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Spotlight on Dairy Market Demand & Quality Standards – NDC seminar in Thurles

Diary Market Demand & Quality Standards was the subject of a seminar organised by the National Dairy Council on Thursday 23rd April, 2015 at the Anner Hotel in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. The event was organised as part of National Dairy Week and was followed by a Teagasc Farm Walk on the farm of Eddie, Anne and Thomas Dwan, Bohernamona, Thurles, the most recent national winners of the NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards.

NDC Chairman Jackie Cahill, who opened and chaired the seminar in Thurles, said that the link to the Teagasc Farm Walk on the same day as the NDC seminar, put a strong and deliberate spotlight on milk quality, in light of the removal of milk quotas this month.

“NDC research has shown that, in reputational terms, quality is the single most important attribute of Ireland’s Dairy Industry. Our well-earned reputation for excellence and quality are key to the confidence and loyalty which consumers have in Irish dairy products at home and in premium global markets,” said Mr. Cahill.

Measuring the Sustainability of Irish Dairy Farms was the subject of a presentation by Dr. Thia Hennessy. Principal Research Officer at Teagasc’s Rural Economy Research Centre. Dr. Hennessy is currently involved in research on the implications for Irish dairy farmers of the reform to the EU milk quota regime.

“There is mounting pressure to increase food production in both a socially responsible and environmentally friendly way. This means that the concept of sustainability is one of the forefront issues in discussions about the challenges facing global agriculture,” said Dr. Hennessy.

“Sustainable intensification is of particular relevance here given ambitious targets to increase milk production with the removal of milk quotas” said Dr. Hennessy. She described a number of farm-level sustainability indicators developed using Teagasc National Farm Survey FADN (Farm Accountancy Data Network) data for Ireland, which took into account environmental, economic and social dimensions.

“Given the environmental challenges inherent in the sustainable intensification of agriculture, it is encouraging to observe that the more intensive, top performing farms - in an economic sense- emit relatively less greenhouse gases when compared to their less intensive counterparts,” said Dr. Hennessy.

“The analysis also demonstrates that the nitrogen use efficiency of milk production is positively correlated with economic performance, with more intensive farms producing relatively more milk per kg of nitrogen surplus. From the perspective of social sustainability, demographic traits also tend to be positively correlated with economic performance,” said Dr. Hennessy.

Dr Hennessy concluded that there is growing recognition of the need for interconnected policy in the area of sustainability and that Teagasc research could help inform policy debates.

Dr. David Gleeson spoke about Excellence in Milk Quality – Steps to Meet Winning Standards. Dr. Gleeson is Research Officer at Teagasc’s Moorepark Research Centre and a member of the national judging panel for the NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards. He was able to share his insights from his annual analysis and inspection of the country’s top dairy farms each year.

“The high quality standards on Irish dairy farms have been an important cornerstone for the Irish dairy industry at home and abroad. With opportunities to expand it is important that those standards are maintained in order to achieve the increased higher microbiological standards required to meet product specifications,” said Dr. Gleeson.

“The finalists in the NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards are terrific role models and demonstrate the technical requirements, standards and techniques necessary to achieve top quality milk.”

Insights into Bringing the Unique Taste of Irish Dairy to the World were provided by Jeanne Kelly, Head of Corporate Communications at Ornua. “Ireland’s dairy products are of the highest quality and our farm practices are among the most sustainable in the world. The story of Irish dairy farming is one of family farms where land and dairy expertise are handed down through generations. This is the story that Ornua brings to customers around the world.”

“The quality of our milk, the richness of our agricultural heritage and the strength of our brands like Kerrygold and Dubliner, ensure that Irish dairy products command a premium position in the market. As we prepare to expand we must continue to ensure that quality and sustainability are at the heart of everything we do – our customer demands this and has learned to depend upon Irish dairying to deliver,” said Ms. Kelly.

Concluding, Mr. Cahill said that the seminar provided an opportunity to hear from the experts; with the Teagasc Farm Walk on the same day providing a great opportunity for dairy farm families and new entrants into dairy farming to see those practical steps which can raise and maintain quality standards on a consistent basis.”

He thanked the Dwan family for opening their farm to members of the public. The Dwans, who supply their milk to Centenary Thurles Co-op, were described as superb role models for dairy farmers.

“The farmers who compete annually in the NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards understand quality in a complete sense. It’s about consistently high standards in milk quality and food hygiene but also extends into strong values in terms of sustainability, care for the environment and animal health and welfare,” said Mr. Cahill.

He also reminded delegates that dairy co-ops are currently being invited to nominate their top dairy farmers for the 2015 NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards, with a closing date for entries of 15th May, 2015. (www.qualitymilkawards.ie)

David Gleeson, Teagasc, addressing the attendance at a Teagasc dairy farm walk on the farm of the National Winner of the NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Award, the Dwan family from Bohernamona, Thurles, Co. Tipperary