There has been a three-fold increase in the number of people applying to the Professional Diploma in Dairy Farm Management Programme.

Teagasc said that 52 applications had been received by the closing date – up from 16 people who started the course last year.

John Fitzgerald, Chairman of the Irish Farm Managers Association (IFMA), said the increase was welcome but he had hoped it would be greater. The industry, he said, needs 150 graduates of the programme a year to allow the industry expand as planned.

The maximum hours a dairy farmer should be working is 10 hours a day, and that this all comes down to having the right skill set.

The worst thing, he said, that could happen a young son or daughter taking over the home farm is to “become a clone of what’s already there – on a struggling farm”.

The Dairy Farm Management Programme, he said, allows young people to travel abroad and work on other dairy farms, which is needed to maximise the potential of dairy farms.

“Teagasc research has shown educated people run more profitable farms. The industry must increase the number of people studying to farm and improve the education they get.”

He said the figures in the Teagasc Profit Monitor show that there is a great difference between the best and worst farms and this needs to be addressed.

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The programme was developed by Teagasc in conjunction with UCD and in consultation with other stakeholders, in response to Food Harvest 2020 recommendations.

The course was designed for those intending to manage their own farms, intending to work as dairy farm managers or those seeking to enter dairy farming through a collaborative arrangement and eventually own their own herd or farm.

“The Diploma in Dairy Farm Management is a Level 7 professional diploma qualification which is awarded by UCD and it combines key elements of the much respected former Farm Apprenticeship Programme with an approach that reflects the requirements of today’s dairy farming sector and current educational structure,” said Tony Pettit, Head of Education Teagasc.

To be eligible for the course, students must have a minimum qualification of a Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Agriculture prior to the course starting. Applications are also welcome from Level 7, or Level 8 agriculture award holders.