Above: Henry Shefflin with Cathal, Catherine and Kieran O’Sullivan, overall winners of the NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards, 2015
The country’s top prize for farming the best quality milk has been awarded to Kieran and Catherine O’Sullivan, from Dunmanus, Goleen, who supply their milk to Drinagh Co-op.
The winners of the NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards were announced in Dublin on October 20 with presentations to 13 top dairy farms by hurling legend Henry Shefflin and Minister Tom Hayes T.D. Runners up in the national awards are Denis, Siobhan, Barry and Jane O’Mahony from Shanakiel, Kilbrittain, Bandon, who supply milk to Barryroe Co-op.
Kieran and Catherine O’Sullivan, were accompanied by 18-year-old son Cathal, who farms with them, and by Kieran’s parents Donal and Mary O’Sullivan. They received a prize of €5,000 and the coveted NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards perpetual cup.
Kieran and Catherine are the fifth generation of their family to farm at Dunmanus, which is close to Mizen Head. “I inherited how my father used to do things but am still learning every day,” says Kieran. “Now I see how Cathal is learning the ropes and I’m very proud to be able to pass on this knowledge and expertise to my son.”
“So many of our Irish dairy farms have been family farms for generations who have a deep pride in what they do,” said Zoë Kavanagh, Chief Executive of the National Dairy Council. “Skills and heritage are passed down from father to son or increasingly from mother to daughter also.
“Through this award programme we see the passion for progressing and learning the newest and best way of doing things; combined with a heartfelt wish to take care of and improve on the farm, so that it can be passed on to next generation with care and pride.”
Kevin Lane, Chief Executive of Ornua said: “Today’s awards are a celebration of the best of Irish dairy farming. Nature affords Irish dairy farming the natural advantage of our grass based systems. Irish farmers turn that advantage into the world’s best quality milk through their dedication to quality in everything they do.
“At Ornua, we are very proud to sponsor these awards because these farmers are role models who raise the bar for everyone in the industry, encouraging all of us to work harder and do more. They continue a proud tradition in Irish farming of sharing their knowledge in the hope that it will help the farming community. This, as much as the rain and the grass, is what makes Irish dairy farming world class.”
Ten times All-Ireland hurling champion Henry Shefflin said that the consistently high standards achieved by the national finalists and winners reflected a tremendous commitment, a fine eye for attention to detail and a keen interest in looking at ways to improve and sustain what you’re doing, “As a consumer of Irish milk and dairy produce, I’m happy to be able to enjoy these standards and I’m proud of those standards.”
Professor Pat Wall from UCD spoke on behalf of the national judging panel, which included Dr. David Gleeson (Teagasc) and Dr. Jack Kennedy (Irish Farmers Journal). He thanked the farmers and co-ops for participating in the national awards.
“The thirteen shortlisted dairy farms were put through an intensive scrutiny involving rigourous analysis of milk quality reports and technical data spanning a full 12 month period and including an inspection of their farms by the judges, which allowed us to get insights into the farm’s practices around areas such as milking routine, animal welfare and sustainability,” said Professor Wall.
“All of the finalists clearly recognised that they are producing milk for the consumer and their attention to detail is outstanding, with an emphasis on healthy cows, spotless facilities and hygienic practices,” said Professor Wall. “The finalists and winners are fantastic role models for all dairy farmers and are great ambassadors for Ireland the Food Island.”
Other West Cork farmers to receive recognition were: James Kingston, Maulnageragh, Clonakilty (representing Lisavaird Co-op) won a National Category Award for Best Milk Protein; Owen and Rosaleen O’Brien, Cashelbeg, Enniskeane (representing Bandon Co-op) were presented with a commemorative plaque to acknowledge their excellence in dairy farming.