New dairy entrants John and David Hunter became the big winners in the inaugural LacPatrick Milk Quality awards.

The Hunters who farm in Newtownstewart, Co. Tyrone, picked up the Farm Development Award presented by rugby star Stephen Ferris at the awards ceremony attended by 200 LacPatrick suppliers.

Judges commended John and David for the rapid development of their farm from a beef and sheep unit to a grass-based dairy system.

The LacPatrick Milk Quality Awards saw dairy suppliers recognised for milk composition, quality assurance and farm development.

The awards consisted of seven categories which also included milk hygiene and cell count.

The judging process assesed farms against strict criteria and also included on-site farm inspections for the farm development award.

Judges for the farm development award included Donal Patton, Teagasc; Martin Mulholland, College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE); and Robert McCullough, Danske Bank.

Overall winners:

Lowest somatic cell count (SCC): Billy Dawson, Co. Monaghan;

Lowest total bacteria count (TBC): John and Samuel McCaughan, Co. Londonderry;

Milk solids improvement, Republic of Ireland: Neville Reid, Co. Monaghan;

Milk solids improvement NI: David Armstrong, Co. Tyrone;

Quality assurance award, Republic of Ireland: David McCoy, Co. Monaghan;

Quality assurance award NI: Sean McNaughton, Co. Antrim;

Farm development award: John and David Hunter, Co. Tyrone.

Mulholland said: “Seeing first-hand the incredibly hard work undertaken each day by the suppliers and their families was a real eye-opener.

“All of the finalists demonstrated a remarkable drive to supply quality milk day after day and they should be very proud of the work they do.

“The decision was incredibly difficult but as a recent entrant to dairy farming David Hunter – with support from his father John – has already developed a very productive and progressive dairy farm making maximum use of the resources available to him.”

Andrew McConkey, LacPatrick chairman added: “The inaugural LacPatrick Co-op milk quality awards serve to acknowledge and encourage the excellence of milk quality of our suppliers across the region.

“A milk pool of the highest quality and standard is the cornerstone in which every other aspect of the business is built and relies.

“It is fitting that we hold these awards to celebrate the commitment and endeavour of our suppliers.

“Congratulations to John and David Hunter and indeed to all of the winners and finalists for the extremely high standards that they have attained.”

With a roster of more than 1,050 farmers, LacPatrick suppliers deliver 600 million litres of milk annually.