Pallaskenry Agricultural College in county Limerick celebrates its 94th anniversary this year. Standing on over 550 acres of farmland on the banks of the River Shannon, the Salesian Fathers have been running the farm and educating students of all ages in both new and tried and tested techniques of farming.
Over the past 10 years, the number of people applying for places in the college has increased. This comes as no surprise as the Munster area has the largest number of dairy production in the country.
Head of the Teagasc education programme, Tony Petit, said, “Typically Teagasc enrols circa 1900 learners across full time courses across agricultural colleges. We anticipate 2017 to be broadly similar circa 1,800 or slightly more.”
Pallaskenry Agricultural College has always kept up to date with the latest teaching practices and technologies related to each sector. The best example of this is their 24 unit milking parlour which they had installed back in 1992 by Dairymaster along with a 20,000 litre bulk tank which even by today’s standards is a very productive parlour.
But to keep up with the technologies of today, they have hopes of updating their system to a more modern and efficient 50-unit rotary setup, which they intend building on a site just at the other side of the existing 200 cubicle dairy shed.
The agricultural college has added other modern touches to their farm in recent years, with the addition of two over ground slurry tanks, 300,000 gallons and a 750,000 gallon tanks which are also situated in the dairy sector of the farm.
Currently the dairy farm has over 250 high EBI dairy cattle, consisting of Friesian, Jersey cross and Kiwi cross cows.
This herd is and entirely spring calving, in the past they had a number of autumn calving cows, but they decided to change this because the majority of the student come from farms that calve in the spring.
Speaking with a representative of the farm, Mr Petit stressed the fact that the college is really pushing to get into the top 1% of dairy producing herds in the country. To achieve this takes a lot of work, to achieve this will goal they will have to monitor all aspects of the production from paddock grazing rotation right down to the diet.
Currently the college has grass pit silage stocked from 2015, and the first and second cuts from 2016. But in the past they have experimented with maize silage. But they have chosen move away from maze and to use out what maize silage they have left in stock, choosing to move back to a grass based diet.
Along with the dairy farm, the agricultural college also has a flock of 320, 100 of which are march lambing. Similar to the dairy side of the farm the sheep sector is constantly teaching new practices and technologies such as dosing techniques and how to improve star rating.
The college also rears 170 beef cattle annually, and they have a new self-contained suckler unit for 60 cows. During the open day in the college, the beef unit has five Aberdeen angus on display, which are actually owned by the secondary school. the secondary school students won them last year are rearing them in the college.
It will come as no surprise to farmers, but agriculture is one of the only industries the you are classed as young at the age of 35, and the retirement age runs well past the age of 65. In Ireland less than 7 percent of farmers are under the age of 35, with the average age of a farmer in Ireland being 57, while a whopping 25.3 percent of farmers are over the age of 64.
Over 50 percent of farming households in Ireland also have an off farm income, but the number of dairy farmers with off farm incomes is 18 percent, this reflects the higher work levels that are involved with dairy farming.
“Enrolments to agric colleges for full time further education and Teagasc linked higher education courses increased by 150% over the period 2006 to 2014,” said Mr Pettit.
Of the 4,000+ adult learners enrolled in agricultural colleges around the country in the past 2 years, approx 2,400 have enrolled on distance education and the remainder in part time green cert courses.
Salesians have been working in conjunction with the Limerick Institute of Technology developing a Agricultural Mechanization level 6 course which provides training
and development of agricultural mechanization. Each week the training course is ran from the farm in Pallaskenry for 4 days and 1 day in the college in LIT.
To meet these requirements you must hold a non –agricultural major award qualification at level 6 or higher on the Irish National Framework of Qualifications.
For entry requirements and applications contact the Pallaskenry Agricultural College website or Teagasc website.