'I'm usually in the shed covered in oil' swapping farm for high heels in the Rose of Tralee

‘I’m usually in the shed covered in oil’ swapping farm for high heels in the Rose of Tralee

Rachel Woods swapped her overalls and wellies for ball gowns and high heels when she was chosen to represent Monaghan in the Rose of Tralee this year.

he Tydavnet woman, who works off-farm as a special needs assistant for children with autism spectrum disorder, says that although she was extremely nervous, the experience changed her life.

“I was totally shocked when I won the Monaghan Rose of Tralee because I had no expectation of winning it,” she says. “When you watch the Rose of Tralee it always shows these girls in fancy dresses and high heels with their hair and make-up perfect — and that’s not me.

“I’m usually found out on the farm in my wellies or in the shed covered in oil after doing something with my car.

“I was so nervous heading off on the Rose of Tralee tour around Ireland that we had the week before the Rose of Tralee kicked off because I had never really been away from home on my own where I didn’t know anyone before.

“I ended up having the time of my life and making the most amazing friends.

“I told (presenter) Dáithí (Ó Sé) to go easy on me because I was so nervous but once I got up on stage I really enjoyed it.

“It sounds a cliché, but it really did change my life. Before this I wouldn’t have been big into change or trying new things, but now nearly every weekend I’m hanging up my farming gear and heading off to something different. It has opened up so many doors for me.”

Farming is Rachel’s passion, she says, and she’s in her second year of dairy farming after her family farm converted from beef last year.

“We always had 250 sucklers on the farm and a few bulls but they weren’t making a steady income,” she says.

“We grow two houses of free-range turkeys for Grove Farm too — 5,400 in total.

“We wanted to add value to the farm and thought about putting up another turkey house but there’s no demand for any more turkeys in Monaghan — there’s too many in the county — so we decided to get into dairy.

“We did our calculations and knew it would cost us the same to convert to dairy as it would to put up a new turkey house.”

Both Rachel’s parents came from dairy backgrounds and the farm still had cubicles for dairy cows which hadn’t been in use in years.

“My grandfather on Dad’s side died the day I was born and the cows were sold after that — I can only imagine it was a very sad day,” she says.

“With some cubicles still here, it wasn’t like we had to start completely from scratch. We did need to upgrade things and expand the number of cubicles we had.”

Trying to save on start-up costs, Rachel and her family bought a second-hand milking parlour.

“We didn’t want to incur a big debt so we kept an eye out and came across a 10-unit Fullwood herringbone parlour for sale on Donedeal in Scotland,” she says.

“So we took a chance and myself, Mammy, Daddy and my brother all headed off to Scotland on the ferry to buy it.

“There’s nobody really in Ireland selling up these kind of parlours — it’s all big units but we weren’t interested in that kind of thing.

“We brought the Massey Ferguson tractor and the flatbed trailer with us and the jeep and cattle trailer — the trailer was full of tools to get the parlour dismantled.

“We dismantled it in a day in a half. I was numbering all the parts and taking pictures to remember how it went together. It was such a day’s torture but we got there eventually.

“My other brother was at home giving out that we were away holidaying but it was far from holidaying we were doing!

“We hit a bit of a problem when it came to the port because with Brexit we were supposed to have a transport number for transporting goods to Ireland.

“We rang loads of transport companies looking for help and we managed to get a number from one of them to take it through.”


Rachel in the milking parlour

The Woods bought 57 heifers from a breeder in Wicklow and started milking in February 2021.

“We’re milking 55 at the minute and they’re all back in calf again,” Rachel says. “Last weekend we bought seven more springing heifers so we’ll be up slightly in numbers then.

“The Christmas turkeys came two weeks ago and they’ll stay until just before Christmas, when they’ll go to the slaughterhouse. I used to work on the kill line in Grove Farm after I finished school so I’m well experienced in the whole sector.

“We put up a new machinery shed recently too; we knocked old stables and a byer that was built in my grandfather’s time. We’re just after concreting outside that shed and all around the dairy.

“There’s been a lot of money spent in the last while on the farm but were thinking of the future. There’s four in our family and we’re all interested in farming.”

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