Above: The Shannon Family from Dromgarriff, Ballinascarthy. Pic: Clare Keogh
The NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards has awarded the country’s top prize for best quality milk to John and Maria Walsh, from Co Tipperary, who supply their milk to Dairygold Co-op. West Cork farms also celebrated in the awards were the Crowley Family Farm at Bauravilla Upper, Skibbereen – nominated by Drinagh Co-op and awarded Best Percentage Solids – and Robert and Shirley Shannon, Droumgarriffe, Ballinascarthy – nominated by Lisavaird Co-op and awarded Highest Milk Solids per Hectare.
Three of the six national finalists were also Cork based and they included Norman Perrott, Grange, Timoleague, Bandon, nominated by Barryroe Co-op.
The winners were announced in Dublin in early October with presentations to 14 of Ireland’s top dairy farms by Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed.
Michael Crowley and his wife Marguerite from Skibbereen are third generation farmers. They have five children; Brendan, Michelle, Aishling, Gavin and Colm who all play a huge role on the farm. The family has previously won the Drinagh Milk Quality Award, as well as the overall Carbery Milk Quality Award for 2015. On winning at the NDC awards they said, “Everything we do, we try to do it the very best way we can, so the next generation have an example of how it should be done. It isn’t all about money, farming is our passion and were glad to say that our whole family are involved on a daily basis and love it”.
Robert and Shirley Shannon of Ballinascarthy have four children; Diane, Claire, Stephen and Sarah. Attention to detail is always a priority for the family and their respect for the land and the environment is to the fore front of what they do. “We have a high production, healthy and fertile herd of cows producing a quality grass based product. Generations have farmed this land and so it’s important we leave it in good state for the next generation.”
The farmers who are nominated for the NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards are representing milk pools of hundreds or sometimes even thousands of dairy farmers in their own co-ops. It is a serious short-listing process for the three judges, Professor Pat Wall from UCD, Dr. David Gleeson (Teagasc) and Dr. Jack Kennedy (Irish Farmers Journal).
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said “Irish farming is more than just a business; it is a way of life. Irish farmers learn their craft from their parents and grandparents before them. It is no accident that Irish dairy products are regarded as the best in the world. Irish farmers and their family’s commitment to delivering world class quality milk, day in day out, coupled with our grass based farming systems has enabled us to build successful markets for dairy products around the world”.
Dr David Gleeson from Teagasc spoke on behalf of the national judging panel and thanked the farmers and co-ops for participating in the national awards, he said “When we visit the short-listed farms every year as judges we see at first hand the genuine pride of Irish farmers and why they are #madeforthis. Twenty-two farms were nominated and 14 were shortlisted for a farm visit. These farms were located in nine different counties from West Cork to Donegal. Three of the key milk quality parameters assessed in the shortlisting process are TBC; SCC and protein percentage. The milk quality standards being achieved on these nominated farms are getting higher each year. What stands out is dedication to doing things right; a thirst for sharing knowledge and learning about ways to improve how things are done; and a heartfelt wish to carry on the tradition of the family farm, passing on the farm as good as, or better than it was before to the next generation.”