OVER 200 students received certificates at Pallaskenry Agricultural College’s graduation ceremony.
One was from Donegal showing the quality of agricultural education that Limerick farmers of the future have on their doorstep.
John McCarthy, principal, welcomed invited guests, rector, college board members, staff, students, parents and guest speaker Jim Woulfe, Dairygold CEO, who also presented the certs.
“Today is about recognising the achievements of all you students, so congratulations to each one of you. The certificate you are about to be presented with is a testament to your work. I also want to thank all parents and guardians present for believing in agricultural education and sending your sons/daughters to this college.
“If we do not have students in agricultural colleges we will not have a well-trained farming population to utilise and manage our farms in the years ahead.
“We are where we are today in Irish agriculture because of the work of the generations that have gone before us. It is now your turn to innovate, develop and progress Irish agriculture,” said Mr McCarthy.
Mr Woulfe told the graduates that success in the post-quota world will not only be determined by their abilities as farmers but also as businesspeople and their capacity to adapt to new demands in terms of sustainability.
“As we shortly move into the post-quota era, capital spend and expansion will be at the top of the agenda for many dairy farmers. In this era a must-have skill set will be the ability to manage finance in an expanding business. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the late 1970s and early 1980s. You are all far too young to remember those times but I can assure you that basic errors in relation to financial management brought terrible consequences for many farmers,” said Mr Woulfe.
According to the Ardagh man, agriculture graduates have a head start in this regard but their education is only really beginning when they leave college and they must avail of every opportunity to add to it.
“We in Dairygold will play our part. For many years we have been involved in promoting and funding a joint discussion group programme with Teagasc. We strongly support this concept of knowledge extension from farmer to farmer. Learning from each other to prevent mistakes is far better than learning from each other’s mistakes,” said Mr Woulfe.
Prospects are bright for those with certs in their hands.
“Those who are graduating today and going back to dairy farms are doing so at a very exciting time. It is less than 400 days to the end of the quota and you might well ask what dairy prospects will be like after that. The answer is very good when we look at population, consumer and other trends. World population is growing by 82 million annually - the equivalent of an additional Germany every year! In addition, according to the World Bank, by 2050 global per capita income is expected to increase threefold. That’s an annual increase of 1.6 per cent in developed countries and a rise of 5.2 per cent in developing and emerging economies. That will all drive increased demand for food, particularly the animal protein and calorie dense foods such as we enjoy in the western world.”
“This is our opportunity,” said Mr Woulfe, who adds that we in Ireland are well positioned to take advantage of such demand and it’s our farmers and agri-businesses that will play a big part in delivering the needed extra meat and dairy products to the rest of the world. He also urged dairy farmers to sign up and participate in the national sustainability and dairy quality assurance scheme.