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Article appeared in issue 4, 2020

Yielding rewards

The overall winner of Dairygold's Milk Quality Awards speaks to IrishFood about the importance of provenance and pastureland

The Irish dairy and agri business Co-Operative, Dairygold, recently announced the winners of its annual Milk Quality Awards and this year's overall award went to Denis, Nora and Michael Lordan of Newcestown, Bandon, Co. Cork. This family farm also won the Mid Cork region award for consistently supplying the best quality milk to Dairygold in 2019.

The Milk Quality Awards were first introduced in April 2010 in recognition of the hard work and dedication needed to yield the highest quality of milk. This year's awards were based on the 2019 milk quality data from all 3,000 Dairygold Milk Suppliers from across Cork, Limerick, Tipperary and Clare. Eighteen finalists are narrowed down to five regional winners and from them, an overall winner is chosen. The award came as something of a surprise to the Lordan family, explains Michael.

“This is our first award and it came as a bit of a shock, to be honest! We had the first inspection and we won the Mid Cork regional which was a great achievement in itself because there is a great dairy community around here. It’s a massive achievement for us as a small dairy farm as there’s a very high standard in Dairygold. If we don’t produce a high-quality milk, they can’t sell a high-quality product.”

Dairygold chairman, John O’Gorman, agrees. At the awards, he said: “The success of our products across the world depends on our excellent quality of milk. These awards give us an opportunity to recognise the hard work and effort of our milk suppliers in helping us maintain the excellent standards expected of us while also recognising the efforts made to ensure the sustainability of our industry. The Lordans have shown that if we work together, we can achieve fantastic results.”

The Lordan family milks 95 cows on a milking platform of 33 hectares and rear replacements and some beef animals on an outside block of land. Michael worked on dairy farms in New Zealand, having completed his two-year agriculture course in Darragh Agri College. He puts the family farm's high-quality milk down to its lush pastures. “The utilisation of grass is key to dairy farming. I find the higher the quality of the grass you feed to the cow, the higher the quality of milk you get from the cow – it has a very important role. Correct use of urea, and clover makes a big difference, too.”

Sustainability is a key consideration for the Lordans on the farm and is evident through the use of low emissions slurry spreading, soil testing, milk recording and selective dry cow therapy. Michael believes introducing sustainability practices is a must to meet changing consumer needs.

“Over the last five years, there has been a massive change in consumer buying: they want ‘green’ products, sustainable products, environmentally friendly products. As a producer, we have placed more importance on making our farm a more sustainable environment: putting in LED lights, checking rain water, grass measuring to get the most out of it. If you don’t measure it you can’t manage it.”

Sustainability, he says, isn’t just an individual approach, but rather a collaborative effort. “I keep an eye on other farms, take ideas from what other people are doing and implement some of them at home. Times are changing and it’s nice to be part of it. Sustainability is a community effort, without a doubt.”

Producing high-quality food is more important than ever, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. “We’re breeding for better cows, and healthier cows, to produce better quality milk. We’re doing a lot of measuring and testing: we’re dung sampling, we’re milk recording, we’re trying to reduce our antibiotic use. We’re trying to find the problem before it happens, to get ahead of the problem.”

When asked if Covid-19 brought about a renewed appreciation for the farmer, he says customer education around food provenance needs to improve: “We’d be lost without the farmer, you saw it over the Covid times: a lot of places were shut down or closed but the farmers kept running and kept the country going. In the last ten years, people have fallen out of touch with farming and I think it’s important to educate the consumer around where their food comes from, where it is produced, what quantity is produced and what standard it is produced at. Educating the consumer is going to be very important in the future.”

As to the future, the issue of Brexit is still looming large. “It’s definitely a curveball for the dairy industry. They’re a huge player in the market, but it gives us another challenge to work through, it’s going to be a bumpy road. We need them, but I think they need us more.”

 

Milk Quality Awards Finalists

 

Mid Cork Region

Regional Winner: Denis, Michael and Nora Lordan, Farnalough, Newcestown, Bandon, Co. Cork

Regional Finalist: John, Sean and Eileen O’Leary, Kilbarry, Macroom, Co. Cork

Regional Finalist: Tom and Shane Tanner, West View House, Aglish, Coachford, Co. Cork

 

East Cork Region

Regional Winner + Third Overall: William and Yvonne Stack, Ballyedmond, Midleton, Co. Cork

Regional Finalist: Ray Bryan, Park, Youghal, Co. Cork

Regional Finalist: David, Michael and Carmel Hartnett, Ballymonis, Whitegate, Co. Cork

 

Mallow Region

Regional Winner: Conor and Liz Fitzpatrick, Beechmount, Mallow, Co. Cork

Regional Finalist: Liam, Hannah and Mark Sexton, Beenalaught, Bweeng, Mallow, Co. Cork

Regional Finalist: Margaret and Kevin Williams, Ballybrack, Doneraile, Co. Cork

 

Mitchelstown Region

Regional Winner + Second Overall: Ger and Caroline Hanrahan, Rahard, Ballyhooly, Co. Cork

Regional Finalist + Sustainability Winner: Jim and Edel Conway, Burncourt, Cahir, Co. Tipperary

Regional Finalist: John and James Keane, Labbamollogga, Ballylanders, Co. Limerick

Limerick Region

Regional Winner: Seamus and Jim Kelly, Kilmore, Granagh, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick.

Regional Finalist: Joseph Collopy, Clouncunna, Ballysimon, Co. Limerick.

Regional Finalist: Denis Harty, Derk, Pallasgreen, Co. Limerick.

 

Tipperary Region

Regional Winner: Stephen and PJ Keating, Tubrid, Ballylooby, Cahir, Co. Tipperary

Regional Finalist: Anthony, Norah and William Carroll, Dranganmore, Cahir, Co. Tipperary

Regional Finalist: Tony Farrell, Ballinclough, Golden, Co. Tipperary