Best Protein award for the O’Donovan farm of Cork

8 Aug , 2019  

Liam and Dolores O’Donovan from West Cork were declared the winners in the Best Protein Production category at the 2018 NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards.

The NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards is an annual national award programme which recognises standards of excellence in dairy farming.

Dairy co-operatives throughout the country are invited to nominate their top suppliers for the awards each year. The farms nominated for the annual awards undergo a detailed assessment by an expert judging panel based on milk quality test results and technical reports spanning a full 12 month period in order to select a short-list of finalists.

The programme assesses the top dairy farms across a number of key areas: animal health and welfare; dairy and parlour facilities; pride and passion; continuous improvement; hygiene and sustainability and the environment.

The judges for the 2018 awards were Dr Jack Kennedy, Dairy Editor of the Irish Farmers Journal, Professor Pat Wall from UCD and, Dr David Gleeson from Teagasc.  Chef and food writer Clodagh McKenna was once again Food Ambassador for the 2018 awards.

As part of the judging process, judges carried out detailed assessments based on submitted nomination forms and technical reports which spanned a full 12-month period.

From this process, a short-list of nine finalists was compiled. The judges then arranged to visit each of the nine finalist farms for an inspection over the summer months.

The winners were announced in Dublin on October 3rd last and, on the night, Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed said: “The farmers who are nominated for the NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards are representing milk pools of hundreds or sometimes even thousands of dairy farmers in their own co-ops.

“These Awards are instrumental in recognising the huge passion, sacrifice and hard work that Irish farmers carry out 24/7 365 days a year to produce a high-quality product revered all over the world.”

Zoe Kavanagh, CEO of the NDC, said “We are fortunate to be working with such a healthy, nutritious product produced to very high standards.  And it is those high standards in Irish dairy farming that we are going to reward and celebrate today.

“Irish dairy produce has a superb reputation for quality in global markets. In Ireland, 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.”

Nominated by Drinnagh, Liam and Dolores O’Donovan of Clohane, Skibbereen, Co. Cork were the winners in the Best Protein Production category.

Liam and Dolores are the fifth generation of farmers on their land. They have four daughters; Emma, Ruby, Eve and Annie. Liam was born into a dairy farm and wanted to be a farmer from a young age. He started helping out on the family farm at 8 and went farming full time from the age of 18. He has been working on the farm for 35 years and won the Drinagh Quality Milk Award in 2017.

So what are the secrets of his success? “It’s all down to breeding and grassland management,” he answered, “they are the two key things on the protein side of it. The judges called out to see how we do things and our daily routine and they must have liked what they saw!”

He continued: “We are lucky down here in that there’s a long grass growing season and everyone is improving with grassland management. Milk produced off grass is a huge selling point for Irish dairy farmers when it comes to the rest of Europe.”

For each of the nine farms that were short-listed, the judges detailed the combined fat and protein percent for each month of the year, the total volume sold from the farm, the weighted average somatic cell count (SCC) and the total bacteria count (TBC). Those results helped in formulating the winning farms but a lot more detail and additional factors were course considered.

Their inspection of the O’Donovan farm revealed the following results: Milk Supply – 1,399,927; TBC (weighted) – 9.3; SCC (weighted) – 99.1; Butterfat % (weighted) – 4.36 and Protein % (weighted) – 3.69.

Liam left Darrara Agricutural College with a Green Cert in 1993 and spent a year in New Zealand before returning home in 1995. He took over the running of the family farm from his late parents, Billy and Suzie, in 2006 and has overseen a significant expansion of the family-run enterprise.Liam has one full time employee,Finbarr Coughlan and also employs part time labour.

“The herd is growing all the time, increasing by 30 every year. We had 90 cows milking in 2006 but from 2012 onwards we have added to that number every year, particularly in the years since the milk quotas were abolished. Today we milk a herd of 300 Jersey cross cows,” he concluded.

Liam & Delores O’Donovan

Clohane Farm Ltd

Clohane, Skibbereen, Co. Cork

Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 7 No 2, April/May 2019