To love something, it doesn’t mean you have to be born into it – and that is certainly true for Alice Hodges.
She hails from Cheshire, in the northwest of England, has lived and worked in New Zealand, and is now based in Co. Kildare, working as a contract calf rearer during the busy spring season and as a relief milker for two to three farmers for the rest of the year.
“I didn’t grow up in a farming family, but my neighbours were dairy farmers and I’ve always had a love of animals growing up,” Alice told AgriLand.
So, one Sunday afternoon I was invited to have a go at milking and just loved it ever since. Always felt very relaxed and at peace around cattle!
“My advice to people looking to get into farming would be to just jump in with both feet. Find a local farmer and ask the question. Most farmers are more than happy to help the next generation get their foot in the door.”
12-month placement in New Zealand
Alice has a diploma in agriculture from Reaseheath College in Cheshire. She then followed that up with studying at the University of Reading, where she graduated with a BSc agricultural business management degree.
“[I] loved my time at Reading not just for the course, but because it allowed me to meet so many people from all different walks of life, not just farmers.
My degree also allowed me to undertake a 12-month placement where I went to New Zealand to farm out there and that’s where I met my boyfriend Seán and the reason I’m in Ireland now!
And with Seán, Alice said her goal for the future is for them to run their own place, “whether that be dairy, beef or a mixed enterprise”.
“I’ve struggled to find a farm who is wanting full-time labour with the Irish spring calving system, as the front of the year is so heavy-loaded with work, but the second half of the year can be very quiet and the additional labour unit outside of milking can become hard to justify,” Alice continued.
“From my experience, the biggest challenge facing young people wanting to get into farming is access to job opportunities such as management positions or share milking or equity management positions.
Other countries, such as [in] New Zealand; opportunities for young people to progress up are a lot more common; whereas those type of opportunities in Ireland are harder to come by.
During her takeover on Saturday, Alice will show a day in her life, where she will be spending the morning on the dairy farm she works on where close to 400 dairy cows are calving this spring and in the afternoon, a look at the farm where she lives, a suckler unit that Seán manages.
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