Margaret Farrell (21) set her sights set on veterinary medicine but went in search of an alternative career path after completing a placement in a local practice as part of an LCVP module.
The Athboy, Co. Meath native began researching various agricultural degree programmes, placing University College Dublin's Agricultural Science course as her number one CAO choice.
"I’ve always had an interest in animals and agriculture. I enjoyed studying Ag Science as a Leaving Cert subject, so this course allows me to learn even more about the field." Margaret Farrell told Catherina Cunnane - That's Farming.
The fifth-generation suckler and sheep farmer is now a final-year Animal Science student; she selected this stream because of her interest in animal breeding, genetics/genomics and nutrition.
Margaret completed her 20-weeks Professional Work Experience (PWE) module between March and August last year.
She worked on John and Charlotte Nagle's 190-hectare dairy farm in France for four weeks; the Irish couple - who moved to France one decade ago - milk 120 cows on a 32-post Boumatic rotary and have a tillage enterprise.
"I really enjoyed my time in France especially seeing how they feed their cows and how they don’t have the same reliance on grass that is seen on many Irish dairy farms," Margaret said.
She also gained experience on David Wootton’s sheep farm in Denmark over the course of four weeks; David - who is originally from Sussex - moved to Denmark twenty-five-years ago and lambs nearly 900 ewes.
"David only owns about 25 acres in total. It was interesting to see how he was paid to graze local estate lands so needed very little of his own land to support his flock."
The remainder of the 21-year-old's time was spent in Teagasc Grange; Marry's pig farm in Danestown, Navan and Progressive Genetics.
“This course was the right choice for more; not only are there many job prospects and opportunities, but I have made lifelong friends and I have gained invaluable experience.” She said.
Margaret helps her father and brother – who is studying Quantity Surveying - to run the family farm whenever she can. The Farrells farm 25 Simmental-cross; Limousin-cross and Hereford-cross suckler cows and a 100-strong flock comprising of Suffolk-crosses, Mules and Cheviot-crosses.
They utilised a Simmental bull in recent years in order to breed replacement heifers; these heifers will be bred to a five-star Limousin sire as part of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP).
The Meath farmers retain 50% of progeny for finishing as steers under 30-month to qualify for QAS bonuses, while the rest are sold between 12-18 months in a local mart.
On the sheep farming front, ewes crossed with a Charollais or Suffolk ram; recent scanning shows an average of 1.8 lambs, with lambing set to get underway in mid-March; these are sold when they reach 42-45kg live-weight.
Along with helping the run the farm, Margaret also works at Oak Tree Farm where they pinhook yearlings for flat racing, selling them on as 2-year-olds; Margaret also has her own horse for the past six years.
In addition to this, she also milks at weekends for a farmer through FRS. "The milking and the FRS are very beneficial to my college work, as before work placement I had no experience in dairy." She explained.
“My favourite time of year is lambing and calving are finished and all animals are out at grass.”
“Developments in technology and mechanisation make farming much easier for all farmers; there’s still a lot of hard work involved but it is less physically demanding than it was years ago.”
Looking forward, Margaret said she hasn’t ruled out travel, further study or joining the corporate when she graduates later this year.
"My favourite thing about my degree is how it leaves your options open; there are so many routes I could take."
The Meath native would like to work overseas at some stage in her career, with New Zealand’s large-scale sheep and dairy enterprises at the top of her list.She said she enjoyed seeing the similarities and differences between the Irish agricultural industry and that in other countries as part of her PWE module.
“We can definitely learn some things from others and they, in turn, can learn from us. No single country has all the answers or correct ways of doing things and it was brilliant to see this first-hand.”
“My aim is to find a career where I can gain as much experience and knowledge as possible, in different areas of agriculture, both in Ireland and abroad,” Margaret concluded.