Conor Wixted’s interest in Agriculture stemmed from growing up on a farm steeped in Agricultural heritage, spanning generations. The Wixted family have always had a strong association with horses and ponies, but have turned their hand to other crafts down through the years.
“Subsequent to my grandfather’s retirement as a Dairy farmer, Dad moved towards sheep farming and in more recent years we have become involved in contract rearing dairy heifer calves”. Based in Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, the family have a flock of 400-ewes and contract-rear seventy Jersey heifer calves which are retained until they reach 18-months of age.
“When I was younger, I wanted to get involved in horses, but as time progressed that vision changed and I realised that college would be a better option for me so that I could pursue my interest in horses while having a job.” Conor Wixted told Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.
Identifying the completion of a third-level degree programme as the best option, Conor initially set his sights on UCD (University College Dublin) but failed to secure a place on his chosen course due to insufficient CAO points. All was not lost as the Co. Clare native was offered a place on one of the Agricultural degree programmes facilitated by Mountbellew/G.M.I.T and he enrolled in their joint Bachelor of Business in Rural Enterprise and Agri-Business degree programme in 2014. Through this degree, Conor obtained his Green Certificate which allowed him to attain a herd number in 2015 and this led to him taking a major leap of faith to rent 90-hectares.
Since this, Conor has been farming in his own rights, with his parents keeping a watchful eye on the operation when Conor is away in Co. Galway. He has engaged in the contract-rearing of heifers and owns his own flock of sheep, which comprises mainly of Belclare-Crosses and Belclare-Cross New Zealand Suffolk.
“This course has provided me with invaluable knowledge of all sectors under the Agricultural umbrella; I have received an in-depth knowledge of Dairy; Sheep; Beef and some Pig Production, but we have also covered modules which include people management and strategic management. Which have helped in pointing me in the right direction.” Conor added.
“As part of my second-year placement, I went to Teagasc, Kilrush, Co. Clare. Just as I was finishing that off, David Colbourne, the regional manager of the Galway/Clare Advisory Region at the time, asked me to go to Athenry to get involved in the 1916 Commemoration event.” Conor explained.
“I was there for a further six-weeks and through this, I made great contacts. I got to know former Teagasc economist, Thia Hennessy who is now the Dean of the Cork University business school. Thia has given me great advice and has sent me in the right direction.” Conor added.
Although he is at the tail-end of his undergraduate degree, Conor has since been accepted to a Master's Degree in Co-operatives, Agri-Food and Sustainable Development at University College Cork.
“College is my main priority at the moment, although I am still farming, the horses have definitely taken a back seat. Time constraints make it different to bring horses to a competitive level.” Conor stressed.
“My interest in horses was sparked when I was five-years-old. In 2016, I worked for cob producer Bill Bourns, and in 2017, I went to Scotland for the summer where I gained invaluable experience working with Kirstine Douglas.” Conor explained.
“I always take part in the Young Breeders training competitions run by Teagasc and Horse Sport Ireland. I am also the Entertainment Officer for the Irish Universities Riding Club; the class representative of the Rural stream and captain of the equestrian club in the college.” He added.
In January of this year, Conor along with a group of GMIT students set off on a journey around Europe, paying a visit to six European institutions in the space of five days. These institutes included the European Central Bank; the court of auditors; the Court of Justice; the Investment Bank and the European Commission.
“We visited the European Parliament where were students got into a discussion with the current vice-president of the Parliament, Mairead McGuinness and European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan on topics which included the Future of Agriculture, Technology and Repealing the Eighth Amendment. It was a fantastic experience and one of my high points so far.” Conor explained.
Graduating with a first-class Honours degree is Conor’s main aim, a goal that is fuelled with motivation; determination and a striking work ethic. As highlighted earlier, upon graduation he is destined for yet another degree, this time at University College Cork.
“With the Master's degree, there is a five-months placement as part of that programme and I am hoping that I will be lucky enough to get a job with an Agri-Business co-operative.” Conor outlined.
“I have a major interest in sales, so maybe I might go down this route. I have a broad interest in several sectors and this combined with my degree opens up endless opportunities. The Agricultural sector is thriving, but there is a notable lack of young farmers.” Conor explained.
“I think the recently announced €3.5 million of the budget is vital in building the number of young farmers in the sector. With only 6% of farmers currently under 35-years, it is crucial that the issue is addressed. Otherwise, we will be facing significant problems down the road in terms of meeting food demands; supporting employment, rural sustainability and so much more.” Conor concluded.
If you are a third-level Agriculture/Agricultural Science/Veterinary Medicine/Veterinary Nurse student or studying any discipline, and you want to share your story, get in touch. Email email@example.com and you may just be featured on That’s Farming next week.