Gearóid and Sarah Maher with young daughter Sally Kate
THE MAHER family from Killuragh, Cappamore, are among 13 farming families who have reached the finals of the 2022 National Dairy Council (NDC) and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards.
Representing eight counties and 13 dairy co-ops nationwide, the NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards - dubbed the 'Oscars of the Dairy World' or the 'Liam MacCarthy of farming' - recognise and celebrate the highest standards of excellence in dairy farming with a focus on milk quality, animal welfare, and sustainable farming practices.
Limerick could go back-to back as Michael, Mary Ita and Alex McCarthy, Feenagh, won the prestigious competition last year. The Mahers - Gearóid, Sarah and young daughter Sally Kate - are sure to be in the running as earlier this year they were named the overall winners of the 2021 Dairygold Milk Quality Awards.
The 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.
Commenting on the awards, 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 Jack Kennedy stated: "NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk 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!”
Zoe Kavanagh, CEO of the National Dairy Council said: "With more scrutiny than ever on how farmers produce milk, dairy’s reputation depends upon demonstrating greater commitment to practices that protect the environment. The single most important challenge facing the Irish dairy farmers ‘social licence to produce’.
"The Quality Milk Awards are so important as they highlight and reward the high standards of dairy production being carried out by dairy farmers all over the country, respecting the land, protecting the precious biodiversity and operating at the highest standards of responsible food production. It is in all our interests to continue to nurture that approach and support future generations to farm with excellence.”
The overall winner of the 2022 NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards will be announced at a special ceremony in Ballyvolane House, Co. Cork on Wednesday, September 14.
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