Four West Cork families are among 13 farms who have reached the finals of the 2022 National Dairy Council (NDC) and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards, writes Emma Connolly
THE Deasy family from Ahafore, Timoleague; the Hawkes family from Keel, Innishannon, the Shorten family from Woodfield, Clonakilty and the Collins family from Caheragh, have been shortlisted for the ‘Oscars of the Dairy World’.
Representing eight counties and 13 dairy co-ops nationwide, the NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards recognise and celebrate the highest standards of excellence in dairy farming with a focus on milk quality, animal welfare, and sustainable farming practices.
The prestigious awards, now in their eleventh year, reward farming families working every day to produce high quality dairy through sustainable production methods. In recent years, the awards have introduced additional criteria to acknowledge farmers that operate a sustainable dairy operation with clear evidence of excellent technical practices in the areas beyond quality milk, namely – care for the environment and animal welfare; dairy and parlour facilities; and hygiene.
John Jordan, ceo, Ornua said: ‘As Ireland’s largest exporter of dairy products, and proud owners of Kerrygold, we see first-hand how Irish dairy is revered by consumers in every corner of the world. This is owing to our unique grass-based grazing system, our dedicated farming families and their continued commitment to sustainable production. We’re proud to support the Quality Milk Awards each year and to celebrate the passionate farming families who work tirelessly to produce world-class dairy and maintain Ireland’s global reputation as a leading sustainable producer of quality dairy products.’
The judging panel for this year’s awards included Dr Jack Kennedy, dairy editor of the Irish Farmers Journal, Dr Pat Wall, professor of public health at UCD, and Dr David Gleeson, milk quality research officer at Teagasc.
Dr Kennedy said the awards ‘are the stamp of excellence and raise the bar for dairy production at its highest level.’
‘More than ever before we need to highlight and reward the high standards undertaken by dairy farmers all over Ireland who are putting in place high calibre production practices and a clear commitment to sustainable farming that will really make a difference to the future of the industry. Irish consumers enjoy some of the best quality dairy produce in the world, a food that is highly nutritious, affordable and accessible and is globally revered for its unique flavour and taste. All finalists clearly demonstrated excellent standards in all facets of food production and are gold star ambassadors for the Irish dairy industry at home and abroad!’
The overall winner of the 2022 NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards will be announced at a ceremony in Ballyvolane House, Cork on Wednesday September 14th.
THE FAMOUS FOUR
John & Derry Collins
JOHN is a third-generation farmer, and a first-generation dairy farmer as his father Derry originally had a suckler farm. John took over the farm in Caheragh four years ago and began the transition into dairy farming in 2020.
He studied Agricultural Science in Waterford before returning to the farm in 2018.
He has a huge respect for other dairy farmers and having experienced several other farming operations through relief milking, he has now implemented different elements from other farms to his own operation.
An animal lover by nature, John grew up spending time on farms and considers a genuine care for the herd one of the most important attributes of a successful farm.
SEÁN took over the farm from his own father in 1996. This year marks the 100th year of the farm being in the Deasy family.
While on holiday in Ireland in 1922, Seán’s grandfather was asked to buy a plough and came back having purchased the entire farm.
Also living on the farm with him are his wife, Fiona, two daughters, Gemma and Mia, and his mother, Anna.
Seán credits Fiona for being heavily involved in the decision making, and always being there as a support and soundboard for him.
He was the chairman for the recent Timoleague Harvest Festival this year and also enjoys contributing to two local discussion groups.
Tony & Jessie Hawkes
JESSIE will be the seventh generation to farm the land in Innishannon.
She completed a pharmaceutical course in CIT despite realising halfway through that her heart really belonged at home on the farm.
She has since received her green cert and has completed a best milking practice course.
Also present on the farm is Tony’s wife, Ita, and other children, Lucy, Mary Anne and Connie.
The entire Hawkes team are keen to ensure that their farm is as sustainable as possible.
They pride themselves on their landscape that features hedgerows, wildlife and a ringfort.
Brian & Ronald Shorten
BRIAN is a dairybusiness graduate from UCD. Farming with his dad Ronald, he says he would be lost without his help and advice.
The land was originally purchased by Ronald’s great-grandmother, Eliza, for her son Barnabas who then passed it on to his son, Jack.
They are now third and fourth generation farmers and are keen for their land to continue to be passed on to future generations. Their operation is self-sustainable as they grow their own crops and work closely with Ronald’s brother, Karl, who is beef farming.
Producing top quality milk is Ronald’s passion while Brian brings a fresh approach to the farm with his and interest in modern technologies. Their family ethos is ‘if you’re standing still you’re going backwards.’