Limerick dairy farmer wins national sustainability milk quality prize

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

John O’Shaughnessy at home in Ballynolan, Kildimo with some of his herd

John O’Shaughnessy at home in Ballynolan, Kildimo with some of his herd

DAIRYING is a good business so go for it, says Limerick farmer John O’Shaugnessy, who certainly has made a good business out of his dairy farm.

John from Ballynolan, Kildimo, was awarded the sustainability award at this year’s NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards. Nominated by Kerry Agri Business, John joined eight other farmers in the final. The awards have been running since 1996 and celebrate excellence in Irish dairy farming. Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed made the presentations at a ceremony in Dublin. Winners were accompanied by their families and received a prize of €5,000 and a perpetual cup.

John and his wife Mary’s farm has been in the family for 61 years. They have four children - Niamh, Patrick, Eoin and Tadhg who all help out on the farm during the holidays.

Their dairy farm is full of character - from old trees to old stone walls and buildings. John has farmed his whole life. When not dairying, he enjoys cycling and current affairs.

“The future success of this farm is about keeping high quality grass in the cows’ diet,” said John.

The judges for this year’s awards were Dr Jack Kennedy, dairy editor of the Irish Farmers Journal; Professor Pat Wall, UCD and Dr David Gleeson, Teagasc. The O’Shaughnessys milk 112 cows, have a TBC of 8, SCC 64.4, butterfat percentage of 4.14, protein percentage of 3.54.

For each of the nine farms, the judges detail the combined fat and protein percent for each month of the year, the total volume sold from the farm, the weighted average SCC and the TBC. These results help in formulating the winning farms but a lot more detail and additional factors are, of course, also considered.

Minister Creed said: “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. These awards are instrumental in recognising the huge passion, sacrifice and hard work that Irish farmers carry out 24/7 365 days a year.”

Zoe Kavanagh, CEO of the NDC. said: “We are fortunate to be working with such a healthy, nutritious product produced to very high standards. And it is those high standards in Irish dairy farming that we are going to reward and celebrate today.

“Irish dairy produce has a superb reputation for quality in global markets. In Ireland, our green countryside is a tremendous asset because the pasture-based model of dairy farming is a vital ingredient for the success of Irish dairy produce all over the world.”

Dr Kennedy, of the Farmers Journal spoke on behalf of the judging panel and thanked the farmers and co-ops for participating in the national awards.

“The quality milk awards judging is one of the highlights of the year for the judging panel. We get to travel the length and breadth of Ireland and visit family farms that are delivering excellence every year. Nineteen farms were nominated this year and nine were short listed for a farm visit. These farms were located in six different counties from west Cork to Monaghan.

“The standard once again was exceptional and highlights the capacity of Irish family dairy farms to produce a high-quality product that is unique to Ireland. All farms are producing top quality milk solids and milk quality from facilities which are the ultimate in cleanliness and hygiene, which, is essential as the global consumer is raising the bar every year. There is no doubt Irish dairy farmers are also reaching new heights in a consistent and sustainable manner," said Dr Kennedy.