Trusting in the ‘process’
DAIRY Ballyjamesduff farmer Highly Commended in €500,000 category
Micheál Smith who was recognised at last week’s Milk Quality Awards for the exceptional quality of his herd’s milk, insists there is a “process” behind achieving success.
The Ballyjamesduff farm was received the accolade of being the highly commended runner-up in the <500,000 producer category for Lakeland Dairies. Micheál’s process involves hard work, a trait handed down to him by his late mother, Mary Joe.
“It’s good farm management, good routine, it’s all part of the process. The machine is hot-washed every third milk, the cows are clean, and the parlour is kept clean and hygienic,” says Micheál, who now farms a mixed herd of 80 at his home in Lishenry, Ballyjamesduff.
The Smith farm was bought by Micheál’s parents in the late 1950s. After his dad Michael died when Micheál was age 12, mum Mary Joe took to manage the rearing in both farm and family.
“She kept the place going basically. She passed a few years ago, but she deserves a lot of credit for what’s here now today. She was a hard grafter, never after any fame, only just to rear her family,” remembers dad-of-eight Micheál. “There’s an awful lot of time and effort goes into keeping the yard right, the parlour right, the cows and the grass right. It’s a massive undertaking really.”
Farm families in Cavan, Monaghan, Westmeath, Meath, Offaly, Fermanagh, Down, Tyrone, Armagh and Antrim all won awards for their high quality milk at the recently announced Lakeland Dairies Supreme Milk Quality Awards. Winners emerged from among 3,200 farm families across 16 counties who produce milk for the 2bn litres Lakeland Dairies milk pool.
Like his mother before him, first-time winner Micheál is pleased with the recognition of a job well done, but his focus remains elsewhere.
“You’re never in it to get picked,” says Micheál of the Milk Quality Award, before bringing it right back to the pounds and pence of the situation. “You’re doing it to get the best quality milk you can get paid for.”
Micheál, like every other dairy farmer in the country, can admit to being satisfied with how things are currently, where in May Lakeland Dairies increased its milk price by 2c/l to pay 52.10c/l inclusive of VAT, for milk at 3.6% fat and 3.3% protein. On average, that saw Lakeland Dairies pay out in 54.47c/l for May milk in the Republic, with all fixed milk price contracts also receiving an 8 c/l supplementary payment. “It’s as good as it could be I’d say, maybe even another couple of cents to it yet. There’s scope for another 2c or 3c this summer, definitely.”
But there are still “challenges” as Micheál sees it.
The summer, if anyone can call it that so far, has been “unkind”. Micheál even goes so far as to describe conditions at present as “bizarre”, before explaining that grass and ground management will be of paramount concern as the year wears on.
“It’s harder to manage the ground, keep the litres up. The grass quality went in the month of May, it’s just a different year to last year. Last year everything clicked. It clicked for me, when it might only click right once in 10 or 15 years if you’re lucky.”
William and Alan Nicholson, Drumacrib, Castleblayney, claimed the accolade of Supreme Champion at Lakeland’s Milk Quality Awards for the exceptionally high quality of milk produced on their Monaghan farm throughout the past year.
The awards were presented by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue with Lakeland Dairies Chairman Niall Matthews and Group Chief Executive Michael Hanley also attending the special event on Thursday, June 23.
Speaking at the awards, Minister McConalogue, said Lakeland was a “shining beacon of sustainably” exporting world-class products across the globe.
“To win an award where you are recognised by your own co-op for having produced a top-quality product is a truly remarkable achievement. Producing high-quality milk is not something that is done overnight. It is a lifetime’s achievement and the result of a commitment to excellence every time you step into the parlour and every breeding decision you make.”
Lakeland Dairies Group CEO Michael Hanley said despite higher costs, those farmers who have continued to spread fertiliser and to feed cows as “normal”, are being “handsomely and profitably rewarded” with the record high milk prices throughout this year.
“The population of the world relies on the quality and integrity of the global food supply chain from farm to fork. This demand continues to grow and dairy provides the solution.”