Cork couple Kieran and Catherine O’Sullivan have won the prestigious Dairy Farmer of the Year award.
They received a prize of €5,000 and the National Dairy Council & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards perpetual cup.
An emotional Mr O'Sullivan thanked his father and mother Donal and Mary O'Sullivan who attended the awards at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.
Mr O'Sullivan described the award as the "Sam Maguire of farming. There are no words in my limited vocabulary. It is the biggest honour we could get as a farming family. It's pure joy, elation and happiness. It's an over the moon feeling. These are the moments that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up."
Kieran and Catherine are the fifth generation of their family to farm at Dunmanus, which is close to Mizen Head. “I inherited how my father used to do things but am still learning every day,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
“Now I see how Cathal [\18-year-old son] is learning the ropes and I’m very proud to be able to pass on this knowledge and expertise to my son.”
Mr O’Sullivan farms 124 cows on 107 hectacres. His average herd yield is 4,717 litres.
Some 13 finalists were chosen from Ireland’s 12,000 dairy farmers. Mr O’Sullivan said the quality of milk produced on the farm was his “number one priority and that is why the milking of the cows and the washing of the milking parlour inside and out is the most important job we do every day.”
National Dairy Council chief executive Zoë Kavanagh said Irish dairy farmers had a “deep pride” in what they do and passed down the skills from generation to generation.
“Skills and heritage are passed down from father to son or increasingly from mother to daughter also,” he said.
“Through this award programme we see the passion for progressing and learning the newest and best way of doing things; combined with a heartfelt wish to take care of and improve on the farm, so that it can be passed on to next generation with care and pride”.
The chairman of the judging panel Professor Pat Wall said the 13 shortlisted dairy farms were put through an intensive scrutiny involving rigorous analysis of milk quality reports and technical data spanning a full 12 month period.
The farms were also inspected “ which allowed us to get insights into the farm’s practices around areas such as milking routine, animal welfare and sustainability”.