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Entrepreneurial Academic Turned Agricultural Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurial Academic Turned Agricultural Entrepreneur

21 November, 2022

Dr Niall O’Leary, Research Fellow at the Hincks Centre, has recently been getting some practical experience in entrepreneurship with a family start-up. is selling an innovative device for restraining cattle by holding their tail up. Lifting cow’s tails is a reliable form of restraint as it prevents cows from kicking, but until now required a second person to do it with the other person performing the required activity (e.g. veterinary treatment or milking). The device thus both saves labour and improves safety.



One of the first challenges was a name. Tails Up, Heifer Trainer, Tail Lifter and Kick Stopper were initially contenders before Niall and his team settled on TailJack - both a distinctive and descriptive term. Niall called on Catriona Fenton, former Hincks Intern, to design a logo, and developed a basic website using the Squarespace platform.



With the basics in place, foremost on the agenda for Niall was confirming customer demand for the novel product. This is a core focus of entrepreneurship education - finding out if there really is a demand for the product.



Several pieces of press (see in the Farmers Journal and That’s Farming stoked initial demand ahead of the National Ploughing Championships in late September with 70 orders showing a strong demand for the novel product.



In addition to the commercial validation, TailJack won the agri-safety award in the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena and won two awards at the National Dairy Show in October - Best Start-up and Gold for Engineering.




The most recent challenge which has been overcome has been scaling production from prototype scale. Capacity is now in place to make 40 units a week. This will be needed to meet the expected seasonal demand around calving time whereby heifers will be milked for the first time and so are prone to kicking.



One of Niall’s major research interests has been the supports available to entrepreneurs in Ireland (index.cfm/page/viewNews?id=580) and through this process Niall has experienced this from the entrepreneur's perspective. Niall and his team have thus:

  • Engaged a mentor through the Local Enterprise Office with expertise in supply chains;
  • Engaged MTU Kerry Campus' agri engineering department on an Innovation Voucher which has resulted in an alternative design that could dramatically reduce production costs. While promising this has not yet gone beyond the CAD model and so needs testing.
  • Niall also looked closely at some of the other grants available to start-ups but, so far, they were not suitable. Niall found that the rules regarding these supports are quite restrictive and that this is not readily apparent based on published information. Therefore, he advises speaking to your LEO contact before preparing an application to make sure you meet the rather narrow specifications required for the grants.

In the next few months, top of the agenda for TailJack is hiring a part time staff member to bring TailJack to the international market and to optimise production ( If you know someone who might be interested - please share with them and they can contact for further information.

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