At the first annual Dairy Women Ireland (DWI) conference, which took place on 26 November, I chatted with Mary. She is one of the young members who has a full time teaching job and runs a dairy farm with her husband.

She explained that she had joined because the inclusivity of it attracted her. It wasn’t for women with a specific educational background. It was for all women - from full-time farmers to those working with their husbands or partners, or part-time farming. Basically, it is for every woman who is connected to, or working in, dairying. Mary also said that, being on a Saturday, this was one of the first farming conferences she could attend with her work schedule.

She told me that she followed some of the DWI members on Instagram and thoroughly enjoyed their posts. She also said she was learning all sorts of things and really liked the fun element of the network. That was a resounding vote of confidence in DWI and how it might serve women in dairying - through being a different type of networking experience.


The venue was the Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) Thurles campus. On arrival, I was delighted to see such a large number of glamorous young women - with a few of us elder lemons thrown in for good measure. Ciara Lynch, chairperson of DWI, directed proceedings. The theme of the conference was empowering women in dairying. The vibe was immediately youthful and progressive, with a huge emphasis on living your best life, being successful and profitable.

Now, people will be critical of this group because it is a women-only group.

Why should any women with the same degree as a man feel any less qualified or be treated differently?

So, it’s really important to consider why young women feel the need for such a network. Why should any women with the same degree as a man feel any less qualified or be treated differently? Why should any male nurse feel any less qualified or be treated differently?

Without jumping to conclusions about DWI, I think it is better that we accept that women feel the need for such a network in the dairying arena.

The reasons are many and they were aired well at the conference, especially during the session on ‘Living My Best Life’. Women tend to feel undervalued during business conversations and can feel undermined in the work environment. Relationships can be difficult with in-laws and, indeed, partners. Sometimes they might feel they are not accepted or capable. I remember one example from my early days on the farm. Tim was away and - long story short - I had to commit a tank of milk to the slurry tank. My father-in-law opened the tap and I nearly went through the ground. In hindsight, he didn’t say a word.

Heartbreak, tears, guilt and fear of what Tim would say were coursing through me as I worked around the clock to impress and make amends. I poured out my woes to one of my very good dairy friends and he said, “Do you actually think that never happened to Tim? He just washed the tank and moved on! We all make mistakes, girl!”

We can be overthinking it all!

Define your role

The point I’m making is that men and women are different, but when we come together as a team and recognise our different strengths, we can make exceptional decisions and drive dairy businesses to new heights. It comes right back down to having the discussion.

Dr Nollaig Heffernan walked us through the positive ways of how to define your role within the business. This can be a New Year’s resolution for all women in dairying: to make sure we know where we can deliver the best outcomes for the business and be happy and fulfilled doing it. I wish DWI every success.

If you want to become a member, visit

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