Starting young: ‘I always got to help feeding calves, even if I did spill most of the milk’

While many events in a person’s life may attract them to work in agriculture, many young farmers tend to follow the family tradition and are influenced by those who farmed before them.

For Co. Cavan student Sarah Armstrong, it was her grandfather who “always encouraged” her involvement on the farm from a young.

On Wednesday (January 27), Armstrong will take over the AgriLand Instagram account, showing our followers a day in the life on her 50-cow suckler herd family farm in Cornafean – which will entail “loads of calf pics as well as possibly cows calving”, along with some posts about college.

Speaking to AgriLand ahead of the takeover, she said she is most interested in genetics and “the science behind it all”.

‘I always got to help out feeding calves’

“We have a suckler herd consisting of autumn and spring calvers. We also breed pedigree Limousin, Charolais and Herefords. I farm alongside my parents and younger twin sisters who are completing their Leaving Cert this year,” the 20-year-old said.

“I mainly focus in on the calves and breeding side of things. I have an interest in genetics and enjoy selecting suitable bulls for cows based on the cow herself and her figures.

“I would also do a lot of the paperwork involved with the farm including preparing for audits and recording births, movements, drug administrations, etc.

My grandad always encouraged my involvement on the farm from a young age and would bring me around while checking cattle, feeding calves, etc. I always got to help out feeding calves, even if I did spill most of the milk and nuts!

Armstrong is in her second year of studying agriculture in Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) / Ballyhaise Agricultural College. The degree is split between DkIT, where “we do a lot of science and labs”, whereas in Ballyhaise, “we do more of the animal, business and farm practical side”.

She will be going on eight weeks of placement in March. Studying from home until then has brought its challenges for Armstrong, and many other young people based in rural Ireland.

‘One of the biggest hurdles for all students in rural Ireland’

“It’s definitely not the same as being in class with lecturers in front of you and being a part of the whole other social aspect of college. We’re fortunate enough that we’ve been able to carry on with our practicals in Ballyhaise,” she continued.

WiFi is another issue when it comes to studying online. Our WiFi wouldn’t be great generally, but when there’s three Zoom calls all relying on it, things can get messy.

“It’s probably one of the biggest hurdles for all students in rural Ireland studying online at the moment.”

College lectures have started up for many this week and Leaving Cert students are busy filling out their CAO (Central Applications Office) forms and deciding what course and college is best for them.

Armstrong will chat about all things college and farming tomorrow, so be sure to follow AgriLand on Instagram so you don’t miss out.