The NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards set out to find some of the top milk producers in the country, who produce milk to the highest of standards through excellent dairy farming practices.

On the most recent episode of FarmLand, the team met Darran McKenna – the NDC & Kerrygold 2018 Quality Milk Award winner – to find out what his secret is to becoming a top-quality milk producer.

Darran – who is farming just outside Emyvale, Co. Monaghan – is operating a spring-calving system with 109 cows on a 150ac milking platform.

Touching on what motivates him to farm to such a high standard, he said:

“I find if you have your milk quality right and your animals right, it is a lot easier to farm because you have less problems and everything seems to work a lot sweeter. That is why I do it.”

The inclusion of high-quality green grass in his cows’ diet is hugely important to Darran.

Emphasising why this is, he said: “The grass is it all. If you can produce quality green grass that is what pulls your fat and protein up; it keeps the cow well fed and she maintains herself after that.

“If you have an easily maintained cow she is a healthy animal. She’ll go out to the field and eat the grass and she will turn it into good-quality milk.”

Touching on his ideal cow, he said: “I find through mixing my breeds rather than sticking with the one breed, you work with an animal that suits all.

“I have mostly British-Friesian and Holstein, a small bit of Jersey and actually a small bit of Norwegian Red this year.”

Having been asked the question: ‘What advice would you give to a farmer who is trying to improve his/her farm?’ Darran said:

“I think you need to focus on quality. It doesn’t matter what you do; if it’s producing the milk or growing the grass or even how you wash your parlour, if you focus on quality all the time it will come through the whole way.”

Goal setting is an important part of trying to achieve this high level of performance for Darran. Explaining his approach to goal setting, he said:

“I would set minimum goals but it is very hard to say each year that you are going to keep improving because the weather and everything has a big factor to play.

“In terms of minimum goals, I try not to feed any more than 700-800kg of meal and I try to push for 270 days at grass.

“At the end of the day, it is all down to making a living. If you can keep your costs down and your profits up, your family will have a better standard of living, the work load is easier and that is what pushes me all the time,” concluded Darran.