This year’s Quality Milk Awards have officially opened for entries; the competition is designed to identify and reward the country’s top dairy farm.

Dairy co-ops throughout the country are invited to nominate their top milk suppliers before the closing date of Friday, May 26.

Tom and Moya Power, the fifth generation of the Power family to farm at Drumhills farm in Co. Waterford, were crowned the overall winners last year.

One of the key elements I took from farming alongside my parents is their emphasis on attention to detail in every aspect of farming practices.

“Another crucial element to our farm is our helping team. Although my father, Jim, has taken a step back over the years he is still a machine to work with and an encyclopedia of knowledge alongside my mother Breda,” Tom Power said.

A range of high-profile judges will decide on this year’s winner; Clodagh McKenna, an Irish chef and food writer, is a new addition to the judging panel this year.

“As an Irish chef working abroad, Irish dairy produce has a superb reputation for quality in global markets.

“In Ireland, many of us take it for granted that we have countryside with so many fields of grass – but 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,” McKenna said.

Judging process

Initially, the judges will undertake detailed assessments based on the nomination forms and technical reports spanning a full 12-month period, in order to select a short-list of finalists.

The judges will then arrange to visit each of the finalist farms for an inspection over the summer months.

In addition to identifying the top dairy farm, the national judges reserve the option to award specific category awards in sectors which stand out from year to year, such as care for the environment or animal care and welfare.

By visiting the short-listed farms every year, judges get to see first-hand the genuine pride of Irish farmers, Teagasc’s Dr. David Gleeson, another one of this year’s judges, said.

“What stands out is the dedication to doing things right, a thirst for sharing knowledge and learning about ways to improve how things are done. What also stands out is the heartfelt wish to carry on the tradition of the family farm and passing it on as good as, or better than, it was before to the next generation,” he added.

Nominations for the National Dairy Council (NDC) and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards should be submitted from co-ops and co-op farm services managers using the official nomination form, before Friday, May 26 (2017).

The minimum qualifying standard for entry for this national competition is a TBC (Total Bacteria Count) of 15,000 or less/ml average per month; and an average SCC (Somatic Cell Count) of 200,000 or less/ml with no count greater than 400,000ml in any given month of the year in question.

The winners will be announced at a special awards lunch on October 4, 2017, in Dublin.