'Being a female farmer was never a "thing" until I moved to Ireland - it’s so bizarre'
Dairy farmer, Laura Cable (25) recently swapped working on a 1,500 dairy herd in New Zealand to move with her Irish boyfriend to run a dairy farm in Clonakilty, Co Cork.
Hailing from a sheep and beef farm in Yorkshire in the UK, Laura says that she always planned on becoming a vet but became more realistic in her late teens and decided to study Agricultural Science and Livestock Science in Nottingham University.
“As a child and early teen I always wanted to be a vet but then I got older and more realistic that I probably wouldn't get the grades. Farming is in my blood, it’s one of my passions so it was a natural decision for me in the end,” she said.
While it had always been in Laura’s mind that she would go down the route of beef farming like her parents had, a few days after graduating from university in 2015 she found herself on an airplane to the other side of the world to pursue dairy farming.
“I never saw myself as a dairy farmer. In college I always wanted to get in to beef but I got a scholarship to work in New Zealand after I graduated so I moved over in July 2015,” she says.
“I immediately got the bug for dairy farming over there. It’s so great to see how a dairy farm operates on such a large scale. There were 1,500 cows which was a crazy amount.”
Laura not only discovered her love for dairying in New Zealand but fell in love with Cork man, John Forbes who was on placement during his third year of Dairy Business in UCD on the same farm.
Since John still had his final year of university to finish in UCD, Laura came back to Clonakilty with him in September 2017 to help manage a 130 cow dairy herd consisting of mainly Jersey and Friesian crosses that John works on at the weekends.
In the last seven months Laura has battled through three separate red weather warning alerts. From cows getting stuck in snow drifts to saving a roof from the wrath of Storm Ophelia, her time in Ireland has certainly been a baptism of fire.
“We nearly lost a roof off one of the sheds during Storm Ophelia. We managed to strap it down in time. We lost power too. We’d no generator at the time. The cows went 36 hours without being milked and nearly 12 hours without water,” she says.
“During the Storm Emma snow cows were blocked on the hill with snow drifts. One morning it took us three hours to defrost all the pipes in the milking parlour with a kettle because we’d no running water. We reduced to once a day milking for three days. I don’t think it affected the cows much though.”
Since arriving in Ireland, Laura has been taken aback by the questions she has gotten about being a female farmer, something she says would never have happened in the UK or New Zealand.
“There was never really a thing about being a female farmer until I came over here. It’s bizarre. There’s some great female faces here promoting farming, we need to stick together,” she adds.
“My friends always accepted that I’m a farmer and turn up an hour and a half late to a night out because I’m calving or something like that. They take it with a pinch of salt.”
Laura admits moving to the middle of nowhere in west Cork was isolating at the start but going to Macra events helped her meet new people.
“I effectively am in the middle of nowhere here. It’s very rural and when I arrived the nights were dark and long in the winter. Macra really helped me get out and about,” she says.
Laura says that her working day begins at 7.30am and usually ends at 7.30pm. For her, the love of animals rather than machinery is what she likes most about farming and she adds that the physicality of farming doesn’t bother her.
“I’m definitely an animal lover. I hate machinery and try to avoid it at all costs. I just love being outside. I enjoy being practical and hands on.
“I’m 5ft 4 so I’m quite small but I’m strong for my height. I find ways around things whether it’s carrying calves in buckets or using tractors for various tasks,” she says.
Laura recently managed the Irish Farmers Twitter page, which sees a different farmer take over the Twitter page and document their farming week online each week. She admits she was initially wary about the task but was blown away by the positive reaction she received.
“I really loved it actually. I was apprehensive and wary that I’d get backlash from the vegan community, but it’s all been very positive. I got loads of great questions and comments,” she explains.
While Laura is happy working on the west Cork farm for the moment, she hopes to return to New Zealand in the near future to hone in more dairy skills.
“John will be finished his degree soon, so we’ll see but I’d love to go back. There’s no rush. We’ll see what happens but I want to go back and close that chapter while I’m still young,” she says.
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