The infrastructure paddock at Kildalton College, Co Kilkenny, is in addition to the six-bay workshop that Declan Byrne already uses in his practical demonstrations and assessment of students, with a total of 1,500 students, between full- and part-time, attending the college annually.

The Level 5 general agricultural course sees 125 students attending, with 100 to 120 of these students progressing to a specialised Level 6 agricultural course, the majority of whom specialise in dairying. The main body of students attending the college are distance or part-time Green Cert students who have contact days each month in the college.

All Level 5 students complete works on temporary and permanent fencing, as well as water trough installation.

The farm roadway demo area in the new infrastructure paddock details materials and price, and is popular for in-service training and discussion groups.

Students learn skills in tying off, straining and joining wire, setting up and earthing an electric fence, as well as ballcock assembly and water trough installation.

Half of these students progress to a farm structures module, where seven farm structures skills are taught, including squaring out, transferring levels, building brick quoin, mixing mortar, assembling screeds and hanging gates.

The Level 5 Certificate in Agriculture course (CIA 5) is 40% theory based, 30% practical assignment-based (interpreting plans and designs) and 30% practical-based.

All of the students doing distance or part-time education courses in Kildalton complete the grass production skills taught to the Level 5 students.

Each skill is delivered via a two-hour practical tutelage delivered by Declan in the workshop or paddock, with revision videos then shared to the students to allow them to practise the skill at home.

Competency is then assessed in a 60- to 90-minute practical test, with a 50% mark deemed a pass.

Infrastructure paddock

Since taking on the role on a permanent basis this year, Declan has introduced an infrastructure paddock to the teaching facilities.

Comprising a farm fencing area, a squaring and levelling section and a farm roadway demonstration, the practical paddock allows students to learn and demonstrate the skills taught to them.

Declan has also set up a water trough demo area, with an array of troughs from 40-gallon to 500-gallon displayed, with alternating flow rates to teach students ballcock fitting and trough installation.

A smaller but interesting area that Declan has placed in the paddock is a demo slat area, where a new 12ft 6in slat with a range of surfaces (smooth, grooved concrete and plastic slat) is displayed).

Alongside this is a 1980s era slat that was removed from a tank. From the surface, the power-washed slat has a nearly new look, but the underside is visible on the propped slat, showing serious degradation of the concrete underneath, with the reinforcing steel visibly rotted.

Grazing infrastructure skills, such as assembling a ball cock, are completed by every student in Level 5 as well as part -ime and distance-learning students.

Not only are the above areas beneficial to students passing through Kildalton, but the facilities are also used for in service training of agricultural advisers on farm infrastructure.

Advisers themselves have brought discussion groups to the facility, with the farm roadway display being a major area of discussion among dairy farmers. Here, Declan has installed four roadway designs, from using a quarry dust finish with a one-in-20 camber to use of astroturf to top off locally sourced stone.

Building and infrastructure costs are regularly updated for the student's benefit.

Declan has boards installed at each road, detailing exact quantity and the type of stone used, with a regularly updated price per metre run.

Kildalton College open day: 25 June

The infrastructure paddock and workshop will be available for viewing at Kildalton College’s upcoming open day being held on 25 June.

Demonstrations will be ongoing throughout the day in this area and over the whole farm.

Kildalton College has extended an invitation to all past, present and prospective students, as well as the general public to join it in celebrating 50 years of agricultural education in Co Kilkenny.

The open day runs between 11am and 4pm.