DEAR SIR: After reading last week’s letter on “The importance of on-farm placement for college students” I feel it needed a reply to point out some important issues about it.

I’m against the way these host farmers are chosen by Teagasc. They are visited by a health and safety officer, then Teagasc sends out a teacher to more or less do the same thing.

There is one teacher who is assigned as placement officer and it’s up to them to assign students to host farmers.

The student then goes to meet the farmer and is shown around. If they refuse to go on placement with their assigned farmer, it could get delayed, so the student has little or no choice but to accept and make the best of it.

They get one visit from the college teacher during the placement period and that’s just to tick the boxes.

All chosen host farmers are dairy farmers, what about our other farm enterprises – beef, sheep etc?

At the moment, the host farmer gets their student for two months in their first year, (October and March) then for the second year it’s four months from mid-January to mid-May.

But now, the host farmer doesn’t want them in October but wants them in March and April, so they can get two calving seasons out of them.

Losing sight

Teagasc is considering making this change to accommodate the host farmers. I feel they are losing sight of the main reason for these placement periods – it’s for students to learn the fundamentals of dairy farming.

In any other apprenticeship, they are properly looked after, including wages and working conditions, but the young farmers are not. I don’t think Teagasc has the power to make sure these young farmers are looked after properly.

They are influenced by their Signpost farmers; they want to guarantee them cheap labour and keep them happy, showing again the students are not the priority with €3.50/hour the going rate currently for students.

In my view, these young farmers that go to agriculture college are true farmers. They have no love for the books and want to be outdoors. If this is the treatment they are receiving, then no wonder there are no young farmers.

We want to encourage aspiring farmers to go to agricultural college and make it an enjoyable, worthwhile experience. Change is needed.