Dale Farm's top performing producers celebrated at Balmoral Show Milk Hygiene Awards

At this year's Balmoral Show, Dale Farm presented its annual Producer Awards to commend farmers in three categories for their outstanding efforts in improving milk hygiene, with a particular emphasis on both bactocount and thermoduric bacteria levels.

The awards, sponsored by Ulster Bank, took place at the Dale Farm Marquee at the Balmoral Show on Thursday 16th May, with the Crawford family from Newtownstewart named as overall winner.

Eric, Avril and William Crawford also won the “over 1 million litres” category. Five years ago, the Crawfords made the decision to upgrade milking facilities and cow accommodation and are now milking their 130 strong herd through a 14-point swing over Dairymaster parlour. The judging panel was impressed with the commitment to best hygiene practice and cleanliness across all parts of the farm business, which have resulted in the milk receiving the top band bactocount bonus. Thermoduric readings undertaken on the farm have averaged a very impressive 27 since January of this year.

Runner up in the over 1 million litres category were the McKelvey brothers from Omagh. The McKelvey’s run a busy farm business with a high yielding dairy herd supplying over 3 million litres annually, managed alongside a flock of 500 ewes. Bactocount levels have been continually in the top band at the farm over the past year with thermoduric level averaging 57.

Winner of the under 1 million litres category was Alex Stevenson, who operates a herd of 60 cows managed on 130 acres just outside Sion Mills, Co. Tyrone. Milk components for the herd are excellent with butterfat averaging 4.6% and protein averaging 3.6%. As well as top quality components Alex continually supplies milk in the top bactocount bonus band and has supplied milk in recent months with a thermoduric level of only 38.

David and Andrew Murray from Ballyroney, Co. Down were runners up in the under 1 million litres category. The father and son team milk 75 Holstein Friesian cows, with two thirds of the herd calved prior to Christmas each year. The cows are fed a TMR based ration indoors before being turned out to grass day and night during the summer season. The herd is currently averaging 28 litres/day and the rolling herd average is 8,400 litres per cow. Bactocount levels at the farm are predominantly in single figures with an average of 9 attained over the past year. Since thermoduric bacteria testing has been introduced the sample results are consistently less than 100 with an average of 62 achieved in the past four months.

Raymond and Ryan Adams from Closkelt, Co. Down clinched the New Entrant category. The father and son commenced milk production in October 2022, building a new unit which currently accommodates a 55 cow Holstein Friesian herd. The dairy herd is part of a mixed farm business including sheep, cereals, and a potato enterprise. The herd mostly calves from November to February and is currently averaging 28 litres per cow per day. In the past year bactocount levels have averaged 13 with thermoduric results averaging 75.

Benjamin Gilbert from Aghalee, Co. Antrim was named runner up in the New Entrant category. Benjamin began milk production in January 2023, converting a proportion of his farm business into a 70-cow dairy unit. The herd operates as a housed system with cows calving in the year-round. The herd of first and second calvers is currently yielding 34 litres per day, with a herd average yield of 8,500 litres per cow being achieved.

Speaking at the awards, Dale Farm Chair Fred Allen said:

"This years’ Dale Farm Producer Awards were an opportunity to recognise and highlight the results achieved by our winners as we showcase the outstanding efforts of our farmers.”

"Ensuring a consistent supply of top-quality milk is fundamental to the success of our award-winning range of dairy products. Each of the 1,300 producers that supply us with milk share that commitment to quality, and these awards are an opportunity to celebrate those farmers who have displayed a particular dedication to excellence in their herds this year.”

"On behalf of Dale Farm, I extend heartfelt congratulations to all participants, with special recognition to our overall winners Eric, Avril and William Crawford.”

Cormac McKervey, Head of Agriculture, Ulster Bank, sponsors of the awards added:

"As longstanding sponsors of Dale Farm's awards at Balmoral, we are thrilled to continue our support for this event. These awards showcase the exceptional quality of milk across Dale Farm's network of dairy farmers, and each year we are consistently impressed by the hard work and attention to detail displayed.

“That ongoing commitment to continuous improvement elevates dairy performance from good to outstanding, and all of this year’s finalists are firmly in the outstanding category. My sincere congratulations to all."

Pictured with Cormac Mc Kervey Ulster Bank L and Fred Allen Dale Farm R are William Oonagh and Ria Crawford

Pictured with Cormac McKervey, Ulster Bank (L) and Fred Allen, Dale Farm (R) are William, Oonagh, and Ria Crawford.

Pictured are the winners of the 2024 Dale Farm Milk Hygiene Awards

Pictured are the winners of the 2024 Dale Farm Milk Hygiene Awards