Phoebe Hartnett (26) once considered becoming a primary school teacher, but this all changed when she opted to study Agricultural Science for her Leaving Certificate.
Phoebe - who grew up in close proximity to Cork City - visited her uncle’s farm every weekend throughout her childhood years and assisted with farming duties.
“Studying Ag Science brought back all my childhood memories of being on the farm and from this, I gained a huge interest in the industry and wanted to learn more.” Phoebe Hartnett told Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.
While creating her Leaving Certificate Ag Science project, Phoebe explored different farming enterprises and also went on a class trip to the Teagasc Ag College in Clonakilty Co.Cork; this is where she became interested in pursuing her studies in this field.
“My uncle actually did Ag Science in UCD so I talked to him and I decided it was a course I would love to do.”
“My mom grew up on a beef farm near Lissarda in Co, Cork which my uncle continues to farm, so she was also very supportive of this idea.”
Phoebe studied a level-8 degree in Animal Science at University College; in second-year, she volunteered to assist with lambing on the research farm and this is where she got a taste for research.
In third-year, she completed 16 weeks of research placement – 5 weeks with sheep in Lyons Co. Kildare; 4 weeks on a dairy enterprise and 6 weeks with pigs - both in Moorepark, Co. Cork.
“During my pig research placement, I decided that I wanted to do a PhD of my own in pig health and welfare.”
She is now undertaking a PhD in Pig Health and Welfare at Teagasc / University College of Limerick.
Her PhD is a longitudinal gilt rearing study to improve their lifetime performance. She has hypothesized that rearing females intended for breeding separate from male pigs and also adding copper; zinc; and manganese to their diet will improve their welfare and performance.
Phoebe’s study focuses on lameness. Measurements she has carried out include – Behaviour analysis; body lesion scoring; locomotion scoring; hoof scoring; saliva sampling; blood sampling; and leg x-ray and leg dissection post-mortem.
“I am based full-time in Moorepark and all trial work took 1 and half years to complete. All lab work and bone analysis took 6 months.”
“I now have one year to go where I intend to publish papers, attend courses and complete my thesis.”
Women in Ag
As a woman in agriculture, Phoebe’s experience to date has been “very enjoyable” and she has not experienced any negative encounters.
So far, on her agricultural career journey, she has looked up to so many inspiring women involved and recognised in agriculture.
“Most of the people who influenced and inspired me on my agricultural career path have all been women – My LC Ag science teacher; my UCD grass lecturer; PhD students I helped while on placement; both of my Teagasc supervisors and Temple Grandin.”
“In saying that, all of the farmers I have worked with have been male; they have been the ones who thought me so much, had patience when I was unfamiliar and allowed me to gain invaluable experience,” Phoebe said.
The Cork native will finish her PhD in Nov 2019; she hopes to undertake a post-doc afterwards and has been looking into doing an animal welfare post-doc in Australia, at The University of Melbourne.
She wishes to continue to conduct research in the area of animal health and welfare and would like to lecture at some stage, but for the next 5-10 years, she hopes to gain as much research experience as possible.
“My biggest achievement is getting to where I am today. I honestly love what I do; I am really passionate about pig welfare and I feel like my work is contributing to its improvement.”
“Looking back on it now, primary school teaching would not have been the right choice for me. Agricultural science is so broad and versatile and I love the progression which is involved in research and academia.” Phoebe Hartnett concluded.
“Be confident in your work, do what you enjoy and keep going!” - Phoebe Hartnett.If you are a third-level student and you want to share your story, email - firstname.lastname@example.org - and you may be featured on That’s Farming next week.