Many of Sarah O’Meara’s earliest memories revolve around farming with her father, attending livestock marts and spending her summers at her grandparents’ dairy farm.
The 23-year-old has pursued her passion for agriculture; she holds a degree in agricultural science, works for ABP Group and is actively involved in the running of a suckler enterprise with her parents and brother.
The O’Meara’s farm – which is located in Ballina in Co. Tipperary – was established in 1998, after Sarah’s father purchased the current holding.
The family farm is located on the Arra Mountains which is 350-metres above sea level. “With having heavy soils, it can cause difficulties such as getting silage cut and allowing animals out to graze in spring,” she told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“With this, we have learned to adapt to the sudden change in climate and be prepared for uncertainty in mother nature.”
The farm – which is a GLAS and BDGP participant - consists of twenty Belgian Blue-crosses, Salers-crosses and Aubrac breeding females, their progeny, six yearling heifers and a Limousin stock bull.
The current offspring will be sold next March in Sixmilebridge Mart as yearling bulls and store heifers will be purchased – a number of which will be earmarked as replacements.
“Calving takes place outdoors from June to August; calves and their dams are in a natural environment and are, therefore, less likely to pick up infection or disease.”
“This year, calving was successful with only one mortality, and two falling outside the six-week calving period, so we will have a uniform group of calves for sale next spring.”
“You create a bond with the animal, and it is just heart-warming when you see them with their own offspring,” she explained.
Sarah admitted that some of the jobs which have to be completed on her family farm can be physically challenging; however, she is keen to find alternative ways to carry out tasks.
“I’ve learned that your physical ability should never stop you from doing anything you want to do in life.”
“I believe that determination helps you to get the tasks done; this helps when you could be having a hard time completing a job.”
A striking passion for farming influenced Sarah’s decision to pursue her studies in the agricultural field; she graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Agriculture Science from IT Tralee in May 2018.
After she completed her undergraduate studies, the Tipperary native worked for a summer for ABP Food Group and she has since progressed to its quality-assurance division.
“I first started out in production; however, I was given the opportunity in March 2019 to cover maternity cover in quality assurance.”
“My role is dynamic and fast-paced with every day being different. My role varies from office work to being on the floor,” she explained.
“With this variation in my work, it also always me to be on my toes as I am not a person to be sitting down all day,” she added.
Both roles have provided Sarah with an insight into the cross complexities of producing a product for consumers. “ABP is a great company to work for, as you are constantly learning about the food industry and its trends within Ireland and European markets.”
Women in Ag
Speaking about her experience to date, Sarah is of the opinion that women are slowly being recognised for their contributions to agriculture.
“Women in farming are slowly being more appreciated on farms; we are doing the same tasks as our male counterparts such as milking and drawing silage.”
“Women are respected within society, but I’ve learned that in agriculture sometimes they aren’t.”
She said that the CEOs of Glanbia and FBD are leading lights for any woman embarking on a career in agri-business. “These people make you more determined and are proof that women are capable of carrying out any duty a man would do and can do it better.”
Sarah said that to date, the experience she is gaining in the meat industry has been an important stepping-stone in her professional career and personal development.
“Going forward, I would like to further my career in the meat industry; however, challenging it may be.”
“While there is a lot of negativity and uncertainty at present, I still see a future for the beef industry whatever may come.”
“For anybody starting out in agriculture, I would say never give up; keep going as there is always light at the end of the tunnel when times are tough,” she concluded.
If you are a woman in agriculture and you want to share your story, email – firstname.lastname@example.org – with a short bio.