Paul Smith didn’t take the usual steps into Agriculture and claims that his venture into the sector was “accidental”.
In 2012, the South Dublin native missed out on his life-long desire to study Zoology by five CAO points but accepted a place on University College Dublin’s (UCD) Agricultural Science - Animal Science degree programme.
“I studied Agricultural Science for my Leaving Certificate and that is when I first gained some understanding of Agriculture, but my interest in Zoology was sparked in my very early childhood years.” Paul Smith told Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.
Considering his roots, deeply planted in the Capital, Paul’s knowledge of the sector was very limited; however, this did not prevent him from pursuing his undergraduate studies.
“Being from Dublin I probably wasn’t on too many farms before. I found that I gained the most practical experience in third-year as part of work placement.” Paul explained.
Macra na Feirme
After Paul finished his examinations at the world-renowned institution in 2016, he secured his first position as Agricultural Policy Officer with Macra na Feirme.
Holding the seat for just over twelve-months, Paul developed all agricultural-related policies for the organisation and worked with the Agricultural Affairs Committee to draw up CAP policies along with focusing on budget proposals and other young farmer issues.
“Work-wise, my highlight was presenting our CAP document to E.U. Commissioner Phil Hogan over in Brussels last year.” Paul outlined.
With an undergraduate degree and direct experience in the Agricultural sector under his belt, Paul decided to further his studies by commencing a PhD in October-2017.
The Teagasc Walsh Fellow collaborates with UCD; Teagasc and the ICBF to participate in a project that aims to gain a better understanding of the relationship between the rumen microbiome-host genetics and methane emissions. The study is also part of the international collaboration ‘RumenPredict’.
“We want to measure methane emissions of the progeny in Tully. We are using a machine called the ‘GreenFeed System in order to identify animals that are producing high amounts of methane and those that are low-emitters.”
The system works similar to a feeder, in that all the animals are fitted with an RFID ear tag and each time the animal places their head inside the feeder, about 30 grams of feed is dropped every 30 seconds for 3 minutes.
While the animal is waiting on the next bit of feed to drop, they will breathe out methane and a fan sucks the air up passed a sensor which picks up the quantity of methane.
“Once we have identified the two groups, we will analyse the different microbiomes in the ruminant to try and identify the differences between the high and low groups.”
“After this, we will look at the genetics of the animals to try and find out why the high group have a certain microbiome and the low group have a certain microbiome.” Paul outlined.
The first of the trial work will get into gear shortly, with a view to concluding the project in 2020.
Paul stressed the importance of a holding a third-level academic degree in Agriculture, regardless of the pathway that an individual wishes to take within the sector.
“With EU grants and schemes, anyone who wants to be a farmer has to have some element of education behind them. Any level of education is fantastic.”
Paul believes that interests outside of work and/ or academic commitments are of paramount importance; he enjoys sport mainly football and pitch and putt. The South Dublin-native has experienced major success in the sporting field - he plays for his local team for the past two years and in pitch and putt, he has scooped the captain's prize for the second year running.
“Hobbies allow you to switch off and to forget about work. There is more of a relaxed atmosphere due to the social fixture, so this is another enjoyable element.” Paul said.
Looking forward to the future, Paul has no plans set in stone as of yet, although he hopes to continue his career in academic research.
“So far I haven’t had a plan in terms of what I want to do - I ended up in Agriculture, progressed to policy and now I’ve ended up in research.”
Although Paul has travelled to various countries throughout his summers during college and as part of his role with Macra na Feirme, he has intentions to experience the culture in various parts of the globe.
“I have a travel bug and my cousins in America are involved in Agriculture, so I would love to go over there to get a different perspective and to expand my knowledge,” Paul concluded.
“If you have an interest, give it a go and you won’t regret it; it is an expanding and pretty exciting sector to be involved in.”
“Just because you’re not from a farming background, don’t let this be a barrier to prevent you from getting involved in the sector.”
If you are an Agriculture/Agricultural Science/Veterinary Medicine or Veterinary Nursing student and you want to share your story, get in touch - email firstname.lastname@example.org - and you may just be featured on That’s Farming next week!