At the recent Lakeland Dairies Milk Quality Awards, dairy farmers from both sides of the border won top honours for the exceptionally high quality of milk produced on their farms. The awards publicly recognise the achievements of Lakeland Dairies milk suppliers who are committed to efficiency and quality in all aspects of their milk production.

The awards were presented by Mairéad McGuinness MEP,  together with Lakeland Dairies Chairman Padraig Young and Chief Executive, Michael Hanley.

The Supreme Milk Quality Award Winner is Andrew Gilliland, Ballybay, Co Monaghan who also won the 400,000 plus litres milk production category.  The runner-up in the 400,000 plus milk production category was Patrick Traynor, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan.

James Clarke of Virginia, Co. Cavan won the 0 – 400,000 litres milk production category, closely followed by runners-up Sean and Donal Conefrey, Moyne, Co Longford.

The overall Northern Ireland Milk Quality Award Winner is Roy Peake, Hillsborough, Co Down. The Northern Ireland runner-up is Olive Woods, Maguirebridge, Co Fermanagh.

The end of EU milk quotas in 2015 will bring with it huge opportunities for dairy farming but also uncertainties and the likelihood of increased volatility in milk price, Mairéad McGuinness Ireland East MEP said as she presented the Lakeland Dairies awards.  “It will require an even greater focus on the market place and its needs,” she said.  “Dairy farming is a complex business and Irish dairy farming is world class, as exemplified by today’s winners.”

The MEP said excellence in milk production requires top class animal husbandry skills, grassland management skills, incredible flexibility in dealing with the vagaries of the weather and sound financial management to ensure that the business is profitable and sustainable.

“These farmers are also important role models for their fellow farmers in demonstrating how excellence is achieved by paying attention to detail.  In the future, the sustainability of farming system will become even more important – environmental, animal welfare, economic sustainability are all key,” she said.

Paying tribute to the winners,  Lakeland Dairies Chairman Padraig Young said it is very important to celebrate dairy farming achievements.

“Lakeland has an excellent reputation for the quality of our foodservice products and dairy ingredients. That is built directly on the quality milk produced by our dairy farmers and the advanced processing that we use to convert that milk into higher value dairy products which we export all over the world.  Producing the best quality milk takes immense hard work and commitment all year around.  These winners are exemplary of the high standards that exist across our entire milk supply base and they are to be wholeheartedly congratulated.”

Lakeland Chief Executive Michael Hanley also spoke at the awards.

“The future for the dairy industry is optimistic.  However, the removal of quotas and an increase in supply will present short to medium term fluctuations in returns as the global markets respond to that increased output,” he said.

“Addressing these supply and demand changes,  our solution must be to pursue long term sustainability for producers and processors.  Working co-operatively  together, I am certain that we can continue to create new opportunities and increase our competitiveness internationally.

“Global consumption of dairy is growing year on year and Ireland is well placed to produce additional milk as quotas are abolished.  Lakeland intends to claim our share of that expansion opportunity and that is why we have invested strategically in our future.

“We have lean and efficient operations and the capacity to expand output.  We are marketing value-added products to customers worldwide.  We are a high performance business focused on the long term success of dairying throughout our operating region.”

Hanley concluded by congratulating each of the winners who he said are “champions of best practice” in dairy farming.

Pictured: The Lakeland Dairies Supreme Milk Quality Award Winner is Andrew Gilliland, Ballybay, Co. Monaghan who also won the 400,000+ litres milk production category.  The awards recognise dairy farmers who produce the highest quality milk within the entire Lakeland Dairies 700 million litre milk supply base.  They were presented by Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness pictured centre with Andrew Gilliland, his sons Adam (6) and Mark (4) and his mother Mrs. Mavis Gilliland, Lakeland CEO Michael Hanley (left) and Chairman Padraig young (right). Lakeland Dairies uses the milk it collects from local farms to make a wide range of dairy foodservice and food ingredient products which it exports to 70 countries worldwide.  Picture by Rory Geary.