Siobhán Condron (26) grew up on a mixed tillage and suckler farm, with Charolais and Hereford-crosses in Killeigh, Co. Offaly.
The family dispersed the herd following the passing of her father Pat - a third-generation farmer who had a keen interest in horse racing. Prior to his death, he purchased four national hunt fillies with the intention of bringing them back to the sales as three-year-olds.
Having horses at home has meant that Siobhán has been exposed to veterinary medicine from a young age.
“As I grew up, I became increasingly interested in the particularities of veterinary and it was a career prospect that was always at the back of my head.” Siobhán Condron told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
She became interested in this field as a result of a number of experiences, the earliest being a geriatric pony called Tonto. During Transition Year, Siobhán spent time in Anglesey Lodge on The Curragh where she received her first insight into Equine Surgery and Internal Medicine.
She opted for Animal Science - Equine in UCD as a result of her involvement with the Offaly Pony and showjumping and having thoroughbreds at home. “I had doubts about achieving the necessary points for UCD.” She explained.
Siobhán selected this course with the view that she would have a potential gateway into studying Veterinary if she still had the desire to do so after her undergraduate studies.
The Turning Point
The turning point was during her Professional Work Experience (PWE) in her third year of the course; Siobhán had the opportunity to spend six months on Paca Paca Farm – owned by Dr. Harry Sweeney.
“Up until then, I had been torn between pursuing a career in Bloodstock or Veterinary, both of which I was equally passionate about.”
“However, experiencing routine vet work on daily during the breeding and sales season cemented my desire to study veterinary.”
On a field trip during final year, she asked the opinion of one of her lecturers - Dr. Tatiana Vinardell - who encouraged her to apply for veterinary.
After completing her undergraduate degree, Siobhán originally applied for UCD’s post-graduate Veterinary Medicine programme but was unsuccessful as only a small number of places are allocated to graduates of other disciplines.
Instead of re-applying the following year, she applied for Budapest due to its accessibility as a post-graduate student and its cheaper academic fees than other universities.
Having submitted her transcripts from UCD, Siobhán was exempt from taking the standard entrance exams in Biology and Chemistry and was accepted onto the course immediately.
She enrolled in the programme at University of Veterinary Medicine, Budapest in 2015 and will graduate in 2022.
“The initial pre-clinical years are very theoretical based focusing mainly on the fundamentals of anatomy and physiology with limited practical experience.”
Third-year is more to her preference as it is a para-clinical year meaning that students are being introduced to the clinical side encompassing diagnostic and pathological studies.
In addition, from third-year onwards, students spend a clinical day each week at either the large or small animal clinic with rotations in the clinics commencing in fourth-year.
Siobhán returns to her home soil up to three times per semester to assist with the running of the equine enterprise.
The Condrens purchase a national hunt foals each year - pin-hooking is a sideline enterprise for them, therefore, they can only sustain a small number at any given time.
They buy under the guidance of her mother’s brother - Brian - who plays a major role in appraising each individual’s physical progress and advising on the management of any underlying issues.
While seeing a return of investment at the sales is key to a profitable enterprise, Siobhán enjoys watching the individuals that she has thought a lot about at home, go on to win.
Some of their former graduates include Lecale’s Article as well as Western Honour and Moyross- all of whom broke their maiden point-to-points as four-year-olds.
In addition to her studies and involvement on-farm, Siobhán has also completed work experience in small and large animal practices and assisted with the lambing of Ken Matthews’ flock last spring.
The 26-year-old maintains that if she could go back in time, she would not do anything differently.
Completing a degree in Animal Science-Equine allowed her to gain a greater understanding of the challenges that farmers and horse owners face on a daily basis.
“I also got the chance to improve both my husbandry skills and my knowledge of the industry at both a domestic and international level.” She added.
Siobhán said that some people can be “easily blinkered” into thinking that UCD’s Veterinary Medicine course is the only viable option in order to become a qualified vet.
She believes that falling short of the CAO points should not be a deterrent as there are numerous other options available; these include accepting your second choice and undertaking a different undergraduate degree first or deciding to study abroad post-Leaving Cert.
Siobhán recommends her current course as the campus is well-equipped with a small animal clinic and larger equine clinics located close by. She said the city is highly accessible and the cost of living is very modest in comparison to other regions.
“We have a great Irish community on-campus with students from all corners of the country meaning it’s a home away from home for most." She added.
“For interested applicants, I will say that it’s a challenging course; you need to have a good work ethic. Veterinary is a highly demanding profession and this is reflected in the pressures of the course itself.”
In the short term, Siobhán hopes to graduate in good standing from the university.
She would like to specialise in equine practice and will be applying for internships at home and abroad; the Offaly native is open to working in mixed practice for a year or two before doing so.
“I would like to amalgamate my interest in bloodstock and veterinary by getting involved in breeding and producing my own consignments from the ground up,” Siobhán concluded.
If you would like to be featured as part of That’s Farming’s Student Focus series, please contact Catherina Cunnane – firstname.lastname@example.org