Irish Independent - Farming : 2019-02-05

ANALYSIS : 7 : 7


7 Farming Independent Tuesday 5 February 2019 analysis me around the farm and am well able to drive the tractor as well.” Bernie was recently elected the first female chairperson of Westmeath IFA, taking over from Delvin dairy farmer Kenneth Bray. She’s now the seventh female county chair on the IFA council, which is the highest number of female chairs the organisation has ever had. Bernie says she has never felt stigma as a female farmer and was given a job to do on her first night attending a branch meeting in Kilbeggan 17 years ago. “My neighbour John Conroy pushed me to attend a meeting and I loved being apart of it. Ten years ago, I was elected branch secretary and four years ago, I was elected county secretary. I have always felt that I have been an equal,” she recalls. “I’m determined to be a voice for female farmers. We want to be heard. Years ago, the IFA was very male-dominated but we won’t sit back any longer. I’m the only woman on the IFA Animal Health Committee and I wouldn’t mind if a few more joined me,” she adds. While Bernie has an interest in policy issues facing farmers and her partner Paul sits on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, she says that the couple try not to talk about politics. “I’m very busy with my work and Paul is very busy with his work in the Seanad. He does what he has to do and I do what I have to do. “For the most part, we don’t discuss our opinions on issues. We do try to keep it as separate as we can,” she says. With 35 cows due to calve in a matter of weeks, Bernie is looking forward to the next four years, alongside new secretary Margaret Henson. “Focusing on getting young people — men and women — more involved in the organisation is a big aim of ours. It’s a very busy county.” In her spare time, Bernie enjoys taking part in ploughing competitions and came sixth in the farmerette competition at the National Ploughing Championships last year. “I don’t get to practise as much as I’d like, but it’s great fun. I’m an outdoors person all the way and enjoy a bit of competition.” Animal welfare Bernie feels that her interest in patient welfare and attention to detail, which she mastered during her time nursing, have added to her skills as a farmer and input on the Animal Health Committee. “I’m always very vigilant when it comes to welfare, especially with calves. TB and antibiotics are also an interest of mine. It’s important that animals get the right dose at the right time and that they are diagnosed properly,” she explains. “Vaccinations are the best solution to preventing diseases, not antibiotics.” I TOOK EARLY RETIREMENT TO REAR THE ANGUS HERD — HAIL, RAIN OR SNOW, I’LL BE OUT WITH THE CATTLE

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