In this first part of our new eight-part series on the co-op winners from across West Cork in the Carbery Quality Milk and Sustainability Awards, Emma Connolly meets Kieran Cotter
IT’S been a busy year and a bit for Kieran Cotter, Ardcloyne, Kinsale, who was recently announced as Bandon Co-Op’s 2020 quality milk award winner.
He got married to Breeda from Kanturk, became dad to baby Grace last year and also started building a house, which is almost ready to move into. The 44-year-old also carries out contracting work at different times of the year. But, all the while, he keeps a close eye on his grass quality and his farm hygiene, which he feels are the factors that helped earn him the prestigious quality milk supplier title.
He’s a third generation farmer – his grandfather William farmed at Ardcloyne before him, and then his father Liam, who is still involved.
The farm is a mix of dairy and beef. The beef operation is a calf to finish and Kieran has 30 Herefords. On the dairy side, he has a herd of 36, comprising British Friesians and Norwegian Reds. Calving will start at the end of the month. He has a grazing platform of 45 acres at home, and another outside block of 45 acres for the dry cattle. Grass quality is something that Kieran pays close attention to.
‘As the older people say, cows should be on grass when it’s at the three and four leaf stage – after that it’s only fit for silage,’ he said.
Milk recording is also something he thinks is a worthwhile practice, even if it hasn’t been possible during the pandemic. For 2020, his average milk stats were: butter fat, 5.18; protein, 3.91; TBC, 8; somatic cell count, 72.
He produced an average of 6,722 litres per cow which is impressive considering the average cow in this country produces closer to 4,500.
The figures speak for themselves, and Kieran says they aren’t the result of one particular thing, but more of a combination of several, including the weather and grass.
At the virtual awards ceremony last month, Carbery Group chairman, TJ Sullivan said: ‘These awards and nominees are about celebrating the best of farming, and of what dairy farming can be. The awards highlight that farmers are progressive and adaptable, that they prioritise quality and food safety, that they think about the future and their impact on it.
‘They also highlight that Irish farms are family farms, a team effort, supported by and supporting their local communities. Family farms keep the lights on, and especially this year, in our rural schools, villages and businesses.’
As well as taking the top prize for Bandon Co-Op, Kieran won an award for his cell count a few years back.
He appreciates the recognition, but joked: ‘You still have to get up in the morning.’
He has no immediate plans to expand. His priority at the moment is get the painting and tiling on his new family home complete, which he’ll be outsourcing.
‘Each to their own!’ he said.