A teenage Laois girl has moved to the other side of the world where she is helping to run a 1,200 goat farm in New Zealand.
Kelly Gorman, 19, from The Rock, Mountmellick is milking, feeding and now delivering kid goats on the huge farm, and is in her element, even finding time to do parachute jumps.
Kelly is there as part of her course with Gurteen Agricultural College and intends to keep on travelling to other farms around the world now she has the bug.
She told the Leinster Express where it all began.
“My love for animals started from a very young age. I was always animal mad. Visiting a friend’s house one day in Athy, he had a big white goat, a real beauty and I fell in love with it straight away.
“Mam always said that there was ‘no goat coming back to The Rock’ to eat everything. One Sunday at the farmers market in Portlaoise we met a lady called Catherine and she had a little goat called Paddy that needed a good home and of course I had to have him,” she said.
Paddy became a part of the family, going everywhere with Kelly, even to school at The Rock National School.
The family had only ever had a pet dog but Paddy McGinty heralded the start of what became almost a private pet farm. (below)
“I have a Vietnamese pot belly pig called Pippa, a Kune Kune pig called Pebbles along with donkeys, ponies, chickens, ducks and two pet Friesian calves called Rockie and Sully. Mammy had great patience. I am now a registered member of the Pygmy Society of Ireland and breed my own little herd,” she said.
Her mother Anne Marie Bentley is now left in charge of all the pets, including six sets of twins and a set of triplet goat kids born the week after Kelly left.
“She thought it was so funny, she said 'you won't have time to miss me',” Ann Marie said.
She is rightly proud of Kelly.
“She is only happy when she is working, She is very determined. She went on her own to New Zealand. I was worried she might get lost in Dubai airport but there wasn't a bother on her,” she said.
Kelly first began milking cows as a child thanks to a family friend Stephen who worked on Tom O’Donnells farm in Togher in Portlaoise and got her work there.
“ Tom O’Donnell gave me a great opportunity to learn and gain experience in milking cows, looking after and feeding calves and learning the day to day running of a farm and I loved every minute of it and I tagged along with my brother Christopher to where he was milking to milk with him,” she said.
Kelly left school after her Junior Cert to pursue her love of farming.
“I am an outdoor girl and hated school,” she said.
She completed a Fetac Level 6 milking course through the Farm Relief Services (FRS). Then her friend Daire who had applied for the Agricultural course in Gurteen College advised her to do it too,
It was on work placement in a goat farm in Westmeath milking 500 goats that Kelly's interest grew.
“After a talk from Dairy Farm Careers I jumped at the opportunity to go to New Zealand.
“In January I arrived in Tahuna in New Zealands North Island to work on D&C Aitchison Goat Farm. I love it here so much that when my boss Dave asked me to stay on I was delighted to.
“While my college placement was due to finish on May 15 I have completed my exam assignments through email and zoom calls with the different lectures and I hope to graduate and get my green cert in January on a visit home,” she said.
She is milking 1,200 goats twice a day starting at 5.30am each morning with a break for breakfast and dinner making it a 10 hour day.
“There are three of us milking and we milk 500 goats an hour. The milking parlour is an 80 unit parlour. After milking we have other jobs including keeping the feed pushed into the goats every two hours, cleaning and bedding their sheds and pens twice a week.
“Kidding season is starting soon, and I cannot wait. There will be about 700 goats born in the first three weeks of the kidding season,” she said.
The farm has mainly Saanen goats.
“They are one of the most productive milking goats in the world. A goat gives around four litres per day. New Zealanders are increasingly powdering their goats milk for export typically for the high value of infant formula sector. Goats milk is very popular here because it is easier to digest and people that are lactose intolerant can drink it. It also has plenty of health benefits and vitamins,” she said.
New Zealand goat farms are open plan with over 1000 goats.
Despite that intensity Kelly has got to know the goats and named some.
“She has made them into pets, they come over when she calls them,” Annmarie said.
Kelly said she has learned the importance of good management and routine, and of good communication and teamwork.
Those were not the only new skills she learned.
“All of a sudden I find myself on the other side of the world with no ‘mammy’ to have my dinner on the table. I very quickly had to learn how to stand on my own two feet. The cooking was very scary at first and I now appreciate Mammy’s dinners. I go to the gym most evenings so I am eating healthy and cooking healthily and I feel great.
“The climate is a lot similar to home but the warm days are extremely hot and took a bit of getting used to,” she said.
She has found time for adventurous activities, including a bungee jump, river raft, a canyon swing and a 15,000 skydive.
“I am absolutely loving my time here and although I will go home it will only be for a visit. I have so much that I want to learn and places that I want to visit. It’s safe to say that I am loving life and living the dream,” Kelly said.
“I have to thank my mam Ann Marie Bentley for always being there for me and always encouraging me to follow my dreams. She has done so much for both Christopher and I. Also my brother for all his help especially now minding my goats at home.
“My mam kept telling me that the ‘sky is the limit’ and ‘the world is your oyster’ and I now intend to experience and enjoy all I can of it one farm and one country at a time,” Kelly Gorman said.