Dairygold has announced milk suppliers Gearoid and Sarah Maher from Cappamore, Co. Limerick as the winners of its 2021 annual milk quality awards today (Tuesday, May 24).

The couple who farm a herd of 80 pedigree-Friesian cows in Kiluragh, were also named winners of the Limerick region for consistently supplying the best quality milk to Dairygold in 2021.

That year, the herd produced 500kg of milk solids/cow with an average somatic cell count of 118 and a total bacterial count of nine. The Mahers were also praised for their attention to detail across their entire farm business.

Sustainability is also a priority on Gearoid and Sarah’s farm and they have implemented various measures including nitrogen reduction, the use of selective dry cow therapy and abstention from pesticide application, which they have been doing for the past two years.

As well as this, Gearoid is a Farming for Nature ambassador and is involved in an European innovation partnership (EIP) project focused on water quality.

Limerick was also the winning region for this year’s sustainability milk quality awards. Liam and Geraldine Herlihy from Bruree in Kilmallock were named the winners for their efforts in making their operations more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.

The Herlihys put a lot of emphasis on soil quality on their farm and have also put protocols in place around water preservation, water harvesting and clover inclusion.

Dairygold chief executive Conor Galvin congratulated the winners and welcomed the opportunity to recognise suppliers who provide “the best quality milk”. He said:

“The ethos of continuous improvement that Dairygold strives to instil within the organisation is very much evident across our milk supply base when you look at this year’s winners.

“A strong supply of high quality milk is the foundation of Dairygold’s success and we will continue to support our milk suppliers in their goals to achieve this as best we can.”

The awards were based on 2021 milk data for all 2,700 Dairygold milk suppliers across counties Cork, Tipperary, Limerick and Clare. Judges Don Crowley, Teagasc dairy specialist and Prof. Karina Pierce from University College Dublin (UCD), then visited the farms of the 18 finalists to review the enterprises.

They adjudicating them on milk quality, dairy facilities, herd health, welfare, sustainability, farm safety and general efficiency, and identified an overall winner, a sustainability winner and six regional winners.

Speaking about the awards, John O’Gorman, Dairygold chairman said that 2021 was a difficult year with the challenges of Covid-19 and rising input costs. Yet, he added, milk suppliers continued to provide high quality produce for consumers.

“The reputation of the Irish dairy industry hinges on the high standards and quality of our milk.

“Our suppliers are continuing to produce best in the class milk despite industry challenges, and Dairygold will continue to do what it can to support them,” he said.