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Dairy Degree Programme to Boost Irish Industry

09 March 2009

IRELAND - Dr David Beehan, Chief Agricultural Inspector at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, this week launched a new degree programme in Dairy Business at University College Dublin. The new degree commences next September and was developed by UCD and Teagasc, with guidance from industry.

The initiative comes at a time of significant challenges for the dairy sector. Allied to the current economic crisis, and the low price of commodities, the dairy sector will have to adjust to the phasing out, and ultimate removal, of milk quotas by 2013.

The Irish Dairy sector makes a major contribution to the Irish economy adding in excess of €2bn to food exports and encompassing approximately 20,000 dairy farmers, 8,500 employees in the processing industry and supporting an additional 4,500 positions in ancillary services.

“If you need to be convinced of the need for this degree programme you could look to the significance of the sector in the Irish economy, but it’s also important to look at the challenges facing the sector,” said Dr Beehan. “These are the stimuli to which UCD and Teagasc have responded and, I think it’s fair to say, the dairy sector faces into some of the most pronounced changes of any agricultural area.”

Despite the current economic climate, Dr Beehan pointed to an optimistic prognosis for the dairy sector. “We have an international image that we need to continue to perfect. We operate on a low cost, grass based diet system, which will further aid our competitiveness with energy and feed costs as limiting factors to our competitors,” he said.

Despite recent price volatility the outlook for prices in the medium term is positive due to significant world demand for dairy products based on an increasing world population and economic growth in developing countries.

“The fact that UCD and Teagasc, with welcome guidance from the IFA, have developed this programme demonstrates a bottom up pressure by the eventual users of the expertise that will be developed here. That is a central point in the programme. The industry demands the professionals to lead it, the academic institutions are responding to that demand” said Dr Beehan.

Speaking at the launch, Professor Maurice Boland, Principal UCD College of Life Sciences, said: “The Dairy Business degree programme will strengthen existing collaborations between UCD and Teagasc and ensure the continued delivery of high quality graduates with excellent technical, business and practical skills necessary to meet the fluctuating requirements of the dairy industry.”

According to Professor Gerry Boyle, Director of Teagasc, the new programme will facilitate the future expansion of dairying in Ireland. “Participants will be educated in the most advanced skills associated with dairying at Kildalton College, in advance of their placement in New Zealand. After which they will spend a semester at our Moorepark centre where they will be exposed to the latest research findings and will study alongside all of Teagasc’s leading dairy researchers.”

“For the future of the dairy industry in Ireland, we need highly skilled and formally trained new entrants and managers,” said Padraig Walshe, IFA President. “When I first proposed this, the outlook for dairy farming was extremely positive, with historically high prices that boosted the sector’s confidence in the future. I strongly believe that the difficulties caused by the current downturn make it even more imperative that we have professional dairy farmers, who are equipped to deal with the challenges posed by the new market volatility in which they will operate.”

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