When it came to selecting a third-level degree programme, University College Dublin’s Animal Science course was at the top of Rachel Moloney’s list.
“I was never in any doubt that I wanted to be involved with animals and agriculture in some shape or form, so this degree seemed like the natural fit.” the 22-year-old told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
“It was UCD or nothing as far as I was concerned. Thankfully, it all worked out and the past three years have been some of the best years of my life.” added the Robeen, Co. Mayo native.
Rachel - who grew up on a farm, spanning three-generations - took a gap year after completing her Leaving Cert to “muster up some funds.”
She secured a position in a local shop and continues to work there at weekends; she also helps her father run the family farm.
“The older farmers who visit the shop are always keen to impart their farming wisdom upon me whenever I mention my studies. They are the best people to learn from,” she explained.
The popular four-year course - which she is studying since 2016 - focuses mainly on the science behind how animals function through modules such as physiology, genomics and reproduction.
Candidates are required to complete a minimum of 16 weeks’ placement, covering areas such as pigs, beef, sheep and dairy.
The third-year student is currently undertaking 9 weeks of dairy placement in Drumgoon Dairy, South Dakota, USA. She completed the remainder of this module on pig and sheep farms in Mayo and spent time at Teagasc Grange.
“I knew that I wanted to complete at least one of my placements abroad and I’ve had my heart set on America for a very long time.”
“I am following Drumgoon Dairy on Facebook for a few years now, so I took a chance one night and emailed asking about student placement. It was a straight yes and the rest is history.”
Ohio State University helped organised her internship visa and before Rachel knew it, she “was dropped in the middle of nowhere with 5,000 cows!”
Her day commences at 6am, with shifts lasting 12 hours. “At the moment, I work four days on, with two days off. Two of the four days are spent milking, while the other two days are spent with the herd team.”
The Mayo native enjoys the variety of her role. “One day you could be preg checking, the next drying off cows. Every day throws up a new challenge.”
“What you see here in a day, you might not see in a year at home. It’s a world away from my small suckler farm in Mayo.”
The farm is divided up into two parlours - Drumgoon (24-unit rapid-exit double-up) and Norden (36-unit rapid-exit double-up).
“By far, getting used to milking has been the toughest adjustment. The workers here are so fast that it can be hard to keep up, but I’m sure with time and practice I can put them all to shame!”
“Deciding to come out here has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m relishing every second of being here and trying to learn as much as possible.” she outlined.
Rachel would recommend UCD’s Animal Science course to aspiring students from farming and non-agricultural backgrounds; she believes a degree in agriculture provides a solid foundation for various careers.
“Not only is it a good course academically, but socially as well. The ag science community in UCD is very close-knit - everybody knows everybody.” the Agsoc member explained.
“It really is a fantastic little community of people and one I’m very proud to be a part of.”
Ready for the challenge of final year in September, Rachel is particularly interested in the areas of animal nutrition and animal health but is keeping her options open to all career possibilities.
“The beauty of an ag science degree is that you are not limited to just one area; there are endless opportunities available, both in Ireland and overseas.”
“It’s an exciting time to be in agriculture for sure. I definitely wouldn’t rule out further study either."
“I believe that you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it. If you are willing to try everything, then you will learn fast in this industry for sure,” she concluded.
If you are a third-level student studying agriculture/veterinary medicine and you want to share your story, email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with a short bio.