Three years on from her Leaving Certificate, Sinéad Walsh (21) holds the position of farm manager on a 300-cow dairy enterprise in Bandon, Co. Cork.
Despite growing up on a family-run farm comprising of just under 200 dairy cows, the Clare native set her sights on an alternative career path.
“I was determined to study nursing, but as the Leaving Cert got closer, I became more nervous,” she told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“2-3-weeks before I sat my exams, I had a change of heart overnight and realised nursing wasn’t for me. I knew I did not want to sit at home for a year, so I went down the ag route.”
“When I’d come home in the evenings after school, I would drop my bag, change my clothes and feed calves. Maybe it was just a case of doing something other than homework.” she laughed.
Sinéad began studying a Level-5 Certificate in Agriculture at Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry in September 2016; she completed placement from February to the end of May as part of her studies.
“I got placed on a farm not too far away from home; the farmer and his family (Berminghams) were unbelievably good to me and made me feel like I was one of their own.”
“At the end of my 3 months, the farmer asked me to stay on and work with him for the summer - an offer I did not say no too.”
“At this point, I knew nursing was gone off the cards completely,” she admitted.
Sinéad returned to college afterwards to complete a Level-6 Advanced Certificate in Dairy Herd Management. “To be honest, I didn't have much of a choice as my parents, sisters and the farmer told me that I must do it.”
“Looking back on it now, I am glad they encouraged me to take this leap of faith.”
Sinéad returned to the host farm where she was based the previous year to undertake a practical learning period and also completed a DIY AI training course with Munster Bovine.
“The second year of college was different as we went out on placement first and then focused on bookwork after this.”
“As my placement was coming to an end and heading back to college knowing the evenings were long, I decided to seek a part-time job for after college just to keep busy.”
After the New Year, Sinéad and a friend moved to Ardagh to live on the Dowling’s farm where they studied and worked part-time for up to four months. “We took turns working the morning/evening shifts so that we each could get some study done.”
When she completed her final exams, the Clare native moved back home and returned to the Bermingham’s farm. “There I was back milking and doing the routine jobs as if I had never left.”
Then it came to the stage where it was time for the young farmer to start thinking about her plans for the future.
She considered furthering her studies, but decided against this, and went in search of a permanent job. “I thought to myself ‘sure the worst they can say is no’ and chanced my arm.” she laughed.
Now, one year, later, aged twenty-one, Sinéad has her foot placed firmly on the agricultural career ladder, holding a farm managerial position. “For me, this is an amazing goal to achieve at this age.”
“I didn't expect this to happen so early in my career, but it did. I'm so lucky and I honestly wouldn't go back to change one bit of it.”
“A lot of people are surprised to see me doing this job, but so many are very supportive of me too."
Satisfied in her current position, Sinéad looks forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead; she would not rule out owning her own high-achieving dairy farm at some stage in the future.
“I’m a woman in agriculture and extremely proud to be. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have that ‘just go and do it attitude.” 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.