Farming was always going to be a part of my life, that was never in question. I have just always loved cows. My parents, Martina and Oliver, have a farm outside Tullamore, Co Offaly, in Ballydaly. They had sheep at first, but when I was born, they started milking cows. My parents both grew up on dairy farms as well.
We started out at dad’s home place, but in 2004, we moved over to “the new farm”, as we call it, and that’s where my mam grew up. There are 200 cows on the home farm now and all of the kids were a part of its operation with mam and dad.
I’m the youngest of five children, I’ve two brothers and two sisters. So be it by choice or not, we were always there. Mam did the milking and as I was the youngest, I was always in the buggy with her.
There was never a point that I didn’t like farming. Any time I was coming home from school or anything, I wanted to get back down to the farm and see what was going on. That’s where my interests lay.
I knew I was going to stay in agriculture, because my love was for cows and I really enjoyed farming. As there are five of us and I knew that four of us had a keen interest in agriculture, I knew I wasn’t going to just fall back on the farm, so I looked into going into the advisory side.
I did agricultural science at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). It was the first year they had a level eight in that course, so I was delighted to get in. As part of the course, I did work placement on a 1,200ac, 800-cow farm in Victoria, Australia, in third year.
It was there that I realised I wanted to work in farming physically. The people I worked for were very encouraging and they saw that I had a great interest and potential. They were interested in having me come back and maybe run their farm. That planted the seed for me, because before that, I had not seen those same opportunities.
Knowing that my brother Willie was back on the home farm, it was going to be too much pressure on my parents if I was to join too. I felt that it wouldn’t be fair on them, so my boyfriend Shane and I decided to go back to the farm in Australia right after I had finished my course. However, in the meantime, the opportunity came up to lease this farm in Moate, Co Westmeath, which is only half an hour from home.
I had just finished college and a couple of people told me about the farm lease. My oldest brother Enda was dong his PhD in ruminant nutrition and he said that he would like to be involved in it as well. He knew that he wasn’t going to be as hands-on as me, but we decided that we would walk the farm anyway.
The owners told us that we were about the 10th group to come and walk the farm, I wasn’t encouraged, as I was only 22. It was a good farm and we knew that there would be more people interested in it. We got the phone call telling us that we got first refusal so we were delighted. My boyfriend Shane and I bought a mobile home and that’s where we live now on the farmland.
The farm is 160ac and our herd is mostly Holstein Friesian, with a few pedigree Jerseys and a couple of crossbreeds. We have a 16-unit swing-over BouMatic parlour. It’s fairly well automated as it’s only seven years old. Initially, I bought three heifer calves from the owners when I leased the land and then bought 137 off my home farm and this year, we have 150 cows.
I absolutely love cows, I love everything to do with them, especially breeding them. I never had a huge interest in tractors or anything like that. I have a big interest in family lines and I suppose I got that from my father, as he has a big interest in it too.
He has a pedigree herd at home, and my grandfather had a pedigree herd before that. I intend on doing that but I haven’t set it up yet. I know there are strong family lines in the herd that go back to the 1970s or 1980s. I always liked the buzz of getting a good heifer calf from a good cow and then breeding on a new generation.
We’re currently supplying Lakeland Dairies and it’s good that the milk is still getting collected every two days, but it’s a bit of a worry looking at the UK, who are dumping milk at the moment. We’ve a 10-year lease on the farm so we might push it to 160 cows.
We’ve just completed our first year here and I have loved every minute of it. My parents were never surprised that I wanted my own farm, they were always very supportive and I was never treated differently from the lads at home. They were always very encouraging.