I was born and raised on a livestock and crops farm in Kildare and I've just completed a PhD in animal breeding and genetics with Teagasc and MTU Cork. Most of my spare time is spent either farming or thinking about farming!!
I was born and raised on a beef, sheep, and crops farm in Kildare so I’ve always been interested in farming. Maths, physics, and agricultural science were my favourite subjects in school and so I decide to go to University College Dublin (UCD) to study agricultural science. After that, I started a PhD with Teagasc and Munster Technological University (MTU) in the area of animal breeding and genetics which I’ve just finished.
I still live on the family farm at home so a lot my spare time outside of my day job is spent looking after the cattle and sheep throughout the year. We also grow different crops to feed to the animals when they are inside during the cold winter months, and we grow some oats which is used to make porridge for your breakfast. I find getting outside into the fresh air is a great way to de-stress and relax! I also like working with my hands so I’m always looking for anything to fix and improve around the yard.
I enjoy a good binge watch on Netflix every so often and also like reading anything about science/science fiction. I’m always looking for a good science or comedy podcast to listen to as well.
Meat and milk is an excellent source of essential nutrients but like every sector, there is greenhouse gas emissions associated with its production. Beef and dairy cattle, which we get meat and milk from, burp out different greenhouse gases as part of the normal operation of their digestive system. My day to day work involves using genetics to find out much the differences in performance (how much milk they produce, how much they weigh, how much they eat) between animals is due to genetics. Once we know this, then we can pick the best performing bulls and cows, which also burp out less emissions, to go on and produce the next generation of cattle on the farm.
In cattle (and all mammals including humans), their genetic code is passed down from their parents. This link between genetics and performance is why breeding is a great way to reduce the emissions from agriculture because the improvements in performance, and expected reductions in emissions, will be passed onto the next generation, and the generation after that, and the generation after that, and so on; we call this “permanent and cumulative” improvement. The goal of my job is to help develop and check the tools to help farmers breed for better performing and more environmentally sustainable cattle.
I get to work with farmers, farm advisors, and other research scientists all the time so its a great job to get to see all different areas of agricultural science, and to see how your research can have actual benefits and make real improvements on the farm and to wider society. This is what makes my job so rewarding and why I enjoy it so much!
My Typical Day
My day always begins with a big bowl of Weetabix and muesli and then its outside to check up on the cattle and sheep. I start work at 9am and the majority of my time is spent using different computer programs to complete analyses on animal data.
I work from 9am to 5:15pm each day and most of my time is spent at the desk on the computer checking through loads of data to make sense of it and running different analyses. I split my working week between the office in Teagasc Moorepark (which is just outside Fermoy in Cork) and at my home office in Kildare. Some of my time is also spent at meetings on the laptop, where the team I’m a part of discuss how the project I’m working on is going. I also occasionally read up on new research in my area – there is always something new to discover and learn but you don’t mind when you’re really interested in the subject!
What I'd do with the prize money
If I was lucky enough to win the prize money, I would put it towards buying educational props and STEM kits such as a double helix model of DNA and a model of the animal cell structure to bring to schools.
BAgrSc University College Dublin; PhD Munster Technological University and Teagasc
Bachelor of Agricultural Science, Major in Animal and Crop Production
PhD with MTU and Teagasc
Postdoctoral researcher in the VistaMilk SFI Research Centre and Teagasc
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Farming mad geneticist
What did you want to be after you left school?
Farmer or farm advisor
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Steak and chips
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Driving a dune buggy across a mountain trail
Tell us a joke.
What do you call a sleeping bull? A bulldozer