Dairygold milk supplier, Denis O’Leary, from Blarney, Co. Cork, has been chosen as the overall winner of the 2022 Dairygold Milk Quality Awards and winner of the East Cork region for consistently supplying the best quality milk to the processor throughout last year.
He milks 130 pedigree Friesian cows on his farm near Blarney, Co. Cork, with the help of his colleague of 35 years, David Cusack, and his wife, Ruth.
The herd produced 577 kgs of milk solids per cow in 2022 with an average Somatic Cell Count (SCC) of 87,000 and a current herd EBI of €230, the highest of the finalists.
Denis has focused on improving sustainability on his farm by incorporating clover to all reseeds and has been increasing the quality and length of hedgerows on the farm over the last number of years.
He also uses Pasture Base Ireland to optimise grassland management, uses Protected Urea as his primary source of fertiliser and uses the ICBF’s HerdPlus to manage breeding decisions.
Denis pinpointed the importance of a good work-life balance, adherence to routine and a simple grass-based system as being the cornerstones of his success in this competition.
The judges remarked on Denis’ impressive awareness and appreciation of biodiversity, having some years ago embarked on a long-term plan to incorporate new trees and hedgerows on-farm.
They also spoke about Denis’ involvement in local discussion groups and how he utilised these communities to enhance his technical performance and the sustainability of the systems he uses on the farm.
This year’s sustainability award went to John and James Magner of Carrigcunna, Killavullen, Co. Cork. While there was a strong showing in the sustainability category, John, and James, in collaboration with their farm manager Pad Sheehan, were praised by the judges for their exceptional standard of dairy farming and demonstrating what can be achieved when you balance high productivity with environmental responsibility.
The judges recognised the Magner’s strong commitment to biodiversity, notably demonstrated in their careful management of hedgerows to encourage bird nesting and preserve optimum biodiversity levels.
They commented that the farm exemplifies key characteristics of successful Irish agriculture: ensuring steady income, fostering an exceptional quality of life, and coexisting harmoniously with the natural environment.
Dairygold also presented a special recognition award to John Coleman from Cobh, Co. Cork, in recognition of his contribution to dairy farming over the years.
The judges commended John’s energetic attitude and approach to farming and his interest and respect for nature and the environment, evident across his farm.
John has embraced technology to support the efficient running of the farm and demonstrated acute awareness of the role dairy farmers play in protecting the environment.
The awards were based on 2022 milk quality data for all 2,600 Dairygold milk suppliers across counties Cork, Tipperary, Limerick and Clare. A shortlist was drawn up from each of the six Dairygold regions. Eighteen finalists underwent adjudication by Don Crowley, Teagasc Dairy Specialist and Professor Frank Buckley, University College Cork.
The judges chose one overall winner, six regional winners, a sustainability winner, and a special recognition award winner.
Full list of winners and finalists
- Regional Winner: John Paul Kinnane, Hospital, Co. Limerick
- Regional Finalist: Tadhg Hennessy, Shronell, Co. Tipperary
- Regional Finalist: John Ryan, Knocklong, Co. Limerick
- Regional Winner + Third Overall: Pat and Liz O’Brien, Currabeha, Crookstown, Co. Cork
- Regional Finalist: Sean, Thomas and Louise Murray, Glannarouge, Crookstown, Co. Cork
- Regional Finalist: Jerry, Valerie and David Herlihy, Berrings, Co. Cork
- Regional Winner + Second Overall: Noreen and Geraldine O’Sullivan, Glantane, Lombardstown, Co. Cork
- Regional Finalist + Sustainability Award Winner: John and James Magner, Carrigcunna, Killavullen, Co. Cork
- Regional Finalist: Sean McSweeney, Sunnybank, Blarney, Co. Cork
East Cork Region
- Regional Winner + Overall Winner: Denis O’Leary, Upper Cloghroe, Cloghroe, Blarney, Co. Cork
- Regional Finalist: Michael, Noreen, and Conor Coakley, Dungourney, Co. Cork
- Regional Finalist + Special Recognition Award Winner: John Coleman, Cobh, Co. Cork
- Regional Winner: Brian Weldon, Bloomfield, Ballyhooly, Co. Cork
- Regional Finalist: Patrick and Margaret Ryan, Ballylanders, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick
- Regional Finalist: Liam and Thomas Molan, Ardglare, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork
- Regional Winner: Ann O’Connell Ryan and Conor Ryan, Dunhill, Clogheen, Co. Tipperary
- Regional Finalist: Maurice and David Hally, Clogharden, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary
- Regional Finalist: Michael Houlihan, Suircastle, Ballyvada, Golden, Co. Tipperary