Stephen Gill (21) grew up on a beef, sheep and tillage enterprise on the Meath/Offaly border.
The fifth-generation farmer’s earliest memories revolve around transporting small hay bales during his summer holidays and helping his grandparents (on his mother’s side) to run their farm which is now operated by his uncle.
“My love for farming came from my parents and grandparents as they have all been involved in the industry in various ways.” The Castlejordan native told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
The Gills lamb approximately two-hundred ewes - Texel-crosses of Mules - every year; they also rear up to seventy Angus-cross calves which are purchased from a local dairy farm.
These animals are slaughtered when they reach twenty-four-months of age.
Along with running a sheep and beef enterprise, the Gills also have 20-acres of tillage; this is split between either winter or spring barley depending on the year and weather conditions.
“All of the grain and straw are kept and used on-farm as either bedding or feed for stock.” The 21-year-old added.
Stephen’s father oversees the running of the farm on a full-time basis, while he and his younger brother - Richard - provide assistance at weekends and whenever they are available. His mother and younger sister - Louise - also help out when the workload mounts.
“I do some sheep shearing during the summer months and also work for a local tillage farmer during the harvest.” He added.
Stephen completed a Level-6 in Drystock Management at Gurteen Agricultural College following the completion of his Leaving Certificate in 2016.
“I learned a lot about grassland management and how to manage and run a modern farm.” He explained.
He applied for Advanced Entry in Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) just weeks before he finished his studies at Gurteen.
“I had never given that option much thought but always knew it was a potential option.”
He enrolled in its Level-7 BSc in Agriculture degree programme in September 2018 with a view to obtaining a higher qualification.
Stephen transferred into the second year of the course and is set to graduate in May 2020.“The highlight of the course so far has probably been getting a taste for other modules that I hadn't experienced before coming to WIT.”
“The course also includes some practical sessions that make for a nice change away from the classroom.”
“There are always new things to learn and new opportunities in the agricultural sector - it is an exciting time to be involved.” The Edenderry Rugby Club player said.
When Stephen graduates with a Level-7 in Agriculture, he plans to travel for up to two years to explore agricultural practices in other countries.
“I'd believe that just because previous generations have always done something a certain way, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's the best and most efficient way to do it.”
Once the 21-year-old has travel ticked off his bucket list, he hopes to become a farm manager or carve out an industry-based career.
“There are a large number of opportunities and options in the industry ranging from being out on-farm to research in a laboratory.
"There is something to suit every taste and level of skill.” He added.
“My ultimate goal is to hopefully take over the home farm or lease my own block of land and combine this with an off-farm position.”
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