“My interest in agriculture was sparked at an early age, as we’ve been farming and showing pedigree cattle since I was a child” - Clodagh Ryan, Thurles, Co. Tipperary claims.
Synonymous with pedigree Charolais cattle, Clodagh and her family own and manage the prestigious, multi-prize-winning Goldstar herd; they have also made appearances in show rings with pedigree Belgian Blues and many commercial cattle exhibits over the years.
“One of the things that will resonate with any livestock exhibitor is the memories of our first calf that we travelled the country with, every weekend of the summer to compete in young handler competitions.” Clodagh Ryan told Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.
“These calves become family members and these classes are really what nurtured the love of showing and competing from an early age.”
Clodagh is of the opinion that the importance of these classes cannot be underestimated as it is “vital to ensure the next generation have as much love for livestock and agriculture”.
“Showing livestock is often viewed as a “character building experience”. Rain; hail or shine, your animals must be looking their best, which takes months of preparation and a lot more commitment.” She added.
After sitting her Leaving Certificate in 2012, Clodagh followed in her family's footsteps and began her Animal Science studies at University College Dublin (UCD).
Her entire family is involved in Agriculture with three world-renowned UCD agriculture degrees and a qualified vet in the family.
While the course presented challenges at times, Clodagh knew when she was completing Professional Work Experience(PWE) in third year that she had made the right choice.
Clodagh gained invaluable experience through the PWE module, as she worked in the production side of the pig sector and lambed 1,100 ewes in a three-week period.
She graduated with a first-class honours degree and then undertook a graduate programme with a pig processor. During the graduate programme, she completed a Diploma in Management through Dublin Institute of Technology.
Through her work experience in college, Clodagh had the opportunity to work with ICBF in its Herdplus Office, which fueled her interest in bovine genetics and animal evaluations.
She joined the company in Bandon, Co. Cork as an Animal Evaluations Analyst 12-months ago and most of her work revolves around explaining why indexes have changed between evaluation runs.
“My role is to explain why animal indexes have changed, and the answer is always due to phenotypic records that have been recorded since the last evaluations.”
“After publication, queries that come in regarding specific animals and why their index has moved usually require a quick phone call to a farmer explaining why and what records have affected the animal’s index.” Clodagh outlined.
She also analyses trends within beef populations including genetic diversity and inbreeding; calving difficulty; birthweights and female fertility evaluations of pedigree animals.
Clodagh regularly attends Herdbook meetings and receives invitations to various meetings to deliver presentations regarding genetic evaluations.
“Sometimes, it is to provide educational information to show people how to make the most use the tools that are at their disposal, like the ICBF Bull Search.”
She is also undertaking a number of genetics and genomics modules with Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
One of her recent highlights was presenting at the European Angus Breeders Forum in Estonia, where international breeders heard how evaluations are carried out in Ireland.
“They were informed how through Interbeef, more countries could have genetic indexes for their livestock, even if they were imported animals,” Clodagh added.
Women in Ag
Clodagh’s advice for women starting out in the industry is to "be brave and take some calculated risks".
“Don’t settle for second best and remember that your own happiness and well-being are extremely important.”
“I think if you’re undertaking a graduate programme, it’s very important that you let your employer know what you expect from your time there and it’s okay to move on if it doesn’t work for you.”
“You’ll quickly discover if the company you’re working for has similar values as yourself,” Clodagh added.
Macra na Feirme
The Tipperary native highlighted the importance of joining an organisation, particularly if an individual has been away from home either for educational or work commitments or those that have spent some time overseas.
She joined the recently established Thurles branch of Macra na Feirme and is the club's secretary since its formation in August 2017.
“Macra is a really good organisation and it can help people in various ways as you can reconnect with school friends and have a bit of fun,” Clodagh said.
The newly formed club has experienced some major success as its team represented North Tipperary and qualified for the finals of Farm Skills. Some members also reached the final of the National Talent Competition and one of its club members also represented North-Tipp at the Blue Jean Country Queen festival last June.
The club is hopeful that their winning streak will continue as they partake in the finals of Question Time and Bowling this weekend.
Passing her extensive agricultural knowledge and skills onto the next generation is something that Clodagh feels passionate about.
She recently had the opportunity to be a trainer for the Aberdeen-Angus Youth Development Programme at its Munster workshop.
“It was a really rewarding day, as you’re helping to train up the next generation to groom and exhibit their animals.”
“It’s really important to give something back, as we wouldn’t be competing at shows at the level we are now if people didn’t take the time to show us how to do it right when we were children,” Clodagh stressed.
Feeling “happy and fulfilled” in current role, Clodagh hopes to further her studies in the coming years and as for showing cattle, the Ryan family don’t plan on hanging up their white coats and cattle halters anytime soon.
“I believe one should take every opportunity to educate yourself further, by taking any course or classes that are offered as these are key to developing yourself.” Clodagh Ryan concluded.
If you are a woman in agriculture and you want to share your story, email - email@example.com - and you may be featured on That’s Farming next week.