All members of the family play an active role on the farm. The Connellys were recently announced as this year’s overall winners of the National Dairy Council (NDC) and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards.

Originally a sheep and suckler enterprise, the Connellys made the transition to dairy farming just over four years ago. Today, they milk 97 Holstein Friesian cows on 120 acres, and supply their milk to Aurivo Co-Op. The family run a spring-calving system, where cows are calved down to coincide with grass growth during this period. It allows the Connellys get cows out to fresh grass not long after calving.

Improved efficiencies

To get as much grass as possible in the cow’s diet, the Connellys regularly walk the farm and assess the amount of grass available while Ava measures the grass twice weekly.

After gathering all this information, it is then uploaded on to the pasture-based system and allows the Connellys plan where the cows are going to graze next, and the quality of grass on offer.

A large proportion of the farm has been reseeded in recent years. On top of that the farm is soil sampled every second year, and this provides the Connellys with up-to-date available nutrients status in the soil.

To reduce their reliance on chemical fertiliser, clover has been incorporated into seed mixes. Combining these practices, Austin has seen huge benefits from the grass growth and grass production.

Choosing a robust breed of cow which can utilise as much grass in their diet is important for the Connellys. Austin and Yvonne, with the help of Jane, select cows based on their milk solids [fat and protein], and fertility attributes.

This allows them to breed a more sustainable animal on the farm. To measure the efficiency of their cows, the Connellys milk record four times a year. The information received each time helps the farm to produce top-quality milk all year round.

The parlour and farmyard are kept to the highest standard, and roadways are very well laid out allowing multiple access points to fields. This helps to reduce poaching on the land.


The Connellys realise the important role that nature plays on their farm and have implemented a number of measures to ensure that nature can continue to flourish. When applying organic fertilisers, they ensure to use a trailed shoe slurry spreader, which improves soil fertility and has a lower greenhouse gas emission output.

All the watercourses have been fenced off on the farm, with ducks in nearby streams and salmon spawning in a river which runs adjacent to the land.

Like many farms around Ireland, there are plenty of mature trees located here. Commenting on further measures the Connellys have introduced to increase biodiversity around the farm, Austin said the family have continued to plant hundreds more trees across the land.

“We have also erected a number of bird and bat boxes and created a habitat area for bees as well. We’ve also a habitat area of about a hectare, which has been left to grow wild.”

European Milk Forum

Zoe Kavanagh, spokesperson for the European Milk Forum, on a visit to the Connelly family farm, described it “as a privilege to stand on this grass, in this family farm”.

“The Connellys are not just farmers, they are food producers. Irish dairy farms produce a highly nutritious product portfolio of Irish dairy for consumers every day of the year.

Dairy farmers Yvonne and Austin Connelly

“Owing to our temperate climate, Ireland’s grass-based system is one of the most environmentally sustainable production systems in the world. Dairy cows have the freedom to graze on fresh grass for 300+ days a year. When a consumer chooses Irish dairy, they are choosing a product that has been produced with the environmental consideration top of mind.

“The Connellys are an example of an Irish dairy farm that feeds both domestic consumers and consumers all around the world, and this is a sustainable grass-based system leading the way towards the highest standards.”

Aurivo Co-Op

Aurivo Co-Op are committed to making Irish dairy farms more sustainable, while improving farm incomes. The Farm Profitability Programme, which has been running since 2014, works with farmers and suppliers in the region to help improve and make their farms more efficient. Majella McCafferty is Farm Profitability Specialist with Aurivo Co-Op, and works with the Connelly family.

In her role Majella engages with farmers on a daily basis. As well as providing information to help with the day-to-day running of their farm, Majella works with farmers to improve water quality, increase biodiversity and protect the environment and natural resources on their farm.

Since 2013, the volume of milk that Aurivo Co-Op processes has grown by 85% annually. However, through modern equipment and operational efficiency, Aurivo Co-Op have achieved a 40% reduction in absolute CO2 emissions. In Q1 2023, their facility in Donegal will become the first carbon-neutral liquid milk processing facility to pass the 2060 standards in Europe.

For more information and updates on the European Milk Forum and their campaign to highlight the role of Irish & EU Dairy in a Healthy and Sustainable European food system - go to @EuDairyIRE and on Twitter