Slany Sheridan’s interest in agriculture was influenced by her father and her late grandfather.
Some of her earliest memories of growing up on the home dairy farm include herding with her father and moving fences with her grandad. Both her mother and father came from farming families; both hailing from dairy farms.
The 21-year-old Coolnacarrick, Ballinagh, Co. Cavan native is currently running a dairy enterprise and a pig fattening unit with her father and brother in Crossdoney in Cavan.
100 cows, mainly British Friesians with a number of Jerseys pass through a 20-unit parlour.
“The majority of the cows are very young, as the herd has over doubled in size since I started college, with the abolishment of the milk quota.” Slany Sheridan told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
The herd consists of a mixture of bought-in heifers and Sheridan's own replacements as a Friesian bull dominated the pastures for two consecutive years.
A Limousin bull runs with the herd during the breeding season; some of the calves are sold from the farm gate, while others are retained until they are later sold at the for the mart or slaughtered.
At present, the Sherdians are extending the slatted shed in the hope to milk 150 cows in the near future, although this is not the only aspect of their farm that is undergoing expansion.
“We’re currently digging the tank for a new piggery - double the size of the existing one; this new shed will hold 350 for fattening and 350 weaners.”
Animal Science - Equine
With a desire to pursue her interest in farming and to carve out a career in the agri-food sector, Slany (21) enrolled in University College Dublin’s Animal Science - Equine degree programme in 2014.
She completed Professional Work Experience (PWE) at Moyglare Stud in Maynooth where she fed; mucked out and turned out mares and foals daily.
She helped vets with tasks including scanning mares; administering medication and tending to injuries; she was on-call for emergencies and assisted in all the foalings which occurred during her placement.
“I often travelled with mares to coverings, visiting various studs such as Coolmore and National Stud. I gained a lot of experience working with Thoroughbreds on placement.” Slany outlined.
“I also got to visit Dermot Weld’s training yard. With equine, students generally only do one placement, so I used the summer before PWE as an opportunity to get more experience.”
The Cavan native moved to Galway, where she gained further experience at Kylemore Stud with Olive and Ivor Broderick. It is here that she learned about artificial insemination in horses; witnessed many inseminations and stallion collections and fed mares and foals; mucked out and assisted the veterinary practitioner.
“Animal Science was my number one choice, but with Animal Science – Equine, we covered a lot of the same classes as Animal Science, where we just had some equine-related classes.”
“I also chose a Crop Science elective to help give me a good understanding of all parts of agriculture.”
Since graduating in September of this year, the 21-year-old has secured a part-time off-farm position and farms on her days off.
“I milk on the days I’m not at work. I feed calves and clean out pens; whatever has to be done. The heifers are now in for winter so I grape in silage and feed meal.”’
“The cows are staying in at night, so I scrape down cubicles and apply lime. I feed pigs and help load and unload them when they are coming to or going from the farm.” Slany outlined.
Women in Ag
Being a woman in the agricultural sector has never been an issue for Slany, now aged twenty-one. She believes that if something makes you happy, gender should not be an issue.
“The people close to me know I like farming and respect that - they don’t say anything negative about it.”
“Some people have a hard time understanding women can farm just like men and can be just as good at it.” Slany highlighted.
Looking forward to the future, Slany hopes to acquire her own holding and farm in her own right, with a view to combining an off-farm position with a calf-to beef operation.
“I want to work in the industry when the right opportunity arises. I think at some point I’d like to travel and maybe work away for a while.”
“With farming, no two days are the same, so it never gets boring but it can be quite challenging sometimes; the weather can be a huge problem and you always have to be willing to adapt quickly to change.”
“I enjoy being involved in agriculture because it’s such an important sector. The agri-food sector is a very interesting one as it’s always changing and progressing.” Slany concluded.