Teagasc is gearing up for Ireland's dairy expansion post-2015 by introducing a new programme for future professional dairy farm managers.
The Level 7 Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management will incorporate two years work experience on the most progressive Irish dairy farms and include an option to travel overseas.
Mirroring the old Farm Apprenticeship Scheme, the trainee managers will spend two years on approved host farms and have the option of spending four months on New Zealand dairy farms.
The new course was launched at a meeting of the Irish Farm Managers Association at Horse and Jockey, Co Tipperary on Wednesday.
It will be open to students who already hold a minimum of a Level 6 advanced certificate in agriculture or equivalent and will cost €800 per year.
Applications will be taken by Kildalton College from later this month, with approximately 20-25 places available in the first year.
The course will run from September to September and trainee managers will move to a different host farm at the end of a 12-month block.
Prospective students will be required to submit an application form and CV to the college, which will then shortlist candidates for interview.
Farmers interested in becoming host farmers for students will also be required to meet a certain standard.
Host farmers must be involved in grass measurement, including rotation planners and grass wedges, as well as using Herd Plus or an equivalent.
They must fill out an annual profit monitor, a herd health plan and be active discussion group members.
As well as providing accommodation for the trainee farm managers, the host farmers will be required to pay at least the minimum agricultural wage to their trainee.
Farmers must also give trainees time off for six weeks of course work.
The Teagasc programme will be taught by a team of Teagasc lecturers, Moorepark research staff, dairy and financial specialists, with guest speakers from UCD, the dairy industry and commercial farm managers.
The course is open to future managers of home farms, farm managers, people seeking share farming arrangements and those who want to enter dairy partnerships.
While the course is aimed at dairy trainee managers, Teagasc intends to provide similar training for beef, sheep and tillage managers in the future.