A rewarding education experience for students

7 Jan , 2019  

The working farm at Gurteen College provides students with the opportunity to hone their practical skills in modern farming practices under the supervision of experienced Farm Manager Ken Flynn.

A leading provider of Agricultural Education, Gurteen College is centrally located just off the N52, 12km from Birr, Co Offaly, and 25km from Nenagh, Co Tipperary.

The college welcomes residential students (five day or seven day on request), for level 5 and 6 Agricultural Courses, also Business and Equine for which the Green Certificate is awarded.

The college accommodation is made up 90 single occupancy bedrooms most newly refurbished in their main building with a few further twin rooms in the original Gurteen House. There are a number of apartment type dwellings in the courtyard area. Non-residential students are also welcome.

The college farm is extensive with over 380 hectares. There are 40 hectares in tillage crops including winter and spring barley and fodder beet. The college grows 33 hectares of willow which is used as biomass to heat the college.

There is a very wide range of machinery and the college undertakes most of the machinery work with very little work done by contractors.

There are 175 Pedigree Holstein Friesian cows producing 1,225,000 litres of milk. The plan is to expand to milking 240 cows through a recently installed 30 unit DeLaval  herringbone parlour.

The cows are bred by six weeks of AI followed by three weeks with the Limousin bull, followed by three weeks with the Aberdeen Angus bull. All dairy replacements are reared by the college.

There are 70 suckler cows (50% calving in the spring and 50% calving in the autumn) supplying Charolais cross calves to a 200 head beef unit. Various finishing systems including bull beef are demonstrated to the students.

The college has 450 Suffolk cross ewes which are mostly lambed mid-season. These are mated to Suffolk, Texel and Charollais rams.

Equine facilities, meanwhile, include 45 stables, indoor and outdoor arenas, fully stocked tack room and other storage areas, horse wash bay, a horse walker and a cross country course.

The horses and equine facilities are used as a teaching resource for both the Higher Certificate in Business in Equine and the Bachelor of Business in Equine courses, these are run in conjunction with Athlone IT. There is a separate stable yard with tack room which allows students to keep their own horses on site on DIY livery.

Meath native Ken Flynn is responsible for the smooth and efficient running of the college’s farm. He took over from the long-serving Ray Platt as Farm Manager in January 2016.

“I was working as a lecturer in the college for two years before taking on the role,” he outlined to Irish Tractor & Agri. “Prior to that, I had spent six years working on a farm in Saudi Arabia and I learned a lot there about cow health and nutrition and people management.

“I still do a small bit of lecturing but my primary role is running the farm. At the minute we have a 200 cow dairy herd but the plan is to increase that number to 240 cows. We also recently installed a new 30 unit Delaval milking parlour.”

Ken added: “It is a proper working farm and a lot of the things we do is aimed at enhancing the education experience for our students. A typical day for students would see them inside in the morning for classes and then outside on the farm in the afternoon putting the theory they have learnt into practice. They are very much practical, hands-on courses we run here in the college.”

Ken is assisted in the day-to-day running of the farm by five full-time staff and variety is the spice of life when it comes to working on the Gurteen College Farm.

“It’s a challenging role but a very interesting one nonetheless,” Ken said. “There is no such thing as a standard day on the farm. We have lots of things here that you don’t see on regular farms.”

For example, the FTMTA (Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association) Grass & Muck event was hosted by the Tipperary College back on Thursday, May 17.

“It went very well and we were delighted with the turnout,” Ken recalled. “We are also in the middle of preparations to host Energy in Agriculture 2018 which will take place on Tuesday, August 21. We have installed PV solar panels which we get our electricity from and we’d be hoping to install more going forward. We try to be as environmental friendly as possible in everything we do.”

Ken concluded: “Things are going well overall. We are constantly trying to improve production on the farm and the education experience for our students.”

Gurteen College



Co Tipperary

Tel: 067 21282

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 6 No 5, August 2018