Centre of excellence

27 Sep , 2019  

UCD (University College Dublin) is unique among third level universities in Ireland by having its own teaching and research farm on the outskirts of Dublin to provide students and academics with access to large animal and crop enterprises for the delivery of teaching and research programmes.

For the past 56 years, UCD has operated its teaching and research facility about 30km west of the main UCD Campus at Belfield between Celbridge and Newcastle. The 600-acre UCD Lyons Farm is set on what was part of the original Lyons Estate, which was purchased by the university in 1963. UCD purchased the entire 1,500-acre estate at the time, but subsequently sold about half of it as well as the house, which was formally the seat of Lord Cloncurry, to Ryanair founder Tony Ryan.

“The farm straddles the Kildare-Dublin border. About 450 acres of it is in Kildare with the remaining 150 acres being in Dublin,” explains the farm’s manager Eddie Jordan, who hails from nearby Lucan.

“We purchased 50 acres two years ago and our mission is to provide students with the necessary practical knowledge and skills to enable them to achieve their ambition to embark on careers in agriculture, veterinary medicine and research. The farm is like any other farm except for it houses other facilities such as crop, IVF and nutrition laboratories, while there are always students coming and going.

“This is where they learn the practical stuff. There are 350 veterinary students in UCD who use the facility as part of their training along 110 third and fourth ‘Ag science’ students who come out in different groups. There are also 45 postgraduates (Masters and PhDs) who are based here full-time. It’s always a hive of activity.”

In addition to the students, there are 16 people employed in the day-to-day running of the farm and a further three who are laboratory technicians.

UCD Lyons  Farm operates under the auspices of the UCD College of Health and Agricultural Sciences and is an important resource for the Schools of Agriculture & Food Science and Veterinary Medicine. The farm operates mixed enterprises, supporting teaching and research in the areas of beef, crops, dairy, equine, sheep and pigs. As mentioned by Eddie, the facilities are used by undergraduates and postgraduate students and staff as well as for Continuous Professional Development with graduates and agri-food professionals.

The teaching and research programmes delivered are of national importance and underpin technical innovation and science-driven education and discovery for the agri-food industry, which helps maintain competitiveness and addresses challenges and opportunities for innovation as they emerge. Currently, these include increasing globalisation and competition; the removal of production linked subsidies within the EU; the demand for production of health food at affordable prices; food produced with due regard to animal health and welfare; the need for proper sustainable management of lands and animals to protect natural resources (air, water and plant and animal biodiversity); the importance of maintaining viability of rural communities and recreational activities; the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture; the need to reduce fossil fuel inputs into agricultural production.

Given the need for food production to be carried out on an internationally competitive and sustainable basis and taking into account food quality and safety to meet the increasingly discriminatory demands and international array of foods available to the consumer, UCD is uniquely positioned to conduct research on the complete spectrum of healthy food production for the consumers from the very basics of the impact it has on soil and environment through to how its consumption impacts human health on an individual and societal basis.

UCD Lyons  Farm is home to 200 dairy cows,  the Glasnevin pedigree herd, a 360-strong ewe-breeding flock, 350 beef cattle, 200 finishing pigs and 12 horses in a teaching herd. The milk is supplied to Glanbia, the beef to Kepak & Ashbourne Meats and the lamb to Kildare Chilling. About 120 acres of the farm is in tillage.

The installation of a new 40-unit Dairymaster rotary parlour three years ago allowed UCD to double the size of its dairy enterprise. The herd is split into two main herds. The herd-1 is a split calving herd of 140 cows that comprises 80 spring calving cows and 60 autumn calving cows. This herd supports new and existing programmes in dairy production, including genetics, nutrition and herd health management.

The herd-2 is a Production Systems Research herd comprising 60 spring calving cows that aims to investigate the feasibility of a high input / output spring calving milk production system for farmers on a fixed land bank.

The new milking parlour, along with upgraded calving and cubicle accommodation, was installed as part of a €2.3 million partnership upgrade of the research and training facilities between academia and industry, including Dairymaster, Devenish Nutrition, FBD, Glanbia, Munster Cattle Breeding Group, Progressive Genetics and the Irish Holstein Friesian Association.

Approximately 8km of drainage work has being carried out on the farm recently, with water being collected from every two hectares as part of the SMARTSWARD project. Another recent development are two new underpasses under the main driveway and the public road. According to Eddie, a lot of work went into preparing and planning the site that only took three days to construct.

“We’d like to have gotten it built last summer, but we had some procurement issues. We decided to go for a slope design because it has a better long-term outcome and can last over 40 years,” he says.

The farm’s proximity to Dublin and a busy road network made the construction of the underpass essential.

“It’s a busy place. It’s not feasible for us to have cows moving and standing on the road with traffic volumes increasing. We stopped moving cattle on the roads a few years ago. It’s not safe anymore. It takes four or five people to move sheep across the road too which just isn’t feasible and wastes a lot of time when those people could be doing other jobs.”

UCD Lyons Farm

Lyons Estate,



Co. Kildare.

Telephone: +353 (0)1 601 2140

Email: [email protected]

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 3, June/July 2019