"We can't figure out why more people aren't doing it" - Students get chance to work on million-euro dairy unit

Marion Beecher with students on the new Teagasc dairy course
Marion Beecher with students on the new Teagasc dairy course

Sarah Stack

A Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management is allowing students to learn on million-euro assets while being mentored by some of Ireland's most progressive leading farmers.

Marion Beecher is programme co-ordinator of the Teagasc course, which involves students gaining invaluable two years' paid work experience on two dairy farms, with theory and research delivered by experts at Moorepark Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre in Fermoy, Co Cork.

"We can't figure out why we don't have more people doing it," said Marion, who currently has 40 young dairy farmers at different stages of the programme. "But having small numbers means students can interact with each other an awful lot more and can ask questions in class.

"The reason some don't go on to this course is because they were needed back home as the farm has expanded, some think they know it all already, and others wonder if the extra two years is really worth it.

"But from talking to the students, and farmers who have taken students, they will tell you it's definitely worth doing it."

The diploma allows young farmers to be part of short, medium and long-term strategic planning decisions on a dairy farm, while working day-to-day on a working farm. The award programme is validated by UCD.

Dr Donagh Berry from Teagasc addressing farmers at the Moorepark '17 national dairying event in Co Cork. Photo: O'Gorman Photography.
Dr Donagh Berry from Teagasc addressing farmers at the Moorepark '17 national dairying event in Co Cork. Photo: O'Gorman Photography.

"What other job can you potentially be managing an asset worth €1million and get the opportunities to learn and make mistakes on someone else's farm, while under the guidance of the farmer," said Marion. "I don't think the students realise until near the end of their course the information they have had at their fingertips. They've had access to some of the best farmers, industry experts and researchers, and have a bank of contacts to use in the future.

"Realistically, for anyone who is going home to manage 100 to 150 cows at home, I don't see why they wouldn't go on and do this course to make themselves really successful and be exposed to the best farmers and experts available.

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"A lot of our students say that when they come out of their Level 6 they thought they knew everything, until they took the diploma."

Marion said the course has delivered great success stories, with students working in New Zealand, the UK and Saudi Arabia. "Others have set up their own farms. One has grown his farm from 60 to 150-plus cows. We've also had loads of examples of people who are not from farming backgrounds and are extremely successful," she added.

The diploma costs in the region of €1,600 for the 24-month course, but students are paid each week and earn as they learn.

"Our biggest challenge is to get the host farmers and students to understand the requirements of the course. That the farmers give the training, experience and be a good employer, and the students manage their expectations so they are still learning on the job," she added.

"During those two full years out on farm they are with some of the most progressive farmers in Ireland and getting to see the practical application of the theory they are learning at Moorepark.

"My advice to students is to make the most of their time in college and go in with the open mind of wanting to learn."

Teagasc course rewards students and farmers, writes Sarah Stack

Irish Independent


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