A total of 18 farmers received awards at Animal Health Ireland's (AHI) annual CellCheck awards in Killashee Hotel, Naas, Co Kildare on Thursday 10 November last.
The winning representatives were from 18 separate co-ops.
The awards recognise excellence achieved by Irish dairy farmers in herd health, specifically those that achieve a consistently low somatic cell count (SCC) in their dairy herds.
CellCheck is the national mastitis control programme. Co-ordinated by Animal Health Ireland, the programme works with dairy farmers and their service providers to increase the awareness and capacity to manage and prevent mastitis in Irish herds.
Over the last decade, the national average bulk tank SCC has reduced by almost 100,000 cells/ml to the current 183,000 cells/ml.
This improvement in udder health in the national herd is also helping to reduce antimicrobial usage, improve farm profitability and contribute towards reducing agri emissions.
A study conducted by AHI found that the average dairy farmer can increase net profitability by at least 1c/l through improved mastitis control.
Five-hundred dairy farmers from across the country with the lowest weighted annual average SCC for the previous year’s milk supply attended the FBD-sponsored awards as winners.
On the night, one CellCheck champion was identified from each of the 18 participating dairy processors.
Presentations were also made this year to 14 recipients from seven co-ops, who have been winners of the CellCheck ‘milking for quality’ awards for each of the last 10 years.
Speaking at the presentation of awards, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said: “The CellCheck programme is an excellent initiative that has helped deliver substantial reductions in SCC across Ireland’s dairy herds.
These awards recognise the dairy farmers that achieve this excellence on their farms
“This has contributed to healthier herds and high-quality milk produced in a sustainable way.
"Importantly, these awards recognise the dairy farmers that achieve this excellence on their farms, the benefits of which not only contribute to their bottom line through productivity, but also underpins the high-quality characteristics of our dairy products that sees them exported to 130 markets globally.”
The Minister also commended AHI for their vital work on other animal health programmes, including the national BVD eradication programme - which is nearing a conclusion - and the continued work to prepare options for a national IBR eradication programme.
He added that both he and his officials look forward to continued engagement with AHI and their private sector stakeholders in order to deliver improved animal health and welfare outcomes for the benefit of the agri-food sector.
AHI chair James Lynch said: “The winners here tonight are exemplars of the benefits of Animal Health Ireland’s CellCheck programme.
"Their consistent use of milk recording has been a significant factor in helping them make the right decision on disease prevention and animal health.
"A healthy herd allows fewer animals to produce the same level of milk output, which has a positive impact on the environment and on farmers’ pockets.”
CellCheck programme manager Finola McCoy said: “The dairy farmers here tonight know the fundamentals of maintaining a healthy herd. A healthy herd means less antibiotic treatment, which is something that Animal Health Ireland’s CellCheck programme supports.
"With the legal requirement now for farmers to reduce their antibiotic use, our CellCheck winners are demonstrating that excellence in udder health is one of the ways in which this can be achieved.
"This year, the SCC of all CellCheck winners continues to be less than 73,000 cells/ml, which is very impressive.”
Chair of FBD Trust Michael Berkery said: “Animal Health Ireland is making a positive contribution to the sustainability of Ireland’s livestock sector and the CellCheck programme in particular is delivering improvements in milk quality alongside savings for farmers.
"In that regard, FBD is proud to sponsor the Animal Health Ireland CellCheck awards, because we want to acknowledge the excellent work being done by farmers across the country to improve herd health.”