Salesian Agricultural College will host an open day on Thursday, March 23, to give prospective students an overview of the courses the college has to offer.
Situated on a 480ac farm in Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick, the college offers a wide range of practical training courses and programmes to the 485 students currently enrolled.
The college’s farm is home to a 250-cow dairy herd, a 35-cow suckler herd, a dairy calf-to-beef enterprise and a flock of 150 mid-season lambing ewes.
All of these enterprises allow students to put the theory learned in the classroom to use in a practical or hands-on way at farm level.
Salesian College offers students a number of courses including:
- Level 5 Certificate in Agriculture.
- Level 6 Specific Purpose in Farm Administration.
- Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Dairy Herd Management.
- Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Agricultural Mechanisation.
- Teagasc Distance Education Green Cert.
- Higher Certificate in Agricultural Mechanisation (LIT).
The quality of the courses available through Salesian Agricultural College has also been recognised at national level.
The college was a finalist in the 2016 Agribusiness Awards in the ‘Excellence in Education and Training’ category and a finalist in the 2017 HR Leadership and Management Awards in the same category.
Hands-on experience with a 250-cow dairy herd
The college is home to a herd of 250 dairy cows, which currently sits within the top 100 herds for EBI in the country.
Grazed under a spring-calving grass-based system, the dairy herd has an average EBI of €133 and consists of a mixture of Friesian and some Jersey cross cows.
The dairy platform, which is laid out in 10ac paddocks, grew an average of 12.4t of Dry Matter per hectare in 2016.
The students who attend Salesian Agricultural College will be trained in grass measuring and budgeting; a weekly grass budget is prepared using PastureBase.
Water is provided to the cows trough a looped water system, which is fitted with a Terra Mineral System.
Students will also gain practical experience in colostrum management and calf rearing as 120 heifer calves are fed milk replacer on a four-station automatic feeder and 60 bull calves are reared on ad-lib whole milk through a Heatwave milk warmer.
The farm follows best practice when it comes to colostrum management as the cows’ first milk is collected, tested for quality and stored in 4L colostrum bags.
When it comes to feeding, the colostrum is thawed using a water bath, and all calves receive three-to-four litres of colostrum within the first hour of birth.
Breeding of the dairy herd
The Salesian Agriculture College herd is part of the Keystone Herds Programme operated by the National Cattle Breeding Centre (NCBC).
Breeding on the farm involves eight weeks of AI, with bulls selected on the basis of EBI, and the use of Angus stock bulls.
The farm uses daughter-proven bulls with a calving difficulty of less than 2% on the heifers, while mostly genomically tested bulls are used on the cows.
Heifers in the herd are synchronised using a PRID and fixed-time AI system, with Angus stock bulls used to pick up the repeats in the herd.
Of the 120 heifers synchronised in 2016, 79% held to the first service. The cows also had an impressive 21-day submission rate of 87% during the 2016 breeding season.
All the maiden heifers in the herd have been genomically tested and the cows and 2017-born calves are currently in the process of being genomically tested.
Dairy calf-to-beef and suckler systems
Prospective students will also see first-hand the dairy calf-to-beef and suckler enterprises run on the Limerick-based farm.
The college’s farm hosts a dairy calf-to-beef enterprise of 60 Friesian bull calves that are brought to finish under a 16-month bull beef programme.
A new high replacement index suckler herd is also being established on the farm.
Currently 19 Saler cross heifers have been purchased with an average replacement index value of €152. This puts the heifers within the top 1% of commercial heifers, based on the replacement index.
The heifers will be bred in May 2017 to easy calving Angus AI sires to calve at two years of age in the spring of 2018.
The college also intends to purchase another 11 high index heifers within the next two weeks and, when up and running, the system will take all progeny through to slaughter.
A March lambing flock
The farm also hosts a flock of 150 March-lambing ewes and a breeding plan is in place to breed a highly prolific flock of five-star replacement index ewes.
The farm purchased two Belclare rams in 2015, each with five-star ratings on the replacement index, and the offspring of these rams will lamb down this spring to easy-lambing Charollais rams.
All of the remaining ewes in the flock were synchronised and AI’ed to high replacement index Belclare rams in October 2016, as part of the Sheep Ireland Programme.
The ewes are also put to grass 24 hours post-lambing.
When and where?
The college will host an open day on Thursday, March 23 at the Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick.
The open day will run from 10am to 2pm with tours of the campus taking place throughput the day.