NIAMH McMULLAN from County Down completed a Foundation Degree in Agriculture and Rural Studies at CAFRE’s Greenmount Campus. She says her studies opened up a vast range of opportunities for her
What led you to pursue the study path that you followed?
Living along the beautiful shores of Strangford Lough, outside Downpatrick, County Down, I grew
up on a mixed enterprise farm where we keep suckler cows, sheep and arable. I have always had a love for farming and had a keen interest in the environment. I remember being told by a wise man, if you do something you love you’ll never work a day in your life. With that in mind, I decided to go to Greenmount Campus to complete a Foundation Degree in Agriculture and Rural Studies. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it opened up a vast range of opportunities for me.
Tell us about some of the benefits of studying at CAFRE?
I found my studies offered great links with the agriculture industry, both in Northern Ireland and abroad. I completed a one year work placement where I jetted off to Australia to work on a dairy farm and worked for a company called The Midfield Group in a beautiful seaside town called Warrnambool, which is three-and-a-half hours outside Melbourne. The parlour was running 24 hours a day and we were milking over 1,100 cows. I was part of the AM crew, which meant starting at 2am.
I had never worked on a dairy farm before so it was a great learning experience that provided me with valuable transferable skills. I gained an insight to life outside of Northern Ireland and different farming practices. I really enjoyed this placement and would recommend it to any other student in the future.
What happened after graduation?
After graduating, The Midfield Group offered me a full-time job as a Herd Health Manager in the brand new dairy that they were building. I accepted this great opportunity and returned for another year. Whilst in Australia, I was able to snorkel along the Great Barrier Reef and climbed to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
After my travels to Australia I found it hard to find a permanent job. But little did I know my dream job was on the horizon. I currently work for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) as an Animal Health and Welfare Inspector. I love my job – I enjoy working with farmers and I have great work colleagues.
Have your studies also helped the family business?
At home on the farm we are involved in the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS), fencing off waterways to improve water quality and improving hedges to increase biodiversity. We’ve also added nesting boxes for birds (not part of the scheme) and every winter we welcome our Canadian visitors, the Brent geese. Strangford Lough is home to these amazing birds over the winter and we let them graze our ground.
There are many exciting and varied opportunities from studying at CAFRE; it will equip you with employability skills for life and career progression. I would highly recommend it. I have made so many good friends through Greenmount and work placement in Australia – I’ve CAFRE to thank for my lifelong friends.