The National Dairy Council has launched the NDC Quality Milk Awards for 2011, inviting co-ops in the Republic of Ireland to nominate their top dairy farmers for the competition, described as the ‘Sam Maguire of Farming’.
The award sets out to identify our top dairy farmer, with the initial short-listing effectively managed by the co-op selection and nomination process, and with national judging in the hands of an expert judging panel – Professor Paddy Wall, Associate Professor of Public Health at UCD; Dr David Gleeson, Milk Quality Research, Teagasc; and Dr. Jack Kennedy, Dairy Editor, Irish Farmers Journal. The judges will visit and inspect the farms of national finalists in order to select the overall national winner.
The overall winning farmer will receive a prize of €5,000 and the National Dairy Council Quality Milk Awards perpetual trophy. It is also at the discretion of the judges each year to select whether category prizes will be awarded – for instance in areas such as care of the environment.
“It is absolutely vital that dairy farmers keep a focus on the importance of high quality standards, especially in light of the potential rapid expansion forecast in the Food Harvest 2020 Report,” says Professor Paddy Wall. Food Harvest 2020 Published by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food forecast a growth of 50 per cent in dairy output in the next decade.
According to Dr. Jack Kennedy, Dairy Editor of the Irish Farmers Journal, the NDC Quality Milk Awards set the standard for top quality milk. “All farmers that participate proudly represent their co-op as top quality milk suppliers at national level. It is great to work with dedicated farmers and co-op professionals in this competition,” said Dr. Kennedy.
“All co-ops should nominate a number of their suppliers to take part in this competition to keep milk quality at the top of the agenda among all their suppliers. “To choose an outright winner the judges are looking for a milk producer who stands out, who has got the x factor,” says Dr. David Gleeson, Teagasc. “The attention to detail with all aspects relating to the milk production process is usually the deciding factor in picking an overall winner.”
Dr. Gleeson says that the standards of cleanliness within the dairy and milking parlour are considered very important by the judges, but this does not mean that you must have a new parlour to win this competition; this is far from the case. The use of chemicals, washing procedures and record keeping all are scored on the judge’s visit.
“The criteria for hygienic quality of milk, specifically thermoduric and total bacteria counts requested by milk processors or by customers of milk processing outlets, are becoming more strict and rigorous,” said Dr. Gleeson. “Milk quality standards must also meet the specific standards of the purchasing group within that country where products are exported and approximately 85% of annual production in Ireland is exported.”
Dr. Gleeson concludes that the National Dairy Council Quality Milk Awards are an opportunity to show case the high standards of milk quality that are being achieved on Irish farms. The information shared by the finalists also gives other farmers a template on how these standards can be achieved.
Entry forms have been distributed to dairy co-ops, with a closing date of Friday, May 6f or this year’s awards. Additional entry forms can be downloaded from www.qualitymilkawards.ie or www.ndc.ie and are available if needed from The NDC - tel 01-2902451.
The minimum qualifying standard for entry is average TBC 20,000 or less/ml average per month; and average SCC 250,000 or less/ml with no count over 400,000 ml in any given month of the year in question. Further information about rules and the number of nominees which can be submitted by dairy co-ops are published in full on the entry forms. Co-ops may nominate farmers living in and farming in the Republic of Ireland who are producing liquid or manufacturing milk.