The opening at Lyons Estate in Straffan, Co Kildare, comes a decade after the college authorities decided to retain the land.

Lyons Estate was originally purchased by UCD in 1963. The estate consisted of approximately 1,200 acres including Lyons House. The house was formerly the seat of the politician Lord Cloncurry. It is a period house and considered to be of national importance.

The university disposed of the house and approximately 620 acres of land in the early 1990s. Dr Tony Ryan purchased the house in 1996 and has since carried out extensive restoration work to the main house itself and to the other houses and buildings on the surrounding estate.

Lyons Estate

The Ryanair founder reportedly bought the house and some of the land for £3.5m, but subsequently spent around £80m renovating it. The property was left to Mr Ryan’s wife following his death in 2007.

The farm retained by UCD now consists of approximately 580 acres. The land is used for teaching and research field activities by the School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine.

Development of farming

In 2006, the authorities at the college were considering the future of their ownership of the land.

Fine Gael Senator Ulick Burke opposed plans to sell the property. He told the Seanad in June 2006 that research departments make serious practical contributions to the development of farming.

He said the selling of the land would result in the UCD agriculture degree becoming purely theoretic, with no practical element, which he claimed would be “a great failure”.

Serving the wider dairy industry

The new facility will not only serve UCD, but also the wider dairy industry, as all the research outputs will be made available through publications, a dedicated website and open days on the farm.

Lyons plan to address various key issues facing farmers including how to increase production, investigating the most cost-effective ways of producing liquid milk and the most efficient production methods.

The level of research conducted will also increase because of the new centre’s facilities. There will be accommodation for 200 cows, as opposed to the previous 100, as well as a 40-unit Dairymaster rotary parlour.

As a result of the increased number of cows, this will allow for more systems-type research to be conducted.

Other research in the plans include focusing on milk production systems post-quota, investigating the use of supplementation (such as silage and concentrates) in a grass-based system to increase output and manipulate milk quality.

The new centre is set to open this Tuesday.

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