Salesian Agricultural College will host an open day on Saturday, March 26, to give prospective students an overview of the courses the college has to offer.

Situated on a 550ac farm in Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick, the college offers a wide range of practical training courses and programmes to the 700 students currently enrolled.

Practical experience

The college’s farm is home to a 450-cow dairy herd, a dairy calf-to-beef enterprise and a flock of 100 mid-season lambing ewes and modern machinery and workshop experiences.

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:

  • Teagasc Level 5 Certificate in Agriculture;
  • Teagasc Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Agriculture (Dairy Herd Management);
  • Teagasc Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Agriculture (Drystock Management);
  • Teagasc Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Agriculture (Mechanisation);
  • Teagasc Distance Education Green Cert (For Award Holders);
  • Teagasc Part-Time Green Cert Programme;
  • Higher Certificate in Agricultural Mechanisation (TUS);
  • Bachelor of Engineering in Agricultural Engineering.

The quality of the courses available through Salesian Agricultural College has also been recognised at national level. The 2020 national winner of the Teagasc/FBD Student of the Year award was Deirdre McMahon, Leagh North, Kinvara, County Galway. Deirdre was also the dairy category winner.

Deirdre completed the Teagasc Distance Education Green Cert programme at Salesian Agricultural College.

Hands-on experience with a 450-cow dairy herd

The college is home to a herd of 450 dairy cows, which currently sits within the top 1% of herds for economic breeding index (EBI) in the country.

Grazed under a spring-calving grass-based system, the dairy herd has an average EBI of €196 and consists of a mixture of Friesian and some Jersey cross cows.

Salesian Agricultural College

The dairy platform, which is laid out in 8 hectare paddocks, grew an average of 16.1t of Dry Matter per hectare in 2021.

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 was fitted with a Terra Mineral System.

Calf rearing

Students will also gain practical experience in colostrum management and calf rearing as all 460 calves are fed on automatic calf feeders, with three separate calf sheds and three automatic calf feeders, all four station.

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 3-4L 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 twelve weeks of AI with the cows, with bulls selected on the basis of EBI and DBI.

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. All females in the herd have been genomically tested and we ate participating in the ICBF DNA Calf Registration Programme.

Salesian Agricultural College

Heifers in the herd are synchronised using a PRID and fixed-time AI system using sexed semen, with Angus stock bulls used to pick up the repeats in the herd.

Dairy calf-to-beef system

Prospective students will also see first-hand the dairy calf-to-beef and store beef finishing systems run on the Limerick-based farm.

The college’s farm hosts a dairy calf-to-beef enterprise of 50 Friesian & Beef calves that are brought to finish under at 20-24 months.  In addition 60 forward stores are purchased for finishing.

A March lambing flock

The farm also hosts a flock of 110 March-lambing ewes and a breeding plan is in place to breed a highly prolific flock of five-star replacement index ewes.

With lambing under way, ewes are scanned to lamb down 2.1 lambs per ewe. Ewe lambs are bred to Charolais and mature ewes to Belclare.

The ewes are also put to grass 24 hours post-lambing.

When and where?

The college will host an open day on Saturday, March 26, at the Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick (Eircode is V94V8N3).

The open day will run from 10:00a.m to 2:00p.m with tours of the campus taking place throughput the day