A LABOUR OF LOVE Catherina Cunnane pictured on the family farm.
I roll out of bed at 7am and check the stock before I race out the door for my 9am start in our Claremorris-based office for That’s Farming … well that is the aim anyway! As we are now in peak calving season, my general manager and fellow colleagues don’t bat an eyelid when they receive a message outlining that ‘the feet are after appearing, so I will be late this morning’ – a typical farmer’s excuse that is surprisingly deemed acceptable.
I am one of the lead journalists with That’s Farming and focus mainly on livestock stories, features and extensive coverage of livestock marts. I work from 9am to 5pm, providing that there are no exclusive or breaking stories from the time I clock out of the office to hitting the hay (literally). Feeding silage, or bedding calves can often result in light-bulb moments when it comes to my daily articles.
I’m an avid lover of country music, which is only to be expected considering my roots, so I would have to say Midwest Radio is probably my favourite station, which I flick on in the morning. I like listening to farming podcasts and political news bulletins too.
I claim that farming fell in love with me from very early days, selecting suckler heifers as potential replacements and attending marts before I could put one foot in front of the other, or pen to paper.
I learned the ropes of the industry from my father and my late grandfather who brought me to great heights during my very tender years and inspired a striking love for the land. My progression into the agricultural circles has been far from easy, with challenges from the get go, with people quite often doubting my abilities, but being a results-driven person has always worked in my favour.
Now spanning five generations of farmers, I operate a suckler and drystock production enterprise with my father Joseph Cunnane in Kilkelly. Dad runs the farm full-time. We run a herd of approximately 150-head [of cattle], which is inclusive of a 30 cow suckler herd of the pedigree Aubrac breed which is managed under the ‘Derrybrack Aubracs’ prefix. I am also the social media manager and webmaster for Irish Aubrac Cattle Society since 2015, after taking my place as a co-opted council member.
I co-founded West Women in Farming Ireland, a new, budding, dynamic organisation that strives to provide a network for women in agriculture.
Dad and I also purchase and slaughter a large number of cull cows which are sourced from reputable local herds and several livestock marts. I’m heavily involved on the livestock mart scene, being a dedicated ringside regular, purchasing cull cows on a weekly basis.
I race out of the office every evening to push the fashionable attire to one side in a bid to throw on the wellies and overalls to dig into silage feeding, bedding calves, selecting cattle from the herd for the factory and any other job that may spring up along the way. You could find me doing anything under the sun from pulling a calf, to paperwork.
In the office, you’ll find me at the heart of starting a conversation, throwing out of the ordinary ideas into the mix and the phone is glued to my ear.
I unwind by leaving the office and farm behind and attending the weekly mart. There is nothing quite like meeting like-minded farmers who understand the merits of a good deal. Livestock marts are the social fabric of rural Ireland, so being a people person and an avid lover of business affairs means that you will often find me at the centre of a mart.
Farming is a full-time vocation, so there is really no switching off. You are always thinking about what has to be done next. The cliché is true, ‘a farmer’s work is never done’.
Although I enjoy spending quality time with friends and family and every farmer likes a good night out with friends, I farm at crazy hours, up until 11 at night or later, particularly at this time of year. When I get more time on my hands, I would like to get more involved with a charity or a political group.
In conversation with Ciara Galvin
Name: Catherina Cunnane
Location: Derrybrack, Aghamore, Ballyhaunis
Occupation: Fifth-generation farmer and a full-time journalist with That’s Farming.
If money was no object, what would you do all day?
Quite simple … farm!
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
The dream is to become a livestock auctioneer and full-time farmer, someday! I wouldn’t rule out politics either, although I don’t carry an ounce of political blood. Over the next year or so, the plan is to take the plunge into the deep end, acquire quality land on a long-term lease and finally start farming in my own right.
Where’s your favourite place in the world?
A livestock mart, as cheesy as it may sound.
My late grandfather, Joe Cunnane, who patiently took me under his wing at livestock marts once I got the hang of walking!
Name three things that are always in your fridge?
Natural yoghurt (the ultimate cure for calf scour), home produced Aubrac beef and milk (a drop for the tea after a challenging calving case).
What makes you nervous?
Mice, elevators and moving staircases.
Favourite TV show?
Ear to the Ground or Rare Breed – A Farming Year (of course).
Who’s the most famous person you met?
Mairead McGuinness. Mairead kindly invited me out to the European Parliament in October 2016 and is immensely supportive. We are regularly conversing on the tweeting machine!
Most prized possession?
My four-legged brown-eyed beauties! (pedigree Aubrac cattle)
Best advice you ever got?
Never take no for an answer and don’t be afraid of a challenge!