|"I chose this course after completing my degree in Animal and Crop Production because it offered practical, fully-paid professional work experience.”
The targeted growth for milk production expansion on Irish dairy farms can only be achieved with a supply of well trained farmers who have the experience and skills needed to cope with the many new challenges facing the dairy industry in the future.
Teagasc offers a Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management (PDDFM), developed in conjunction with UCD and in consultation with other dairy industry stakeholders, to provide suitably skilled and experienced dairy farm managers for the expanding dairy industry. The programme is centred on experience-based learning from host farmers and also incorporates both formal (lectures) and informal training (discussion groups).
Recent graduate Ruth Kerrigan comes from a non-farming background in Newcastle, Co. Dublin and has a degree in Animal and Crop Production from UCD. Ruth outlines her experience of the PDDFM programme:
“With the abolition of quotas in April, it was clear to me that there would be many opportunities for young farmers from farming and non-farming backgrounds. I chose this course after completing my degree in Animal and Crop Production because it offered practical, fully-paid professional work experience.”
“This was important, as it gave me access to the best farmers in the industry (both the host farm I worked with and also through attending course discussion groups). This was invaluable as I got to meet and mix with some of the top farmers and managers in the country.”
“Being on a farm for a full year was very satisfying for me. It allowed plenty of time to settle into the role and allowed me to see the fruits of my labour. The course also provided essentially unlimited access to industry experts and first-hand knowledge of the recent research results from Teagasc. This was hugely beneficial; if we had any issues on farm, we had experts to hand to ask about such problems. The host farmer experience was so positive that once I finished the course I stayed on as a full-time employee on that farm.”
The core elements of PDDFM are a two-year, fully-paid professional work experience based programme on high performance dairy farms. There is an option to travel overseas to New Zealand to experience the calving and breeding seasons on large-scale, grass-based farms.
There are approximately 25 days per year of course work at the Teagasc, Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre at Moorepark and Teagasc Kildalton Agricultural College. Students develop skills covering a broad range of topics such as grassland management, animal breeding and reproduction, herd health, business and financial planning and people management skills
The aim of the programme is to maximise students’ career prospects in the dairy industry. This is achieved by supporting them in gaining solid experience and career development. On completion of the PDDFM course, students will be able to manage a farm – either their own farm or as an employed farm manger. The students will have developed the skills required to build a resilient farm system that has the capability to not only adapt to change, but also capitalise on any opportunities created.
The first graduates from the PDDFM graduated in November 2014 and most have been successfully employed in New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and Ireland as dairy farm managers, as share farmers or as managers on their own family farms.