Alice Hodges otherwise known as The Calf Girl is originally from the UK but as the story goes met an Irish fella while on placement in New Zealand and now finds herself here in Ireland farming and living the dream.
Completing an Agriculture business management degree from The University of Reading, which took her to Kiwi country on 1500 cow dairy farm. Alice is now Relief milking and he true calf rearing in the spring time.
Not having a family farming background do you feel you have had limitations in your success in the agricultural sector?
I have always said the greatest compliment I have received is “I didn’t realise your weren’t from a family farm” Sometimes it does feel like you are on the back foot because I haven’t been milking cows and driving tractors since I could walk. I am guilty of comparing myself to others that are from family farms because I would love to have the opportunity to run my own operation my own way. Since moving to Ireland and starting The Calf Girl Instagram account and connecting with so many other women not from a family farm was really lovely to see as well.
Where do you see the Irish Ag industry in the next 5 years?
With the expansion of the dairy sector it is a little scary because there is no guarantee of milk prices. But for me personally expansion works in my favour as I am an employee and finding a job that requires labour all year round has been quite challenging. For the larger farmers there will be a higher demand for labour so for someone like me it looks like a pretty good future.
Calf rearing or Milking?
If I could rear calves all year round I would. I love the satisfaction, you can physically see the work you are putting into them and the hours you spend with them pays off and it’s right there in front of you.
What is the most rewarding part about farming?
Just being able to step back and look at a paddock of happy healthy contented animals, knowing they are being looked after well and that’s down to you. There’s something about being able to take a step back and admire what’s in front of you. Next year I will see the first lot of calves I reared calve down and move into the milking herd so that will be lovely to see. Especially the few favourites.
Top tips for calf rearing?
Rotavac vaccination – administered to the cows 3-6weeks before calving, This year we vaccinated for it on the beef cows at home and we had no cases of scour compared to the year before almost every single calf had a dose of the scour. We also vaccinated dairy herd as well. A real game changer
Ensuring the first feed is the highest quality colostrum. To ensure this we use a refractometer to measure the density of the colostrum. Anything over 24 is used as first feed anything below is used for second or thirds. Obviously there is a combination of factors for a healthy, successful calf rearing season but this year we had no cases of pneumonia.
Whiteboard system – We had calves in individual pens until they we feeding well and strong and on the white board, I detailed each calf’s birth date, when it came in, when its due come out and any notes, if it’s a particularly slow drinker or a runny nose. The white board is very helpful as everything is centralised especially on my days off.
What do you do to get a little Head space?
I try to keep going to the gym – I absolutely love the power lifting and its defiantly one for clearing the mind and when the inevitable tiredness kicks in a glass of wine and a good book of an evening.
Where do you see yourself if the next few years?
The dream is to be running a place alongside my other half whether it be dairy or dry stock just as long as it has some form of young stock management. We work well together and we both have our own strengths. Its defiantly something that we both want – to have our own place and work together, the dream
Do you think the role of Instagram is changing the general public’s perception of farming?
Definitely for the good. I had a really lovely message from a girl who started following my page. She has bee able to enjoy dairy milk and eat meat again without feeling guilty or feeling any negativity towards it , because she has seen the truth of what farming in Ireland is. That was absolutely brilliant. That is all I ever wanted to achieve with this page is to educated and promote Irish and British Agriculture. There is so much ill information, especially on social media and if there was something that I could do to counter that, then that’s what I want to do.
Check out Alice's Instagram page The Calf Girl
or on twitter https://twitter.com/thecalfgirl