden my knowledge and understanding of the food and agribusiness sector on a global level.

“I am working for Alliance Group, which is New Zealand’s largest and only 100% farmer-owned red meat co-operative, exporting lamb, beef, venison and co-products to more than 65 countries all over the world. Alliance had a record revenue of NZ$2.2bn last year, with seven processing plants around the country. [The company employs] nearly 5,000 people.

Mark Norse, PWE in New Zealand (UCD).

“My role is with the global sales and logistics team, which is based in their headquarters in Christchurch. So far, I have worked with the sales team liaising with customers; processing orders and inputting information to the IT system so the plant can prepare the products.

Mark Norse, University College Dublin on PWE in New Zealand.

“I have also been working with the freight and transport side of the business. My duties here are to schedule and monitor the containers coming to and from the port and plants; ensuring that they have the required documents, are with the correct haulage company, and are going to arrive on time.

“So far it has been a fantastic experience and I look forward to the rest of my time working with both companies.”

Rory Mulry – University College Dublin

“Rory Mulry is my name, and I am a third-year Animal and Crop Production student in University College Dublin. I have grown up with a farming background, coming from a small, rural parish in south Roscommon. As part of our undergraduate degree, we spend the second semester of the third year completing our professional work experience.

Rory Mulry, UCD ASA bursary recipient on Dustin Hawkins tillage and beef farm in Kincaid, Saskatchewan, Canada

“My placement started in January on Tallon Farm in Ardcath, Co Meath. It is a family-run business where the owner, Niall, farms alongside his father and two brothers. Tallon Farm is milking approximately 1,500 cows across four milking platforms with a mixture of leased and owned land and the addition of a new 60-point rotary parlour in 2022.

“The second part of my placement involves a stage abroad with three other UCD students on Dustin Hawkin’s tillage and beef farm in Kincaid, Saskatchewan, Canada. Dustin is farming 19,000 acres through both a beef and tillage operation. Dustin’s beef stock consists of approximately 750 Aberdeen Angus cows with a calving interval of 40 days. The stock also includes over 40 bulls within the herd.

Dustin Hawkins tillage and beef farm in Kincaid, Saskatchewan, Canada.

“The farm runs on a very large scale and operates under a team of an additional four staff with the students. The spring can range from +15°C to – 15°C, depending on the day.”

Sean Rafty – South East Technological University

“My name is Sean Rafty. I am 20 years old and from just outside Bagenalstown, Co Carlow. I am not farming at home but developed a huge interest in agriculture from a young age through my grandad and uncle’s farm.

Sean Rafty (SETU) on PWE in New Zealand

“I am in my second year of agriculture at SETU Waterford and am currently on placement in New Zealand. I am based just an hour from Christchurch in Westerfield, Ashburton, working for Quigly Farming.

“I arrived at the farm on 24 January. The first few weeks were very quiet and relaxed around the farm, up until calving started in mid-February.

Sean Rafty, South East Technological University student on PWE in New Zealand.

“The farm has 700 cows with roughly half calving in autumn and the rest in spring. After one month of calving, we were roughly 50% of the way and the farm was all calved down by early April.

“The farming block consists of 90ha and 200ha of leased ground on an outfarm. All dried cows stay at the outfarm until two to three weeks before calving when they are transported home to the farm to calve.

I am enjoying New Zealand and learning lots of new skills and techniques.”

Leah Armitage South East Technological University

“My name is Leah Armitage. I am a third-year agricultural science student attending SETU Waterford, currently completing my work placement on a dairy farm in New Zealand.

“Glenstuart farm is family-run with a 24-unit herringbone system milking 320 cows. The herd consists of mostly Friesian while among the herd are a couple of crossbred Jerseys. The cows are currently producing 18 litres of milk. The irrigation system set up here is a sprinkler system.

“My roster is 10 days on with a rewarding four days off. This allows for the opportunity to travel to see some nice places in New Zealand, such as Milford Sound, which I recently visited. I come from a small suckler and sheep farm outside Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

“I have always had an interest in agriculture. My passion began when I started milking cows back in February 2022 for a local dairy farm up the road from my home place.

“This really encouraged me to broaden my opportunities as a dairy farm worker. [It has been] a great opportunity to come over to New Zealand and work on a farm; being given responsibilities with some experience already under my belt.”

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