Pádraig Keating graduated from University College Dublin in 2015 with a degree in Animal Science and is now a student at University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, Hungary.
"Vets coming to do the herd test would have been my first experience of the profession; I saw they got to work with cattle all day and I was like that’s the job for me." Pádraig Keating told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
“I knew the points for veterinary were out of my reach so I decided to go down this route instead but the end goal was always Veterinary.”
As the 26-year-old holds a science undergraduate degree, the entrance process was straight-forward and he was accepted into the course immediately; he was exempt from the chemistry and biology entrance exam.
“I was recommended the college by past students who loved their time here and had also heard positive reports from qualified vets who were very impressed with the training and level of academic knowledge displayed by Budapest graduates.”
The Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny native will graduate from the course - which consists of five years of college and one semester of clinical rotations - in 2021.
"The first 3 years of the course are very much theoretical-based, but this year (4th year), the course has started to become more practical which I prefer."
"I found it difficult to leave home as I was just after starting a pedigree herd and loved playing hurling with Erin’s Own also."
"There was a lot to give up coming to Budapest but it has been well worth it." Pádraig outlined.
Pádraig returns to his home soil between 2-3 times per semester to tend to the recently established YellowRoad Charolais Herd. His father Tom and his older brother Thomas - who is Branch Manager for Glanbia in Freshford - oversee the running of the enterprise when he in Budapest.
Pádraig became interested in the Charolais breed while visiting the Charolais Society exhibition at the National Ploughing Championships in 2003 where the renowned Blakestown Herd - Co. Louth had approximately thirty-five cattle on show.
"From that day, I always said I'd like to buy my first pedigree Charolais from that herd. Little did I know that it would take 11 years convincing 'the boss' that being my Dad." Pádraig laughed.
His pedigree Charolais herd was established in 2012 with the purchase of Blakestown Glenna - sired by Blakestown Artiste and out of Blakestown Oligarchie - with Blakestown Joy - her heifer calf at foot.
Glenna’s second calf was a bull - YellowRoad Max - sired by the herd's former stock bull Firoda Gold Dust who bred exceptional commercial calves. Max has been retained as stock bull within the suckler herd with his first calves due in January.
Glenna's third calf came in the form of a Goldstar Echo daughter - YellowRoad Nugget - who the Kilkenny native regards as the "best calf bred in the herd" in his eyes.
Now comprising of three breeding females, Pádraig hopes to increase the size of the YellowRoad Charolais Herd when he graduates; Embryo Transfer (ET) will be utilised as a tool to produce more offspring from superior cow families and to bump up numbers.
"With the exception of my first calf it is and will continue to be 100% AI. Bulls used so far have been Doonally New (CF52); Goldstar Echo; and Fiston."
"Calving takes place in September and January with the Suckler herd all spring calving. Blakestown Joy is due in February to CF52 so I have high hopes for this calf." Pádraig said.
Show ring and sales ring
Pádraig made his debut on the show circuit in summer 2017, with YellowRoad Mavis placing second in the National Charolais Show in the heifer born on/between November 16th 2016 and December 31st, 2016 and standing second in her class at Tinahely Show.
"Showing is difficult at the moment with living in Budapest for college for training calves but when I am finished here I plan to be attending 5 or more shows every summer."
"Showing is a brilliant past time and is also great advertisement to show off the cattle you produce," Pádraig said.
Pádraig will offer his first pedigree Charolais bull for sale in February at the Charolais Society sale in Tullamore, with all heifers retained for breeding purposes in an effort to build numbers.
Oreo - sired by Fiston and out of Blakestown Joy - is a full-sister to December-2016-born Yellow Road Mavis who was placed second in the National Show and second at Tinahely Show in 2017 in a mixed bull/heifer class from Sept-Dec ’16 born calves.
The pedigree Charolais herd shares the pastures with twenty Charolais-cross; Simmental-cross and Limousin-cross cows, all of which are bred to a Charolais sire.
Replacement heifers are served to ZAG - a popular, easy-calving Limousin bull; all the progeny are born in the spring as sold as stores the following year.
"I love everything to do with the cattle. Not a big machinery fan but that has to be done too. I'm happy when I am training calves out in the fresh air." Pádraig responded.
Pádraig advises aspiring vets to consider all available third-level options and highlighted the importance of visiting colleges and talking to students currently enrolled to hear their opinions.
“There are so many options available now, it’s not the end of the road if you don’t get the points you need.”
“If Veterinary is really what you want, then there’s nothing stopping you making it happen.”
“There are several European colleges offering the course through English with large numbers of Irish attending these colleges, so you are not alone,” Pádraig added.
Looking forward, Pádraig's short-term goal is to continue working towards his dream of becoming a qualified and practicing veterinary practitioner.
On the farming front, he hopes to build up the Pedigree Charolais herd and would not rule out introducing Limousin cattle and a flock of sheep to the Kilkenny-based holding.
"My ultimate goal is to work in a practice close to home which allows me to farm part-time. I would also like to get into the reproductive business, especially embryo transfer." Pádraig Keating concluded.
If you are a cattle and/or sheep breeder and you want to share your story, email - firstname.lastname@example.org - and you may be featured on That's Farming next week.
Image source: Pádraig Keating.