Farming needs smart, ambitious people, says Coveney

Expected shortage of workers on dairy farms needs to be addressed, says Minister

Jennifer Payne congratulates her husband Edward Payne, Ballymoe, Castlerea, Co Roscommon,  the 2014 winner of the FBD-sponsored Teagasc Student of the Year award at The Merrion Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: John T Ohle Photography

Jennifer Payne congratulates her husband Edward Payne, Ballymoe, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, the 2014 winner of the FBD-sponsored Teagasc Student of the Year award at The Merrion Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: John T Ohle Photography

 

It’s time to start attracting non-farmers into agricultural education because of the expected shortage of workers on dairy farms, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said.

He said 3,000 to 4,000 more people would be required to milk cows in the next five years because of an anticipated 50 per cent increase in the volume of milk being produced.

He said “smart, ambitious young people” must be attracted into diplomas in dairy management and other agricultural courses.

“For the first time, a lot of family farms in the dairy sector are going to be looking at employing somebody outside the immediate family.

“What comes with that is the need for business management, an understanding of the economics of taking on an extra person, as well as the HR responsibilities of taking on a person on your own home farm.”

Mr Coveney was speaking at the Teagasc/FBD Student of the Year awards. The overall winner was Edward Payne from Ballymoe, Castlerea, Co Roscommon.

Teagasc director Gerry Boyle said the organisation was planning an overhaul of its certificate in agriculture.

“It’s 30 years on since the establishment of the certificate in agriculture...and the time is opportune, it seems to us, to have a root-and-branch review of the adequacy, or the fit, of our current educational programmes in agriculture for the future and that’s going to be a very strong plank of Teagasc’s work in this area in the coming months.”

Augurs well

He said the Government’s sanctioning of 20 extra education staff for the organisation had allowed Teagasc to enrol 1,500 students on its part time and online courses last year instead of the usual 500. “This year there are 3,000 applications . . . that really augurs well for the future”

Teagasc’s student of the year was chosen from almost 800 students who completed agricultural training programmes in 2014.

Mr Payne studied farm administration at Mountbellew agricultural college and has worked with his father to convert the family suckler and sheep farm to dairying.

Two runners-up were chosen: Michael Kennedy from Glenville, Co Cork and James Kealy from Rathoe, Co Carlow.

Ten finalists also received awards.

These were: Edward Elliffe, Castletown-Geoghegan, Co Westmeath; Thomas Moroney, Ballyduff Upper, Co Waterford; Michelle Lyons, Ballinasloe, Co Galway; Mathew Lecky, Letterkenny, Co Donegal; Hugh Conway, Ballinfull, Co Sligo; John Collins, Skibbereen, Co Cork; Colm Kennedy, Kilmurry McMahon, Co Clare; Patrick Breen, Ballagh, Co Limerick; Darren Hughes, Ballinode, Co Monaghan, and Stacey Duggan, Piercestown, Co Wexford.