Despite not hailing from a farming background, Sinead Minihane studied a Level-5 in Agriculture at Clonakilty Agricultural College before completing a Level-6 Advanced Certificate in Dairy Herd Management.
The 22-year-old is now undertaking a Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management at Teagasc Research Centre, Moorepark and will complete her studies this August.
The award programme – which is validated and awarded by UCD – is aimed at those intending to manage their family farm, interested in dairy managerial positions or those seeking to enter dairy farming through collaborative farming arrangements.
“The course involves placement on a farm each year and twenty days in college. I enjoy the programme as there is a lot of practical learning which I really enjoy,” she told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
A core element of the programme is a two-year paid professional work experience with approved dairy farmers.
The Cork native is currently the student farm manager at Moorehill Farms in Tallow, Co. Waterford; she moved to fill this position in August 2018.
The block spring-calving herd of 630 Jersey-cross-Friesian cows pass through a 50-unit milfos parlour with cluster removers.
“We start milking the cows at 5 am and evening milkings get underway at 2:30 pm.”
“Although we start early in the mornings, we finish early in the evenings, so it’s great to have time to do your own thing.”
Sinead liaises with Esther Walsh – farm manager - and team members on a daily basis. “I measure grass weekly; I walk the fields are the beginning of every week and form a grazing plan for the week ahead.”
“I think measuring the grass is the most important job on the farm; it can maximise pasture growth rates, improve pasture quality and feed your stock better quality grass.”
She is also responsible for ensuring new-born calves receive sufficient colostrum, detecting heat and animal husbandry, milk quality control.
“I am very fond of my current position as I can make my own decisions; I think the best way to learn is to make decisions for yourself. If you make a mistake, you’ll learn from it.” she outlined.
“I enjoy working with cattle every day; I like being outdoors and being involved in the practical side of farming.”
The 22-year-old admitted that although some farms are equipped with labour-saving equipment and machines, some tasks can be physically challenging. “Farming can be physically demanding but that doesn’t bother me.”
“You don’t really take any notice of the physical elements; you just have to get on with it,” she said highlighting the need for adequate planning ahead of tasks.
A realistic optimist
The 22-year-old said the training she is receiving is education for best practice, which is paramount as she did not grow up on a farm.
“I’m not from a farming background but I’ve been farming since I was about 8-years-old.”
“I developed an interest in agriculture from a young age as I used to help neighbouring farmers.”
She enjoys the combination of practical and theoretical learning associated with the course; she would recommend the programme to anyone who has a passion for farming and wishes to enhance their knowledge.
“If you can bring one thing home from college and apply it to improve your farming system, that’s an achievement within itself.”
“I simply love farming; I wouldn’t be doing this job if I didn't enjoy it. I look forward to going to work every morning.” she added.
Acknowledging some of the challenges that farmers and the sector as a whole continue to face, Sinead is a realistic optimist: “There are tough days on every farm especially during the busy season in the spring.”
“When you come to the end of spring and see all your healthy calves and cows milking, it just makes it all worthwhile.”
Satisfied in her current role, Sinead will continue her line of work in this area but has a desire to travel and establish her own enterprise in the near future.
“I would like to continue managing farms to increase my knowledge of dairy cows before I go down the road of purchasing them.”
“I hope to go farming in New Zealand for a few months. I think it would be a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to learn more about cows and grass.”
“I’m happy when I’m farming; I can’t see myself doing any other job,” she concluded.
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