‘There’s no job that I can’t accomplish’: South East Women in Farming panellist

“I have always considered myself a farmer rather than a female farmer. While I feel I think differently and maybe do things a little differently, there’s no job that I can’t accomplish.” That’s the perspective of Co. Waterford beef farmer, Geraldine Power, who was one of the panellists at the recent meeting of South East Women in Farming.

She farms 200ac at Kilbeg, Kill, with a further 100ac leased out. “I also grow some tillage, some of which I crimp and keep for the feeding. The rest goes to the mill,” she said.

Born on a dairy farm, the eldest of five, she has been milking and feeding calves from an early age. “My bachelor uncle was farming adjacent to my home so we helped there also throughout our childhood. As he got older, I spent more time working there, as he was suckling and finishing. I took over in my own right in 2001 when he retired,” she said.

“The biggest challenges I faced were when I was developing the farm. While the land was in excellent condition in 2001, there were no housing facilities bar a big open old shed. So I built a double tank, double-sided five-span slatted unit and a new silage pit. In 2006, I built a six-span single tank with straw lie back for the cows. I had some sleepless nights wondering was I doing the right thing as they were big capital spends,” Power said.

“I also moved over to finishing bulls at 22 months. That first summer I was very apprehensive about having 45 young bulls grazing for a summer but we got on the finest. In some ways they were easier than young heifers.”women

She exited suckling in the spring of 2016. At present she is finishing continental heifers and bullocks off grass and winter feeding. “Nearly all my stock is bought in Ballinasloe Mart. I find the cattle do very well for me there. I may not stay at the winter finishing as the margins are so small.

“I have been asked about contract rearing and I may diversify into smaller projects. Nothing is off the table,” she said.

While in the early years I felt I had to prove myself, one trip to the mart ended that with the stock I had for sale.

“In the main, I have always been treated with respect whether it’s at the mart, factory lairage, or discussion groups. I would like to think that I have always returned that to the people I have met and dealt with over the years,” said Power.

The South East Women in Farming meeting concluded that it is not about men and women being different as all have different experiences and different farms. Physical strength is not an issue as getting ahead is about being innovative rather than brute strength, the gathering agreed.