A Day in the Life: Sinéad Cusack


Sinead Cusack,Female Farmer Of The Year 2019, whose farmland is within the Clew Bay Complex SAC and SPA, Tiernaur, Co Mayo. Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin


Name: Sinead Cusack
From: Newport Occupation: Farmer
Did you know? The majority of Sinead’s land is designated.

WORK starts for me around 7.30am or 8am every morning at this time of year.
I’m a suckler/sheep farmer with 15 suckler cows and 70 blackface mountain ewes.
The first thing that has to be done is look at stock. There’s water being drawn everywhere at the moment between sheep and cattle because the dry weather has dried up wells and rivers.
After that I go home and do a bit of housework. The last few days we’ve been bringing sheep in from an island that had to be dosed and lambs had to be done for ticks.
You could be at everything or anything.
I started off with my mother and father and grandfather here when I was young.
You were put standing in a corner or in a gap or on the road. As time went on, and you got stronger, the better you were able to take on more work.
You got in on the swing of it, dosing sheep or dosing cattle or driving the tractor or backing a trailer. You learned all those things as time went on.
I was lucky 25 years ago that my grand-uncle left me a farm, I did some work on it, and gradually over the years I built it up.
I’d have loved to have been a vet when I was younger, but I wasn’t ‘book smart’.
If there was something going on at home you took the day off, cattle being tested or sick or calving. It was nearly an excuse to be at home with the animals really.
I’d feel this is the next best thing to being a vet though; I’m still working with livestock, I’m out and about, and I’m my own boss. You do your own thing in your own time.
When you’re keeping stock, and you’re rearing them from a young calf or a young lamb, and you see them growing up and maturing, and you see them having a calf or lamb themselves, there’s a great sense of satisfaction. To know that you looked after them that well to get them to that stage. You’re your own boss too, even though every day brings it own challenges.
Something will get sick or the weather will be bad, but these things happen.
There’s a great community side to it too; if I’m in trouble I have neighbours I can turn to and it’s the same if my neighbours are in bother. You just have to pick up the phone.
At the moment Covid-19 is not impacting us that much because farming, at the best of times, is an isolated sort of job. Myself and dad [Francis] are together on the farm, we don’t mix with too many others so there’s no big panic with the lockdown for us.
The time I finish up all depends. Yesterday evening it was 9.40pm when I finished up and 8.30pm the night before. If it’s a good evening and there’s something to be done, you’ll go at it.
If I get six or seven hours sleep, I’m fine. I watch a bit of television, I listen to the radio and I like my bit of music. I’d read the Farmer’s Journal and The Mayo News but I wouldn’t be a big book reader.
A few of us used to go to Nevin’s in Tiernaur on a Saturday night but that’s gone at the moment, and the same for anyone you used to go and visit for an hour from time to time.
Now you pick up the phone and give them a ring.
Someone said to me lately, ‘If you won the lotto, you’d give it all up?’ I said, ‘Sure I’d go bonkers!’ When you’re used to doing things, and you’re in a routine, and animals are your priority then that’s all you want to do. I’m all my life doing this.
I’m here now looking at lambs and it’s 4.30pm and they don’t need an alarm clock to tell them it’s time for their tea!

In conversation with Mike Finnerty

Quickfire questions

If money was no object, what would you do all day?
I would do the same as now.

What’s the first thing you’ll do when the Covid-19 shutdown ends?
Go for a meal and drinks with friends for a good catch up.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
I’m a plain eater, nothing unusual.

Favourite place in the world?
At home in Mayo or Scotland.

What makes you angry?
People or animal mistreatment.

Who was your first hero?
Grandad Michael and Great-Granny Winnie.

What makes you nervous?
Farm inspections.

Which three celebrity guests would you invite to your Zoom party?
Annie May McHugh, Peter Kay and Sandra Bullock.

What’s the best advice you ever got?
Go with your gut instinct.

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
What you see is what you get.

Name three things in your fridge?
Milk, cheese and ham.

What’s your most prized possession?
Isabelle, my Highland cow.

How do you unwind?
A good movie or listening to music.

Sum up Coronavirus in three words?
Life-altering, isolating, depriving.