Once again, Animal Health Ireland (AHI) is delighted to recognise and celebrate the achievements of the CellCheck Milking for Quality Best 500 award winners.

These awards are based on the bulk tank SCC data for 2020, supplied by the various co-ops and processors and analysed by AHI.

We are well aware of the challenges that COVID-19 has presented since early 2020, which continues to be the reason why we cannot celebrate these winners in person with a national award ceremony.

However, it is heartening to see that for many farmers around the country, despite these added challenges, udder health and milk quality continue to be a top priority.

Lisavaird Co-Op winner: Stephen Buttimer, Ballineen, Co Cork. From L-R: Michelle McGrath, AHI, Stephen Buttimer & Eleanor Hayes, Lisavaird Co-Op.

This is the seventh year of the CellCheck awards, with all winners having an SCC of 73,300 cells/ml or less, compared to 103,000 cells/ml in 2014, the first year of the awards.

While producing top-quality milk and keeping mastitis well controlled takes effort and attention to detail, the reality is that keeping mastitis under control saves time and makes life much easier. None of these winners profess to have a ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to udder health, but what they do have in common is that they are brilliant at the basics and pay attention to detail.

Lee Strand Co-Op winner: Ivan Groves, Tralee, Co Kerry. From L-R: Michelle McGrath AHI, Ivan Groves, his parents Robert and Betty, brother Niall with James Sugrue Lee Strand Co-Op.

For these farmers, practices such as milk recording, good post-milking teat disinfection, hygiene at milking, regular machine maintenance and early detection of mastitis and high SCC cows are non-negotiables.

Nationally, we have some challenges on the horizon, particularly in relation to incoming Veterinary Medicine Regulation, which will see a change in how we use antibiotics in mastitis control, particularly at drying off.

Lakeland Dairies winner: Noelyn Moffett, Ballybay, Co Monaghan. From L-R: Noelyn and Ross Moffett, Mike Magan, chair of AHI with Eamon Duignan and Niall McLoughlin of Lakeland Dairies.

However, this challenge can also be seen as an opportunity. It is an opportunity to reduce our need for antibiotics, by improving udder health.

This improved udder health yields multiple benefits, such as reduced costs, increased production and efficiency and less stress for all. Less antibiotic use also results in less expense, and most importantly, reduces the risk of antibiotic resistance developing. So, let’s embrace this opportunity and reap the benefits, for all.

In Pictures: the winners

Kerry Agri Business winner: Michael O’Connor, Farranfore, Co Kerry. From L-R: Ailish Moriarty Kerry Agribusiness, Michael O'Connor, Michelle McGrath AHI with John Murphy Kerry Agribusiness.

The North Cork Co-op winner, John Murphy from Cullen near Mallow in Co Cork, is not photographed.

Glanbia Ireland winner: Shane and Aoife O’Rourke, Foulksmills, Co Wexford. Pictured are John Kehoe Glanbia, Eamon O’Rourke, Aoife and Shane O’Rourke, Peg O’Rourke with Finola McCoy AHI and Fionnuala Malone Glanbia.

Drinagh Co-Op winner: Richard and Narelle Jennings, Leap, Co Cork. From L-R:Narelle and Richard Jennings, his father Noel with Darren Lynch Drinagh Co-Op and Michelle McGrath AHI.

Dairygold Co-Op winner: Tadhg O’Brien, Kilbehenny, Mitchelstown, Co Cork. From L-R: Tadhg O'Brien with his sister Martina, nieces Ava & Isabel, William Ryan Dairygold, John O'Gorman chair at Dairygold, and Michelle McGrath AHI with David Browne.

Centenary Thurles Co-Op winner: Patrick, Mary and Philip Joyce, Templemore, Co Tipperary. From L-R: Philip Joyce with Kathleen Nolan, Mary and Patrick Joyce with John Martin of Centenary Thurles and Grainne Dwyer AHI.

Callan Co-Op winners: Sean and Caroline Bogue, Callan, Co Kilkenny.

Boherbue winner: Eoin and Mary O’Riordan, Boherbue, Mallow, Co Cork. From L-R: Eoin and Mary O'Riordan with Derry Quinlan, Bridie Murphy Boherbue Co-Op with Tadhg O'Leary, chair of Boherbue Co-Op and Michelle McGrath AHI.

Barryroe Co-Op winner: Jerry and Carmel Keohane, Clonakilty, Co Cork. From L-R: Michelle McGrath AHI with Jerry, Carmel and Maire Keohane and Hugh Holland Barryroe Co-Op.

Bandon Co-Op winner: James and Anne Walsh, Enniskeane, Co Cork. From L-R: James & Anne Walsh, their sons Brian, Shane & James, Michelle McGrath, AHI & Brian O'Flynn, Bandon Co-op. \ O'Gorman Photography.

Aurivo Co-Op winners: Bernard, Maria and Noah Brennan, Liskeavy, Tuam, Co Galway. From L-R: Bernard, Maria and Noah Brennan with Michael O’Brien Aurivo and Grainne Dwyer AHI.

Arrabawn Co-Op winner: Paul Kelly, Kilaltenagh, Co Galway. From L-R: Paddy Purcell Arrabawn with Paul Kelly and Grainne Dwyer AHI. \ :Andrew Downes, xposure.ie