'I had a crack at engineering but hated every minute of it'
Corkman Andrew Cronin is one of the new breed of dairy farmers transforming the sector
The biggest tent at Moorepark'15 open day was a forum where eight people at various stages of their careers in dairy farming outlined how they had progressed. One of them was Andrew Cronin, a 26-year-old who owns 200 cows in a 400 cow sharemilking operation.
"I grew up in Crookstown which is about 20 minutes west of Cork city. It's a really, really competitive area for dairying, chock-a-block with farmers milking 70 cows. You couldn't throw a stone without hitting a farmer," says Andrew.
"My parents milk 80 cows, and always looked to Moorepark for the latest research and information on how to run a low-cost operation.
"When I was doing the Leaving Cert, the boom was just about to end, even though we didn't know it at the time. All the ag colleges were empty, and I thought I'd have a crack at engineering up in DIT.
"But I hated every minute of it, and I knew I was going against the grain when I failed the exams at the end of second year. That's when I became 100pc sure that I wanted to go farming.
"So I did two years in Clonakilty ag college, and in the second year I did my placement in the Greenfield demonstration farm. Nobody believed I had a chance of getting in there, but I just got into my car and went up to meet the farm manager, Michael Long. He said I could start away, and that's how I did four months there.
"I suppose the idea to get into Greenfield was planted in my head after a conversation with my parents when I was exploring the idea of coming home after college. They said that they were happy working away, and that I should really be looking to opportunities outside the home farm. Their idea was that there are big tracts of land available for leasing in Leinster - up in counties like Meath and Westmeath. So getting into Greenfields in Kilkenny was the first step towards that for me.
"That exposed me to great people and I loved every minute of it, but I thought that I should just be aiming for any old job with another good dairy farmer when I was due to finish up. When I mentioned that to Michael, he told me to aim higher, more at a herd manager job.