Dara and Beatrix Killeen, of Bawnmore Farm in Co Galway, were chosen as the overall winners of the Aurvio milk quality awards this week.

Sustainability is brought into everyday practice on the farm through milk recording, the use of EBI and DBI indexes when making breeding decisions, participating in the National Genotyping Programme and protected urea use.

The inclusion of clover and multispecies swards has reduced the amount of chemical fertiliser used on farm. There is ample space for nature on the farm, with 10km of hedgerows, allowing biodiversity to flourish.

Having been passed down for four generations, Bawnmore Farm is a family affair, with Dara relying heavily on the help and support of his parents, Mary and Charlie, wife Beatrix, and two children, Isabella and Oliver.

Dara began milking in 2019, leaving sheep and beef farming behind, and now has 160 high-EBI, crossbred cows on 120ha.

He will go on to represent Aurivo at the National Dairy Council and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards, which seeks to celebrate excellence in milk suppliers.

This week, Aurivo awarded a total of eight farms for their work in 2023, ranging from champion of sustainability to most improved somatic cell count. Each of these farms has been recognised by Aurivo for factors such as their dedication to animal welfare, sustainable farming practices and excellence in milk quality.

Other winners

The seven other milk suppliers honoured for their excellence in dairy farming include:

Michael Marley, excellence in udder health

Hailing from Templeogue, Co Sligo, Michael milks 26 Holstein Friesian cows, and attributes his success in udder health to good hygiene practices, including clean mats; liming twice a day and post-spraying. In addition, he prides himself on his attention to detail, watching closely for clots in filter socks.

Ian McKeague, lowest TBC in liquid milk

Ian McKeague farms 100 pedigree Holstein cows in Culdaff, Co Donegal. The practice involves three hot and one cold wash after every four milkings with the auto washer maintaining consistency in the wash routine. Ian’s attention to detail and excellent hygiene practices guarantees low levels of bacteria in his milk.

Kevin Madden, most improved SCC

Kevin Madden milks 110 Holstein Friesian cows with the help of his wife Lyndsey and son, Owen. Kevin attributes his improved SCC to strident milk recording and hygiene practices including dipping clusters after each cow and stripping each cow every morning.

Craig Finnerty, highest average milk solids

Craig comes Ballinasloe, Co Galway where he farms 70 Jersey-cross cows. He receives a helping hand from his father Paddy, mother Collette, wife Laura and his five boys, Jamie, Luke, Kyle, Charlie and Leo.

Craig believes his success comes from the farm's grass quality, grazing the right covers, a good baseline of stock, breeding the best quality cow and a compact calving rate.

Vincent Diskin, best new entrant

Vincent took over his fourth-generation family farm near Tuam, Galway in 2015, making the decision to convert to dairy farming in the process. He now milks 60 high-EBI Holstein Friesians on his farm in which he lives with wife, Andrea and their three children, Luke, Keith, and Ella, as well as his father Paddy.

Vincent credits his success to several factors including his attention to detail on grass, hygiene practices on the farm and a willingness to learn and adapt.

William McCollum, best Northern Ireland supplier

William farms in Carin Farm in Coleraine, Co Derry and is milking 300 Holsteins with his son, Andrew.

William attributes his success to his strident focus on genetics, closely followed by optimal management to keep SCC low, as well as dry cow management. His aim is always to keep his cows in positive energy, resulting in high fat and protein.

Michael Gibbons, lowest TBC in manufacturing milk

Michael, from Claremorris in Mayo, milks 40 Holstein Friesian cows. Michael has perfected his craft, and came up with a robust approach to lower TBC in manufacturing milk.

This includes a strict hotwash routine of caustic and descale in place, ensuring the correct temperatures at the start of hot wash and discarding the water at the right temperature, having the right equipment for cooling the milk using a variable speed pump and plate cooler and regular inspections of the milking equipment.