Dwans take top dairy prize

Tipperary people have always prided themselves as being from the home of hurling, but they have now enhanced another of the county’s long established reputations for having some of the best land in Ireland for producing quality milk.
Dwans take top dairy prize

That’s because the prestigious annual prize for the country’s top dairy producer, the Sam Maguire of Farming — has been awarded to Thomas Dwan — and his parents Edmund and Ann from Bohernamona, near Thurles.

The National Dairy Council and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards perpetual cup and a prize of €5,000 were presented at ceremony in Thomas Prior Hall, Dublin.

Edmund and Thomas Dwan work as a father and son team milking 105 cows on a 75 hectare farm which borders the River Suir. All of the milk from the farm goes to Centenary Thurles Co-op. Their achievement has been hailed as a role model for the country’s 18,000 dairy farmers who underpin a vital national industry.

Edmund, now aged 72, took over the farm from his parents, Michael and Ellen. His grandparents moved to the area in the 1800s. He married Ann, who is from a farming family a few miles away, and they had seven children.

Thomas, aged 26, is the third youngest of the family and the fourth generation farming the land at Bohernamona.

He has a degree in construction management from Limerick Institute of Technology but continued his studies by completing an agricultural course with Teagasc and securing his Green Cert, in order to support his interest in the farm.

Whilst all of the family would have helped on the farm over the years, his younger brother John has recently finished college and started working and youngest sister Mary Rose is in Australia.

The farm is now run by Thomas and Edmund with support from Ann, who also helps on the farm and is happy to get involved in the milking.

Edmund started out with a herd of about 20 cows with a main focus on tillage farming. 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.

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 herringbone milking unit three years ago to replace the original six unit facility.

They built a new housing shed in 2007 and converted and upgraded another building and are very comfortable with the size of the herd. 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 while Thomas has been a member of Thurles Dairy Discussion Group for about four years. They 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 hedgegrows and wildlife.

Fifteen dairy farmers from seven counties were shortlisted as finalists for the 2014 NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards. The judges, Professor Patrick Wall (UCD), Dr David Gleeson (Teagasc) and Dr Jack Kennedy (Irish Farmers Journal), visited each of the shortlisted farms and examined technical and other data.

Dr Kennedy said the quality results being achieved by all of the finalists is outstanding, with cleanliness, milk recording and a consistently good routine that is not rushed, at the very heart of their work.

National Dairy Council chairman Jackie Cahill, said Irish dairy farmers show enormous pride in their work and care for their animals. “The expected dairy expansion over the next five years is a tremendous opportunity for Irish agriculture and for our economy. Dairy farm families throughout Ireland are in a position to make a big contribution to our economy with sustainable and efficient expansion, supported by pasture based farming practices,” he said.

Irish Dairy Board chairman Aaron Forde said the awards recognise the unique knowledge base and excellent husbandry skills of Irish dairy farmers. “Their unrivaled commitment to delivering world class quality milk, day in day out, has enabled us to build successful markets for dairy products around the world,” he said.

Thomas Dwan said it was a proud moment for all of his family. He was particularly delighted to bring a national trophy back to County Tipperary. It was a great honour.

“It is grand to get something back from Kilkenny for a change,” he smiled, after being presented with his award by the legendary All-Ireland winning Henry Sheflin.

Dairy farm families are in a position to make a big contribution to our economy with sustainable expansion

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