Niall Diffley, the youngest of three sons, runs an 80-acre mixed farm with his family in the heart of Lecarrow, Co. Roscommon.
The family’s 30-suckler cow herd comprises predominately of Limousin-crosses and Simmental-crosses; an easy-calving Charolais bull is crossed with twenty-five of the breeding females, while the remaining five cows are served to an AI Limousin or Simmental sire in a bid to breed high-end replacement females. The progeny are retained on the farm for fourteen-months and go under the hammer at Roscommon Mart.
On the sheep front, the Diffleys own and manage a flock which consists of 80 ewes, the majority of which are Suffolk and Charollais-crosses. Greyface ewes are outsourced and dominate the holding along with one Suffolk ram and two Charollais rams.
“I help with calving and lambing on the farm; I draw bales during the summer and help to shear ewes, castrate lambs and assist with all aspects of cattle husbandry. I have worked with an Agricultural contractor making pit silage the past four summers since I was 17. ” Niall Diffley told Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.
Niall has always had a burning desire to study Agriculture at third-level right from his early childhood years and set his sights on UCD(University College Dublin) during his second-level studies. He completed his Leaving Certificate in 2015 but failed to secure his first-round level-eight offer (UCD’s Food & Agri-business Management course) due to insufficient CAO points.
“I began repeating my Leaving Certificate and appealed my Ag Science paper; I was brought up by 10-points and then got offered a place on the course.”
“I decided to defer my place and worked for a year on the farm and in a local shop,” Niall explained.
The South-Roscommon native enrolled on UCD’s Food and Agri-business Management degree programme in September-2016 and has just finished his second-year of the course at the college.
“I am immensely enjoying my time at UCD - an educational institution that is renowned worldwide. I studied Business right throughout secondary school and wanted to combine my agricultural roots so this course seemed like the perfect fit.” Niall outlined.
As part of his academic studies at UCD, Niall will cross the waters to the well-renowned Purdue University, America later this year to undertake a four-month study period from August to December-2018.
“Getting to go to America is one of my biggest academic achievements to date. Not everyone gets an opportunity like this. It is a very competitive system so I am very grateful.” Niall highlighted.
It has been a whirlwind of a year for Niall who was also the second-year Ag Soc representative and helped to raise a record-breaking €60,000 for this year’s two chosen charities. Powering ahead in the Agricultural field, Niall is also an intern at Agri Aware and will spend two months with the Irish agri-food educational body over the course of the summer.
“Agri Aware do a lot of work by educating young people - some of which do not come from farming backgrounds; this is an important role, particularly because there is a lot of misinformation circulating on food production.”
“It is paramount to get people more informed and more interactive with the Agricultural sector in Ireland. The is still a rural and urban divide, so we need to work together and help each other out.” Niall said.
The importance of an Ag degree
Niall is keen to highlight the importance that an agricultural degree hold and regards Agricultural academic qualifications as a powerful contributor to the successful development of the sector.
“I think that an Agricultural degree is extremely important for any young person. Agriculture is a fast-growing sector with advances in innovation and technology. Brexit, for example, will bring challenges, but it will always bring opportunities.” Niall stressed.
“With the expected major population, there is going to be a major demand and push on food - whether you are in the primary/secondary or tertiary sector - all of these people are needed and there is a place and something for everyone if you have an interest,” Niall added.
With sheer enthusiasm and determination, Niall will continue to work towards achieving his ultimate goal of being a key figure in the industry. His plan is to gain as much experience as possible including the completion of a twenty-eight-week Professional Work Experience module.
“I am considering food economics or food marketing but there are no doors that stand out and there are no doors that are closed at the moment. I will probably use my work experience to identify my key areas of interest.”
“The Ag degree is so wide-ranging and varied; the sky is the limit in terms of where we can go and what we can do. The world is our oyster and it is a very exciting time.” Niall concluded.
If you are an Agriculture/Agricultural Science/Veterinary Medicine or Veterinary Nursing Student and you want to share your story, get in touch. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and you may just be featured on That’s Farming next week.