'I love every moment of it' - Killkenny woman (21) making her mark in Holstein Friesian showing circles at home and abroad
Doireann Mulhall made her debut in the showing ring at the tender age of four - an indication that she was destined to go a long way in her chosen field.
The young Kilkenny woman has already accumulated an impressive list of honours and awards in Holstein Friesian showing competitions, the calibre of which many wouldn't achieve over a lifetime.
A few weeks ago she became the youngest ever to receive the prestigious Irish Holstein Friesian Association (IHFA) President's Award, an acknowledgement of the contribution which she has made to the organisation nationally.
This award is at the discretion of IHFA President Peter Kenneally and the citation read: "Doireann was nominated by the Carlow Kilkenny club of which she is a distinguished member with tremendous service over many years of active involvement.
"Doireann is an accomplished YMA (Young Members Association) participant with many successes to her name, most recently winning the final of her Showmanship League class.
"Having been involved from a very young age, Doireann has risen through the ranks along the way, adding to her range of skills and knowledge.
"Doireann has also served the National YMA with distinction, serving on the National Committee, most recently as assistant co-ordinator and both she and chairperson Stacey O'Sullivan did a tremendous job in helping to run the National Calf Show last year."
Co-ordinating the running of the IHFA YMA National Calf Show last year was one of her biggest milestones to date, in addition to her many achievements as a young judge of stock.
"The YMA is now a big part of my life and I love every moment of it," says Doireann. "I have had so many great years of showing and have made lifelong friends.
"I have had the opportunity to represent Ireland abroad three times. Twice I was selected on the team to travel to Battice in Belgium to compete in the European Young Breeders School and was placed in the final on both occasions."
She also travelled to England with the Irish team to compete at a UK rally.
At the National IHFA Open Day 2016 at Tommy Screene's farm at Menlough, Co Galway, she won the individual U26 stock judging.
She was also instrumental in her Carlow-Kilkenny YMA Club receiving the Club of the Year 2018 for the first time.
Later this year, she will act as judge for the National Calf Competition to be held at the IHFA National Open Day at Freemount, Co Cork.
The UCD agricultural science student also continues to split her time between study and work on the family farm.
She has a genuine love of farming and says "it's the only thing that I ever want to do".
Doireann (21) made her debut in the show-judging ring at the age of four.
"It just happened by chance one day when I was with my dad at a calf show and he was engaged in something else, and I kept pestering one of the owners to let me walk their calf until they agreed.
"That's how it started for me. It's become part of my lifestyle now and I couldn't live without it.
"It was something that was never done at home before, because my dad never showed livestock. It was never anyone pushing me to do it. It was always me wanting to do it," she adds.
Home is a substantial dairy and tillage farm close to Kilkenny City.
The 'Danville' pedigree Holstein Friesian dairy herd is the main enterprise on the farm where three generations are active.
Doireann and her young brother, Cathal, who is in secondary school, are always on hand to help out their dad, Jim, and grandad, Tom, at the weekends and during holidays.
The milking herd has increased from 150 cows in 2018 to 180 cows this year, coinciding with the commissioning of a new robotic milking system over the coming weeks to replace a nine-unit double-up parlour. Because the land base around the farmyard is very restricted, a zero-grazing system introduced for some of the herd two years ago is now being extended to the entire herd for 2019.
"We started zero grazing two years ago and it is still working well for us. We got that up and running before the robot so we would not be trying to do both at the same time," says Doireann.
"Last year, the autumn calvers were outdoor because we did not have the room to keep them all in, but we are after extending the sheds for the robots, so we have the space to keep everything in now. We are very close to Kilkenny City and our land is very spread out, so the time we'd have to spend walking the cows is now going to transporting the grass.
"There is more labour involved, but we have to put that against the amount of time that it would take to walk the cows to and from the pasture," she says. "It works both ways. We used to have to spend a lot of time walking cows, so now we are spending the time bringing the grass to them and it is working out better for us.
"The yields have gone up because we have more control over the quality of the diet that they are getting because we can pick exactly what we want the cows to eat."
This summer, Doireann is planning to do a few months' placement on a dairy farm in Holland before returning to UCD in September to complete the final year of her degree in animal science.
She has a keen interest in nutrition and genetics, and will tie down her future plans next year, saying: "I haven't ruled anything out. Farming is something that I had an interest in since a very young age. It was never pushed on me. It was always something that I wanted to do, so I chose agri for university. I wouldn't ever see farming not being a part of my life - I will always be involved" she says.
"Ideally, I would like to have a role in agriculture outside of farming, as well as continuing to be actively involved in farming because I have never wanted to do anything else."
Also assured is her long-term involvement with the YMA and IHFA, which has become a huge part of her life.
Observers of her commitment are confident that she will go a long way within the organisation.
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