2014-11-12   facebook twitter rss

Tipperary Farm Wins Kerrygold Quality Milk Award

Thomas Dwan and his parents, Edmund and Ann, from Tipperary were the winners of the 2014 NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Award.

This competition, sponsored by the National Dairy Council is known as “The Sam Maguire of Farming,” also identifies dairy farmers who are role models to others, providing a platform for co-ops to highlight to their own suppliers the technical requirements, standards and techniques which drive quality milk production.

Philip Brett, DeLaval dealer, Edmund Dwan, Ann Dwan and Thomas Dwan

Philip Brett, DeLaval dealer, Edmund Dwan, Ann Dwan and Thomas Dwan

The Dwan family from Bohernamona, Thurles, Co Tipperary were awarded the prize of €5,000 and the perpetual trophy for their farm at the national awards ceremony in Dublin.

Speaking at the ceremony, 26 year old Thomas said it was a proud moment for all of his family. He was presented with his award by ten time All Ireland hurling champion, Henry Shefflin, from Co. Kilkenny.

Edmund and Thomas Dwan work as a father and son team milking 105 cows on a 75ha farm which borders the river Suir on the outskirts of Thurles town.

All of the milk from the farm goes to Centenary Thurles Co-op where they also won a milk quality award sponsored by Bank of Ireland in 1983.

Fifteen dairy farms from seven counties were shortlisted as finalists for the 2014 NDC & Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards.

Incidentally nine of these or a whopping 60% were using DeLaval milking equipment. This is not surprising as DeLaval are the market leaders in Ireland and have been supplying milking equipment to Irish dairy farmers for over 80 years.

All of the national finalists were commemorated at the awards ceremony, with seven Highly Commended by the national judges.

Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, Dr. Jack Kennedy, Irish Farmers Journal, said that the quality results being achieved by all of the finalists are outstanding, with cleanliness, milk recording and a consistently good routine.

The judges Professor Patrick Wall (UCD), Dr David Gleeson (Teagasc) and Dr. Jack Kennedy examined technical data and milk quality records for over 12 months along with information about milking practices and facilities, care of the environment, sustainable practices, dairy herd health, animal welfare and general farm management. They also visited all fifteen shortlisted farms.

Edmund Dwan started out with a herd of about 20 cows with the main focus on tillage farming. However he became interested in expanding the dairy herd in the 1970s.

They had an average of 60 cows in the herd up until about seven years ago. The basic herd was British Friesian with some Rotbund genetics. Since then they have used Holstein & NZ Friesian genetics.

However, the farm was not heavily stocked and Edmund and Thomas had enough good quality grazing land to expand the herd to its current level of 105 cows, without buying or renting additional land.

To support this expansion, Edmund and Thomas built a new 16 unit DeLaval MidiLine herringbone milking unit three years ago to replace the original six unit facility.

The new parlour was installed by their local DeLaval dealer Philip Brett and his team at Brett Dairy Services. “Everything was spot on in the new parlour” says Thomas.

Thomas Dwan and Philip Brett, DeLaval dealer

Thomas Dwan and Philip Brett, DeLaval dealer and Poppy the dog

Thomas and his parents are delighted with their investment “Cows now have more room in the parlour and we have a much better cow flow. The cows spend less time standing in the yard, there is also less slurry in the yard, cows have more grazing time so”.

One of the reasons they choose DeLaval was because of their reputation for a good local service.

According to Edmund “we can now milk 100 cows per hour. It used to take over two hours to milk 80 cows. We also have a better family lifestyle” says Thomas.

The red dye on the parlour floor makes it easier to ID mastitis when stripping the cows. Liners are changed twice a year and the ACR system was “money well spent” says Thomas.

Room for Expansion After 2015

There is room for expansion after 2015 as 20 Euro 50 stalls with 2ft six inch centres were fitted and in parlour feeders are currently being installed. The equipment in this modern parlour also includes an ACR (automatic cluster removal) system, swing over arms, angle troughs, a fold out underline washing system and MC31 clusters.

Philip Brett, his DeLaval dealer points out that “No cow will be over milked or under milked with this innovative ACR system - consistent milking means a lot to the cows.”

As each cow is finished the cluster is gently removed without any input from the operator. Low SSC counts and low mastitis levels are achievable as the system is set to suit each individual herd.

The cows are at a 50 degree angle while being milked and Thomas says that this makes for a faster exit. The parlour has lots of natural lighting, excellent ventilation and the pit has ample room for two milkers to pass each other.

The wide pit makes milking a pleasure and the ACR system takes the pressure off the operator so milking is never a tedious chore.

The MC31 cluster fits nicely in the hand and is easy to work with so this reduces milker stress and fatigue. The vacuum can be started and stopped with one hand.

The cluster is well balanced and fits comfortably on the cow. A 250 ml claw features a big milk outlet to handle high milk flows efficiently and safely. Vacuum fluctuations are also reduced under high milk flows by 12 mm claw milk inlets.

Thomas has a degree in construction management from Limerick Institute of Technology which came in useful with all the building work done on the farm.

He continued his studies by completing an agricultural course with Teagasc the Irish advisory service and securing his Green Cert, in order to support his interest in the farm.

They built a new housing shed in 2007 and converted and upgraded another building and are very comfortable with the size of the herd.

Their local builder for the concrete work was Damien Trehy and Denis Bohan did all the steel work. If they do expand again in the future some further housing would need to be added, but they have the space if required.

The farm is now mainly involved in dairying, with some drystock. All of the calves born on the farm are reared and sold on as yearlings.

Cows are generally out on grass from the start of February each year up until the end of November, weather permitting. The spring herd is usually calving towards the end of January and dries off in early December.

The Dwans get valued support from the Teagasc advisory team and their local Teagasc adviser is James Mullane. Thomas has been a member of Thurles Dairy Discussion Group for about four years and finds membership very worthwhile.

The family manage the cows, parlour and dairy enterprise on one side of the road with fields for growing silage and young stock kept on the opposite side, which adjoins the river.

Rain water is harvested and the farm plan in use by the environmentally conscious father and son supports hedgerows and wildlife.


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