Women in Ag: Samantha McCarroll


"I am the main decision-maker on the farm," - Samantha swapped teaching for dairy farming.

Women in Ag: Samantha McCarroll

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"I am the main decision-maker on the farm," - Samantha swapped teaching for dairy farming.

Samantha McCarroll - a married mother-of-two from Fintona, Co. Tyrone - gave up teaching to become a full-time dairy farmer.

"My heart was on the farm - I have always wanted to be a full-time farmer," she explained to That's Farming.

After finishing school, Samantha - who grew up on a beef farm and exhibited Limousin cattle at agricultural shows - worked in her parent's businesses before studying a BEd in Business Studies.

"I did milk recording to get myself through university and that's when my interest in dairy farming began," she added.

She pursued her teaching career for one year before having her first daughter in June 2014 - one year after she graduated.

The business studies teacher and her husband Niall - who was a plasterer by trade - purchased a 70-acre farm that September.

They built a new dairy unit incorporating a Dairymaster 10-point swing-over parlour - along with 75 housing cubicles.

"We spent six months working on the farm to get it ready for milking.”

"I returned to work after maternity leave and continued to milk the cows in the mornings and evenings before and after school."

Dairy Farming

Samantha hung up her teaching boots eighteen months ago and has been farming on a full-time basis since then.

The McCarroll's herd consists of 80 cows who they are now breeding with high-EBI black and whites which are farmed as part of a grass-based production system. "We strive for high solids and high fertility." she outlined.

Recent records show an average of 22-litres at 4.11% fat, 3.58% protein and 1.74 kgs of milk solids.

Last year, cows averaged 5,563 litres at 4.12% butterfat, 3.37% protein.

Grass is measured regularly with data recorded on AgriNet while calving gets underway on February 1st for a duration of 12-weeks; late-calvers are sold in December while cows are generally dried-off in January.

Keen to upskill, Samantha trained as an AI technician three years ago. "I AI the cows to high-EBI sires for the first four to five weeks of the breeding season."

An Irish Moiled stock bull dominates the pastures; the offspring - which are born from February to April - are sold to local farmers.

"Because we are only calving for 12 weeks, I have sufficient time to put a good effort into getting the calves going."

"Anyone that buys calves from us usually come back again because they know they are well looked after."

Typical Day

Samantha is completely involved in every aspect of the running of the dairy enterprise, "I am the main decision-maker on the farm."

Her day begins at 5:30 am at this time of year, but during the calving season, she is required to be on the farm as early as 5 am.

"I do a class at the gym at 6:10 am most weekday mornings and start milking the cows at 7 am."

"My husband gets our girls - Jessica (5) and Myra (3)- ready for school and arrives on-farm at about 8:20 am."

"I take the girls to school and finish off washing or let the cows out when I return. During the breeding season, I will AI the cows after the school runs."

"My two daughters often come to the milking parlour in the evenings but I have a childminder as I am home but I am working on the farm."

Women in Ag

The Tyrone native is of the opinion that it is important to promote agriculture to the next generation and, in particular, women.

"I was somewhat discouraged by my parents for a few years to pursue farming as my full-time career but they could see how much I wanted it."

"Now they can see what I’ve achieved and how happy I am doing a job that I love," she explained.

In order to help promote agriculture, the McCarrolls are involved with a local college and help them to facilitate their BTec Level-2 course in Agriculture.

This involves the students visiting the farm and following feed plans, condition scoring cows and learning more about dairy farming.

Samantha believes that encouraging and teaching young people about farming methods and showing the lifestyle are great ways to encourage candidates into the sector.

"I also think that it is reassuring for young girls to see women working in the sector and running their own farms." explained the chairperson of Four Valleys Discussion Group.

"It's important to show that farmers must continue their learning throughout their career and that it’s always okay to ask for help or advice when you’re unsure."

“That’s why I became a member of the discussion group and where I have learned so much,” she added.

Future Plans

Samantha's plans for the future include increasing cow numbers to 90 and continuing to improve the land while increasing her knowledge and encouraging the next generation.

"There's nothing nicer than walking with the girls from the milking parlour to put the cows out to the new pasture."

"We are dairy farming for five years now and we still have to learn."

"Farming can work with family life. If you want to farm, don't let anyone or anything hold you back," she concluded.

If you are a woman in agriculture and you want to share your story, email - catherina@thatsfarming.com - with a short bio.

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