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A sharp points hike as students return to land

CAO points requirements for almost all agricultural courses rose significantly this year as the level of demand from students ratcheted up.

One of the biggest jumps was recorded in the points required for the new Dairy Business degree, which went from 370 points in 2009 to 430 points in the past 12 months. The massive 70-point jump underlined the positive attitude of students towards the dairy industry, insists programme co-ordinator Dr Karina Pierce.

"The points jump across all agricultural courses was both positive and negative. On the one hand, it shows the enthusiasm that is out there for the industry and its future," she explains. "But on the other hand, the points rise does stop some people who could be very good in the industry getting onto the course."

The Dairy Business degree option is now in its second year, with the first group of 20 students due to begin their foreign placements as part of third year in 2011.

The majority will spend six months in New Zealand for the calving season from July to Christmas next year.

"It is a real eye-opener for the students, to see the scale of New Zealand dairy farms and see how informed and business-minded the farmers are," explains the UCD lecturer.

"They will work with farmers who know all of their costs down to the nearest cent per kilo of milk solids."

However, not all of the students' work experience is based abroad, with students expected to spend January to May working in Teagasc Moorepark.

During this five-month period, students will spend time working with researchers at the cutting edge of dairy and food research.

"These students are the ones who will be employed at all levels in the industry to achieve the targets set out in Food Harvest 2020," maintains Ms Pierce.

"Some will become scientific-minded farmers, while others will enter the industry at the processing and marketing levels," she adds.

Caitriona Murphy

Irish Independent