“I don't come from a farming background, as much as I wish I did! “I've always loved animals and the outdoors, as well as trying to figure out how things work,” explained Alison Stewart (20).
Despite not growing up on a farm, the Co. Antrim native – who grew up in the countryside - has been exposed to all elements of farming from a tender age; her grandfather grew up on a potato farm and at Clydesdale Stud in Co. Monaghan.
“He told me many stories about his childhood as I have grown up; I think this is what sparked a real initial interest in agriculture,” added Alison – a keen horse rider and rugby player.
“I volunteered at a local veterinary practice as part of her Duke of Edinburgh award; I enjoyed large animal work the most.”
These experiences influenced her career path; the 20-year-old is studying a BSc (Hons) Animal Science at Harper Adams University; she initially chose to study Bioveterinary Science.
“Within a few months, it was pretty clear that my passion lies with livestock and less so with companion animals which are included within that course.”
Animal Science is similar except it focuses purely on livestock, the production of the different enterprises, workings of the different species, nutrition and welfare, Alison explained.
She opted for this institution due to its world-class reputation for its innovation, teaching, research and graduate’s high-level of employability. “I liked how the campus is basically a farm and not confined within a city.”
“I began the course in 2016 but I am currently taking a short break from study as my mental health had deteriorated.”
“I have stepped back from a lot of responsibilities to address this before continuing my placement later this year.” she added.
Alison has completed half of her required placement and this was carried out on a contract farm as part of Dale Farming Ltd in Staffordshire, England.
She began working here in August at the beginning of block-calving the herd of approximately 500 cows - mainly Friesians. Her main responsibilities included rearing calves, milking twice-a-day and heat identification among other general duties.
“I enjoyed problem-solving on the farm and constantly thinking of how we could improve things and increase efficiency.”
“This placement has shown me that I am willing to put in the work needed for farming full-time and that I would like to have a beef enterprise in the future,” she explained.
“The highlight of the course so far has been meeting lots of like-minded people from different places and gaining the knowledge to better how agriculture is advancing.”
Although Alison – a member of TruNorth Fell Ponies - will not graduate until next year, she has already accepted a position on a 2,000 head dairy farm in New Zealand.
She will also travel to Ethiopia with a local charity to educate people in poverty on sustainable agriculture for their environment.
“I have family in Michigan, USA and would also like to go there to work and see how things are done over there.”
Ultimately, she relishes the idea of running her own beef enterprise whilst offering farm advisory services with a focus on increasing efficiency of systems to reduce the stress of and pressure on a farmer. “I want to make people's lives easier and happier by making systems more efficient.”
“If you are passionate about agriculture and want to a career in this field, grab it by the horns - it's not easy but then nothing this rewarding ever is.” concluded Alison.
“I like Agriculture’s diversity - there are so many different enterprises and within that so many methods of production.”
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