Although she isn’t from a farming background, Laura Maloney from Birr, Co Offaly, has always had an interest in agriculture.

“When I was younger, I used to watch my sister – who was five years older than me – feeding calves and I thought it was the best thing ever,” she recalls, adding that she could not wait until she old enough to do a transition year placement on a local dairy farm.

“I have always loved animals and being outdoors. When I was doing my Leaving Cert, I did ag science. It was actually my worst subject! But then I went on to do it in college.”

Laura encourages those not from a farming background to not be afraid to do agricultural science in college.

“I was worried I might not be able to do the work as you are actually working full-time on a farm, but it’s grand, you just get stuck in,” says Laura, who studied animal and crop production in UCD.

In third year, Laura completed a six-month placement on different farming enterprises as part of her degree syllabus. She had planned to go to New Zealand to complete the dairy aspect, but opted for Wales instead.

“I’m scared of flying, so I decided to go to Wales instead because I could get the boat!”

Laura was only meant to be on the dairy farm in Pembrokeshire, in the southwest of Wales, for four weeks before traveling to Denmark to complete her sheep placement. When COVID-19 hit, these plans changed as her placement in Denmark got cancelled and she decided to stay in Wales for three months. Laura did her placement on the same farm she is currently working on.

She returned to Ireland to complete the final year of her college course. Unfortunately, most of her lectures were taught online as the restrictions were still in place.

“I loved the course,” she says. “Online was a bit of a pain but it could have been worse.”

Dairy farming in Southwest Wales

Once Laura completed her final year exams, she planned to finally go to New Zealand, but the borders were still closed so she decided to head back to Wales.

“I didn’t want to stay at home and I didn’t suit an office job. I wanted to be outside and hands-on,” she explains.

It is a large dairy enterprise that sits on a total of 1,000 acres. On the milking platform there is just under 500 acres. The dairy parlour is a 40/80 swingover parlour and two people milk, twice a day.

“It’s quite quick this time of the year, it only takes two and a half hours in the morning,” she says. “We are milking 679 through the parlour at the moment and when we calf we are calving just under 800.”

Laura is involved in all aspects of work on the farm.

“I do a bit of everything really. I try to stay away from the tractor work if I can. I also do milking, scraping and a lot of the paper work”.

Working on such a big farm, Laura says: “You see everything and it’s really busy. There are five of us here that are full time and we try to do everything ourselves. So, we do all the AI, feet and cutting the silage. We get contractors in to bring the silage in”.

Spending Christmas abroad

Laura had last Christmas off work and was able to come home but this year she will be spending Christmas and new year’s working on the farm. She tells Irish Country Living what she will miss most about her traditions at home.

“The big thing I will miss is Christmas dinner at home with my mam. My sisters and I all have our own thing to make on Christmas Day to help with the dinner,” she says.

“We always have a big family gathering with my dad’s side of the family on the 27 December, every year without fail in the family pub. So, I will miss that as well.”

Laura working with livestock on the farm.

She will still get to enjoy the festive season though: “We will have Christmas dinner in my boyfriend’s house between the milking and hopefully a nice night out too. They don’t do 12 pubs here, I’ll miss that as well.”

Laura is planning on staying in Wales for another while. “When I came originally, I said I would come for a year and sure I am here over a year and a half now. I definitely plan on doing another calving season here and see how I go after that,” she says.

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