“The beating heart of farming west of the Shannon”

7 Sep , 2018  

At the launch of Mountbellew Agricultural College’s new Strategic Development Plan last year, EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan commented: “I believe today is a great day to look to the future with optimism for farming in the West of Ireland.

“Mountbellew Agricultural College is the beating heart of farming west of the Shannon. Your strategic development plan is to be highly commended – Mountbellew will continue to play a major role in the development of rural areas along the Atlantic Corridor.”

The Galway-based college is carrying on a proud tradition that can be traced back to when the Franciscan Brothers came to Mountbellew in 1818 and established the first Agricultural College in Ireland there in 1904.

Since then, the college has significantly expanded its courses and operations down through the years.

They co-operate with Teagasc, Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and Galway/Roscommon ETB in the delivery of courses. Excellent educational and recreational facilities have been established at the college and it is planned to continue to expand the range of courses and facilities.

Mountbellew Agricultural College’s mission statement is ”to provide a comprehensive and competitive range of training programmes for those engaged in agricultural and food related sectors. The programmes have the enhancement and maintenance of the environment, countryside and rural communities as their major priorities.”

Their Strategic Development Plan was developed by Brendan Allen of Food 360 and supported financially by Teagasc. The four main strategic themes include: Excellence in agricultural education, SMART Agriculture, Experiential education programmes and Out-reach and community development.

It is hoped with the help of the plan, new degree courses in the areas of Agricultural Engineering, Horticulture and Forestry and further education courses could be provided in Mountbellew.  €3.2m needs to be procured for the improvement for the college’s facilities and farms, as well as providing additional staff resources as part of the Strategic Development Plan.

“Excellence in agricultural education is what we have been doing for many years here in Mountbellew, but with rapid advances in industry we need to adapt quickly in education to keep pace,” Principal of the College Tom Burke said.

The list of courses currently offered includes Bachelor of Engineering in Agricultural Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Environmental Management, Bachelor of Business in Rural Enterprise and Agri-Business, Certificate in Agriculture (QQI) Level 5, the Advanced Certificate in Dairy Herd Management (level 6) and the Advanced Certificate in Drystock Mangement (level 6).

“The Bachelor of Engineering in Agricultural Engineering was a new addition last September,” Tom – who has been a member of the teaching staff for the past 28 years – explained. “It wasn’t on the CAO at the start of the year as we had just received approval for the course. 19 participants joined in September and we’re expecting to have 30 participants in the coming year.

“Our distance learning courses are also proving to be very popular and at any one time we could have over 300 participants on those. As a result, we’d be looking at expanding those in the future.”

Mountbellew has excellent teaching and recreational facilities. Besides having well-equipped and modern classrooms there is a computer rooms, the student lounge and TV rooms have pool tables and other games equipment. The gymnasium is used for indoor games and there is a pitch for football and hurling.

The college organises numerous events for students throughout the academic year, both on and off campus. Staff encourage students to take a keen interest in sport, in particular gaelic football and hurling.

The college and its students have received many awards down through the years. Numerous acknowledgements have been received by the college for the quality of its agricultural output and farm husbandry techniques from professional organisations, at both local and national level.

What have the 2016 FBD Farmer of the Year (Kevin Moran), 2015 FBD Farmer of the Year (Damien McGrath) and 2014 Young Ag Student of the Year (Edward Payne) in common? They were all educated in Mountbellew Agricultural College.  It is proof of the high quality of young farmers and high standards set by the College that they have seen consistent success on the national level for the past number of years.

Mountbellew runs a number of farm enterprises, including a dairy herd and a suckler herd, as well as a sheep flock, which are an integral part of the teaching process. Farming close to 200ha, they run a dairy herd of about 90 Holstein cows and a 50-cow suckler herd, which are mostly Limousins. In the future they hope to have half of their dairy herd made up of cross-bred cows, in order to compare stats between them and the Holstein cows. With the help of additional funding, they aim to improve the technology in their dairy parlour.

“Our graduates find employment in various outlets of the agricultural sector whether it be as consultants or with Teagasc or in the sales and marketing of products,” Tom revealed. “They tend to find employment mostly in the west and Aurivo would be a big employer of our graduates.”

We’ll leave the final word to Phil Hogan: “We must stay committed to the future of the beef, sheep, dairy, pigmeat, arable and all the sectors that make Irish farming such a success, to ensure that we produce enough food to feed ten times our population the world over.

“Let us keep the focus on farming and on the sustainable development of a better life in rural areas. Mountbellew Ag College will be a key engine for this drive.  I am optimistic for Irish and EU agriculture – our quality food, our high standards and our highly trained farmers are the best the world over.”

To find out all the information you need about the extensive range of courses on offer at Mountbellew visit www. mountbellewagri.com.

Mountbellew Agricultural College,


County Galway

Phone: 090 9679205

Website: www.mountbellewagri.com

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 6 No 3, May 2018