Shane is 27 years of age and hails from North Kerry, with a background in dairy.
Shane works at the Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark in Fermoy on the Curtins research farm, where he has been for the past 18 months. Shane grew up helping out on his uncle’s dairy farm in Kildare, this is where he developed his love for the industry and animals.
“My uncle was dairy farming, from Kildare, I would have spent a lot of my time traveling up to
His uncle, when Shane began helping out, was milking about 70 cows, but has gradually built numbers up over the years. Now he’s up to about 135 cows, with plans to expand further in the next few years.
“He’s up to about 135 cows at the minute. He was at about 70 cows when I first got involved….That’s where I got the interest in farming”, he said.
“I always had an interest in it (agriculture)...In school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but agriculture was always in the back of my mind”, Shane said.
“I didn’t want to go to college. I wanted to go farming and things like that, but my parents convinced me to go”, he added.
From secondary school Shane made the journey to Clonakilty Agricultural college.
“That was the agreement we (Shane and his parents) came to. If I was going to college, I was going to Ag college”, he laughed.
This course took him on a 6-month placement on a dairy farm in New Zealand and from here on the studies continued. Shane then made his way to UCD, where he completed a Bachelors of Agricultural Science in 2012 and a Masters in Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in
“UCD was available through the CIT route...I decided to take the plunge and decided to do the degree there in Animal and Crop production”, he adds.
From UCD he went to Teagasc to do a Ph.D. in conjunction with University College Dublin in nutrition and fertility in dairy cows. He completed a Ph.D. titled Nutritional effects on reproduction in dairy cows on pasture-based systems. This covers anything from stocking rates to supplementation in early lactation and its effect on fertility performance.
Shane had also completed an AI and ultrasound scanning course, whilst in college and started doing “DIY AI” at home.
He now is heavily involved in the management of the staff and research on Teagasc’s Curtins farm. His day usually starts off early, around 7am during calving season. During this season he is tasked with helping out with calving duties on the farm, not that Shane minds one bit.
The farm also milks over 140 cows twice daily, meaning Shane sometimes has to help out. After milking on the farm, book work is the next task on the list. This involves registering calves and other farm related duties. His current role means he is now less hands-on in the research sense, but more managing what’s going on during trials and the people involved.
During the year Shane is responsible for taking in discussion groups and showing them around the farm. This involves explaining current and previous experiments and the results found during research.
“We have 3 full-time staff here, so we are spoilt in terms of labour, but for the research work we need the extra help as well”, Shane said.
He describes his role as more “Management” these days, rather than hands on. The latest research involves looking at different Autumn and Spring feed budgets. This involves Shane and the team looking at how to manage the higher stocking rates during the Autumn and the potential carry over effects.
At the moment Shane says he is happy where he is. He has no plans to move away from his work in Moorepark just yet.
“I’m happy where I am at the minute. I’m progressing here and coming from having a Ph.D. into this place, you might say it’s a step back into farm management. But the place where it is, it’s a good place to be in terms of making connections and gaining knowledge .”, Shane said.
“But you never know what’s around the corner”, he added.
“This was the idea I had with my Education, that I would go as far as I can and I’ll go back to what I really love. I’ll always be able to move in and out”, he added
When entering the job Shane says he didn’t meet too many challenges. He said working with people was not a challenge, but a new experience for him and something to learn more about.
“Managing people I suppose. That’s going to be a challenge facing the industry all over at the minute”, he advised.
“It was a learning experience for myself...You just have to be careful with how you approach things and communicate with people”, said Shane.
“It’s all about giving respect and you get respect”, he adds.
Shane said there is a lot of these new entrants starting up dairying. He says they are going for huge output farms, which require a level of staff. He says dealing with staff and trying to manage them is a challenge which many farmers will face.
“To secure good labour you need to have a special way of treating them and talking to them”, he added.
For the industry as a whole, Shane says the main challenge is finding workers to enter agriculture. These huge dairy farms, mentioned above, require extra man/woman power, though there are not enough young or new farmers entering the industry.
Shane had a few words of wisdom for those looking to follow his career path. He recommended if someone would like to get into research, to try and base their work experience around research and get into these research centers.
“Try to gain as much knowledge and experience outside of college, as possible….That will stand to you when you get through college”, he said.
“Getting that experience on these facilities...It leaves you a lot more set up in going for interviews”, he adds.
“Very often people go through the work experience programmes and they do the bare minimum...They specialize in one for a period of time, where it’s no harm to broaden your horizons and maybe jump into agribusiness or the research centre and then go dairying or whatever. I think that would be a lot more beneficial”, he concludes.