Why I fell in love with farming life

A social care graduate from Cork tells CHRIS DUNNE why she has embraced farm life, and how women have a greater role to play in farming these days
Why I fell in love with farming life

Rachel Connolly who lives in Mitchelstown, is loving farm life.

LOOKING at social care graduate Rachel Connolly, you might not quite imagine the 23-year-old, living in Mitchelstown, leading a farm life.

But she likes nothing better than donning the dungarees and overalls to do just that.

Rachel is in her element piking silage, dosing animals, helping to erect fencing and spreading dung on the land to fertilise it — and delivering the odd calf too!

Why?

“I just love the lifestyle,” says Rachel.

“I love the freedom, of being out in the fresh air.

“At work, as a social leader in a nursing home, I wear a mask for eight hours a day. Being in the great outdoors is lovely and refreshing.

Rachel Connolly a social care graduate, does the paperwork for the farm and animal husbandry. She is keen interest in fertility management and genetics,
Rachel Connolly a social care graduate, does the paperwork for the farm and animal husbandry. She is keen interest in fertility management and genetics,

“Rearing the animals and seeing them thrive is very satisfying.”

But what about being up to her oxters in cow-dung and slurry?

She laughs.

“I really don’t mind that. It’s all part of the job. Farming is very varied and I believe women have a bigger role to play in farming these days.

“The old adage that women should be slaving over the cooker cooking for the menfolk out working in the fields is a thing of the past.”

Rachel is hands-on embracing the ‘good life’.

“My love for livestock started when I had to calf a cow when himself was at silage.”

Himself is Sean McGrath, who Rachel met while she was au-pairing, during summer holidays, from college. The pair clicked.

Even though they were of a different pedigree?

“Yes, that’s true enough, but we still did get together,” says Rachel.

“Even though he was a country boy and I was a townie!”

How did she know what to do bringing a new animal into the world; was she fearful of the blood and gore that might be involved in the process?

Calf-rearing is a huge part of her role too on the farm.
Calf-rearing is a huge part of her role too on the farm.

“I was at home on the farm by myself,” recalls Rachel.

“Sean was away doing silage somewhere else. His granny lives in her own house on the land. She is 90. When I went into the shed to check the cow about to give birth, I saw a bubble coming out of the cow which is a sign that the birth is very near. I said ‘Oh my God!’ and ran over to Sean’s granny to ask her what I should do.”

Sean’s granny was an old hand at calving cows.

“Put on your wellies,” she said.

“She talked me through,” says Rachel.

“The calf was in danger of suffocating so we managed to break the bag once the calf was born as it was still around the calf.

“I pulled the calf out by its legs. I never thought in all my life I could do that. But I did. It is something I’ll never forget. 

"The experience was surreal. It sparked a real interest for me. I haven’t looked back since.”

Rachel never forgets that the farming community are always there for one another, always ready to row in to lend a hand when it’s needed.

“The farming community is like one big family,” says Rachel, who with her partner Sean runs a 75-strong herd of pedigree Holstein Friesians, Herefords and Limousins.

“It is a tight-knit community. They help each other out. It is the natural thing for them to do.”

Rachel is a natural animal-lover.

“I’ve always been obsessed by animals since I was very young,” she says.

“And growing up I was a bit of a tom-boy. In college I did engineering and construction. So physical work doesn’t daunt me at all.”

Being thrown in the deep end didn’t daunt Rachel either.

“I was definitely thrown in the deep end!” she says laughing.

“But the long hours, the late nights, the no dates, didn’t bother me at all!”

Rachel says the farming community is like one big happy family.
Rachel says the farming community is like one big happy family.

She took to farming like a duck to water.

“It is a totally different environment to what I was used to,” says Rachel.

“I love every minute of it.”

She loves seeing the yields of herself and Sean’s collective labour of love.

“Our pedigree Limousin and Hereford herds are growing each year,” says Rachel proudly.

“For me the most enjoyable aspect would have to be calving or calf-rearing. I love seeing every animal thrive. It makes the job so worthwhile. Summer nights doing silage are great craic too.”

Is getting up at the crack of dawn to calf a cow or milk the cows great craic too?

“Every season brings different things,” says Rachel.

“You have silage in the summer, calving in spring. No two days are the same. You go with the flow. Farming is unlike any other career.”

It has its perks.

“You are your own boss too!”

Rachel says farming allows you to be your own boss.
Rachel says farming allows you to be your own boss.

Rachel plans on spreading her wings — she intends to complete her Green Certificate and has plans to increase the herd size so she can become a full-time dairy farmer.

“I have a keen interest in fertility management and genetics, which I hope to explore more.

“I do the paperwork for the farm and animal husbandry is a huge passion of mine as well as calf-rearing. It is a rewarding and a versatile role.

“There is often a perception that because you are a woman, there’s a lack of knowledge, but that’s not the case,” says Rachel.

She is an equal partner, adding: “Anyone can find a physical job demanding. Not just women.”

Rachel said farming is a lifestyle, not just a job.
Rachel said farming is a lifestyle, not just a job.

Women are equals in the farming sector, she believes.

“Women are starting to be considered as equals on the farm and not just the ‘help’, says Rachel.

“It is a lifestyle, not just a job. And it is a lovely job too. 

"It is great to see some women in Ireland having lead roles in organisations and state agencies. It gives younger females encouragement to join the sector.”

What to do the ‘townies’ think of Rachel’s rural passion?

“They think it’s hilarious!” she says.

“They can’t imagine how I love it so much."

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