Sarah O'Connell grew up on a small dairy farm in Dunsandel where her parents milked 130 jersey & jersey cross cows.
Being very sporty growing up she had always seen herself ending up in the sports sector for her career, it wasn’t until her last year at school that she thought about studying agriculture. So in 2003 she started a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Lincoln University.
Always one looking for a change and a challenge Sarah took a break during her studies and went shepherding on a Canterbury Foothills Station, Ben More, a 1500ha sheep, beef & deer property. This was something completely out of the box, she had been introduced to sheep and beef farming through practical work requirements at Lincoln and discovered she quite enjoyed it. She had always envisioned she would end up working in the dairy industry once finishing at Lincoln given her background.
She may have applied for the job with very little sheep & beef experience, but she had a very willing mind & a good work ethic. Sarah was the sole shepherd on the property and it was also the first time the employers had employed a female. The new change for both of them worked out extremely well in the end. Sarah says she absolutely loved her role and discovered a passion for the sheep & beef sector. She says a a huge thanks must go to the James Family for giving her a go & introducing her what it was all about.
During her time at Ben More she was also introduced to Limousin cattle and the A&P show scene. While she had shown dairy calves as pets at the local show growing up, she had never done much more than that. Sarah found she absolutely loved it & it sparked her desire to have a beef stud of her own in the future.
After 15 months shepherding she decided she better head back to University to finish off what she had started. She completed her degree and graduated in 2010. Since finishing her degree she has held a few different roles across the industry. It all started out in rural retail sales at CRT, before she moved into rural banking with The National Bank (ANZ). After 2 ½ years banking she decided she needed a change from being stuck behind a desk all day & ended up taking on a position with Beef + Lamb New Zealand as an Extension Officer.
Sarah moved into an Extension Manager role after a couple of years & managed the Northern South Island region working with farmers running field days and workshops enabling farmers to upskill and get new ideas to improve on farm production and performance. She found it such a rewarding role, seeing some amazing farms and meeting some great farmers and industry experts along the way.
In early 2018 an opportunity came up for Sarah to get into a part of the industry she has always wanted to be part of. Recently she has started a position with The AgriBusiness Group where she is working on establishing and facilitating an industry led programme to get small groups of farmers working together to enable change and improvement of farm performance. This is the beginning of her consulting career.
If we rewind a few years Sarah made one of her dreams a reality by purchasing 3 in calf stud Angus cows to start her own small cattle stud. Carriganes Cattle was the beginning of a real passion for breeding, genetics and showing. The name Carriganes, comes from the small town in Ireland where Sarah's dads family originated from. After a few years building some good angus cattle she decided to branch into something else, 2 days in a car with one of the countries top Shorthorn breeders of his time had her arm twisted, to get into that breed. Sarah started out with 1 in calf cow and has slowly built from there. She now farms 6 Shorthorns in calf to calve in 2018, 5 Angus & 3 Shorthorn Angus cross. Breeding & growing good beef is what she believes in, weather it be bulls for breeding or steers & surplus heifers for processing it has to be good!
Sarah has also had success in the show ring over the years, in 2014 at the local Ellesmere A&P show her 3yr old cow won the Supreme Champion Beef Animal and also Supreme Champion Exhibit of the Show. The Canterbury A&P Show is always a big show and she has had good success against some long standing breeders & exhibitors in the Angus Section. With help from her Dad, brother & sister in law she says they have great fun at shows & she wouldn’t be able to do it without them.
Sarah has also grown up having a heavy involvement with NZ Young Farmers. She found it was a great organisation to meet people and learn new skills. The capable and competitive natured agwoman managed to compete in 5 regional finals in the Tasman Region for the Young Farmer of the Year Contest.
Outside of agriculture Sarah is still very much involved in sport. Having played hockey all her life up to regional representation level, Sarah still finds the time to play top club level in Canterbury. Once a distance hurdler and a pole vaulter taking the NZ Senior 400m hurdles title in 2005 and a few Junior 300m hurdles & pole vault titles along the way her fitness and skills on a hockey field are much appreciated.
In 2015 Sarah also completed the Speights Coast to Coast multisport race and has also competed in 4 Spring Challenge Adventure Races. She enjoys getting out on her mountain bike, running trails and just generally being active.
Sarah O'Connell you are one active minded agwoman whose passion for helping others achieve their farming goals and dreams is obvious. We wish you all best in your new position and we will be sure to keep a look out for Carriganes Cattle.