Aoife Bergin’s passion for agriculture was sparked first and foremost by her uncle - a suckler farmer and and her neighbour who runs a 120-dairy cow herd.
Her desire to pursue third-level studies in this field is one that stemmed from her participation in the Certified Irish Angus Schools competition in conjunction with ABP and Kepak.
Aoife, a Roscrea, Co. Tipperary native and four other students were encouraged to enter the competition by an agricultural science teacher at Presentation Thurles during Transition Year.
Following a series of interviews and presentations, the group progressed to the final and received 5 Aberdeen-Angus-cross heifers to rear; they undertook a theory project on “factors affecting meat quality” and completed numerous interviews and presentations; undertook experiments and trials and made several trips across the waters.
“It was tough, really in-depth and scientific. It was a real learning curve as the interviewers didn’t hold back and gave us an insight into what’s ahead of us.” Aoife Bergin told Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.
“These two years were extremely rewarding as I made numerous contacts and got to live a day in the lives of these industry figures.”
This competition inspired this 20-year-old to carve out a progressive career in the agricultural sector; she will enter the third year of her chosen degree programme - Animal and Crop Production at University College Dublin (UCD) within the next number of weeks. If this didn’t go as planned, Aoife filled the remainder of her CAO application with nursing and midwifery courses.
Aoife was initially drawn to her current course because of its diversity and she was inspired by the success stories of graduates including her neighbours and family friends, who have “reaped the rewards of endless opportunities and exciting career options”.
“I have always loved farm animals. I also love working with the outdoors as I doubt an office/desk job would suit me.”
“Science was also my favourite and strong subject, and the science behind agriculture is tough but interesting.” Aoife outlined.
The Tipperary student will commence her Professional Work Placement Module after Christmas and will complete a minimum of four weeks on dairy; beef; pigs; sheep and crop production enterprises.
“As of now, dairying is the area that intrigues me the most. I also have a huge interest in crops, so it would be beneficial to do crop trials and see first-hand crop husbandry and disease control.”
“A group of friends and I have our hearts set on New Zealand for dairy placement; it would be nice to compare and contrast with Irish enterprises, whilst seeing larger scale operations,” Aoife added.
Aoife views her successful career as a camogie player, before she sustained a cruciate ligament tear and cartilage damage and her involvement as a year representative in UCD’s Agricultural Society as two of her biggest achievements to date. She was involved in the organisation’s fundraising efforts, which saw the group raise a record-breaking sum.
“This year, we were absolutely delighted to be able to hand over a total of €60,000 to our two charities - 22Q11 Ireland and Pieta House.”
“For a small society, it was a great achievement that followed from countless events throughout the year including our infamous AG Week.”
Aoife advises anyone with an interest in agriculture to pursue this passion as she drew attention to the availability of endless opportunities that play to one’s strengths and challenge weaknesses.
“Don’t be afraid or feel stupid; I never had any real strong experience until I threw myself in the deep end. Always remember that everyone has to start somewhere.” Aoife stressed.
Women in Ag
The 20-year-old student views the increased involvement of women in agriculture as a positive development; she encourages more women to enter the sector.
“Agriculture is changing and more women are getting involved for the better - why shouldn’t we?”
Agreeing that a lack of confidence can deter some women from pursuing their interest in agriculture, Aoife highlighted how the competition helped her to overcome this obstacle.
“The competition brought out my confidence a lot as managers were being presented with facts and we had to be accurate as they were posting these on their social platforms - they put us through our paces and this was for our benefit.”
“Of course, we had people question us and treat us like we knew nothing, but we just had to answer what we knew and present our knowledge,” Aoife revealed.
Aoife’s will continue to work towards completing her undergraduate degree, which she will obtain in 2020. Although no post-graduation plans have been set in stone as of yet, she would not rule out further study in the area of animal nutrition or dairy health and she is also keen to explore agriculture in other countries.
“I think work placement will clear up a lot of my doubts in terms of career paths. Nutrition is at the forefront now.”
“At the end of my fourth-year, I would love to travel to America for dairy or Canada for tillage,” Aoife concluded.