Niamh Keane (20) grew up on a farm in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow which her grandfather purchased in the 1980s.
He passed away three years ago and Niamh’s brother - William – has since inherited and expanded the enterprise.
“My grandparents definitely sparked my interest in agriculture; they looked after us as kids when my parents were working.” Niamh Keane told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“We spent a lot of time out around the farm as kids and this is definitely where my love for farming began.” She added.
Some of her earliest memories revolve around feeding pet lambs, making hay and picnicking in fields.
In recent years, her ambitious brother has influenced her interest in farming. He has expanded the suckler herd and sheep flock, constructed new sheds, renovated older buildings and has rented and reseeded land.
The farm – located in the Wicklow Mountains – comprises of one-hundred-and sixty-acres – both owned and rented land.
Limousin-cross, Belgian-Blue-cross and Charolais-cross spring-calving breeding females dominate the pastures with two Charolais stock bulls.
The Keanes operate a calf-to-weanling system; progeny go under the hammer at Carnew Mart every autumn.
On the sheep farming front, the 185-strong ewe flock comprises mainly of Cheviot Suffolk-types. They run a selection of rams - two Charollais, one Suffolk and one Texel; lambs are sold to Kildare Chilling.
“One of my favourite things about farming is when a newborn calf or lamb is up pretty much up straight away and eager to suck – it’s very rewarding!” Niamh explained.
“There’s no better feeling than walking around a field of good grass on a spring day and watching lambs playing; it makes the hard work all winter worthwhile.” She added.
A TB outbreak, a series of inclement weather events and an enzootic outbreak are some of the biggest challenges they have faced in recent months.
Running the farm itself can also be challenging as Niamh, William and his girlfriend have other commitments.
Niamh is a full-time student and works in a restaurant during weekends. Her brother – A UCD graduate works as an agronomist with Grassland Agro - and his girlfriend also has a full-time off-farm role.
“It can be challenging for us all to balance work and farming but between the three of us, we manage.”
“My nan may have taken a back seat in farming but she keeps an eye on things and is willing to look after a sick lamb.”
“She will be always the first to tell us if she thinks that some lamb or calf needs an extra feed.” She added.
Niamh is currently a second-year Animal and Crop Production (ACP) student at University College Dublin (UCD). She enrolled in the level-eight degree programme in 2017 and will complete her undergraduate studies in 2021.
“I always wanted to study Ag in UCD all through secondary school and worked hard during my Leaving Cert year to get there.”
“I love college especially the social aspect and have made lots of great friends in the course.”
She hopes to complete her nine-month Professional Work Experience (PWE) module on a dairy farm in New Zealand next year. “I have no real dairy experience so I’m hoping to learn a lot from this trip.” The 20-year-old student outlined.
Farming and commuting to college on a daily basis bring an array of challenges and opportunities.
“When I get home from college in the evenings, I am always eager to get straight out to the yard to do whatever has to be done.”
“I live about 30-minutes from UCD so I can still go out after working at home in the evenings.”
“They may mean heading out at 11:30 pm after calving a cow or lambing a ewe!” Niamh laughed.
Looking forward, career-wise, Niamh will seek a role that will allow her to meet farmers and to explore new ideas.
“I think a non-office job might be most suitable for me but I’m not definite on what I want to do – I have to figure that out!” concluded Niamh.
If you are a student and you want to share your story, email – email@example.com – with a short bio.