Denis O’Leary from Blarney, Co Cork, fended off competition from 2,600 other Dairygold suppliers to claim the co-op’s overall milk quality award for 2022.

The east Cork farmer milks 130 pedigree Friesian cows, with his wife Ruth and long-time colleague David Cusack.

O’Leary’s herd had 577kg of milk solids per cow last year at an average SCC of 87,000.

The herd has an EBI of €230, which was the highest of all finalists in Dairygold’s milk quality awards for 2022.


Sustainability strongly informs farm management, with protected urea used as the main fertiliser source, clover included in reseeding mixes and an ongoing effort to improve on-farm hedgerows.

The farmer pointed to his adherence to routine, operating a grass-based system and maintaining a healthy work-life balance as elements underpinning the herd’s performance.

Other awards

The 2022 sustainability award was taken home to Carrigcunna, Killavullen, Co Cork, by John and James Magner, along with herd manager Pad Sheehan.

Those on the judging panel said the farm balances high herd productivity with sustainable farming practices and biodiversity.

An award of special recognition went to John Coleman from Cobh, Co Cork, to acknowledge the farmer’s contribution.

Positive 2022 price

Dairygold chair Seán O’Brien said that last year brought optimism on price, but challenges on the cost side of dairy farming.

“2022 was a positive year in terms of milk price, but it also brought with it some challenges, such as rising input costs and supply chain uncertainty,” O’Brien commented after the awards.

“Despite these challenges, Dairygold’s milk suppliers continued to provide the highest quality milk to the society for its customers.

“We also appreciate the work of our milk suppliers in adopting more sustainable farming practices.”

The co-op launched its grassroots bonus programme in 2022, with its chair adding that the “future of the industry hinges on the action we take now”.

High standards

The processor’s chief executive Conor Galvin stated that suppliers had stepped up to the plate and delivered on the high standards sought from buyers.

The awards allowed the co-op to recognise farmers performing at the highest level, he said.

“Our customers have come to expect a high standard and high-quality product from us and it is our milk suppliers that enable us to deliver on that expectation,” Galvin explained.

"These awards present us with an opportunity to recognise the excellence being achieved across our milk supplier base and demonstrate the ethos of continuous improvement that has long been a foundation for the success of this business.”

Winners and finalists

Data from the co-op's 2,600 suppliers were used in the shortlisting process. / Donal O' Leary

Limerick region

  • Regional winner - John Paul Kinnane of Hospital, Co Limerick.
  • Regional finalist - Tadhg Hennessy of Shronell, Co Tipperary.
  • Regional finalist - John Ryan of Knocklong, Co Limerick.
  • Mid-Cork

  • Regional winner and third overall - Pat and Liz O’Brien of Currabeha, Crookstown, Co Cork.
  • Regional finalist - Sean, Thomas and Louise Murray of Glannarouge, Crookstown, Co Cork.
  • Regional finalist - Jerry, Valerie and David Herlihy of Berrings, Co Cork.
  • Mallow region

  • Regional winner and second overall - Noreen and Geraldine O’Sullivan of Glantane, Lombardstown, Co Cork.
  • Regional finalist and sustainability award winner - John and James Magner of Carrigcunna, Killavullen, Co Cork.
  • Regional finalist - Sean McSweeney of Sunnybank, Blarney, Co Cork.
  • East Cork region

  • Regional winner and overall winner - Denis O’Leary, Upper Cloghroe, Cloghroe, Blarney, Co Cork.
  • Regional finalist - Michael, Noreen and Conor Coakley, Dungourney, Co Cork.
  • Regional finalist and special recognition award winner - John Coleman of Cobh, Co Cork.
  • Mitchelstown region

  • Regional winner - Brian Weldon of Bloomfield, Ballyhooly, Co Cork.
  • Regional finalist - Patrick and Margaret Ryan of Ballylanders, Kilmallock, Co Limerick.
  • Regional finalist - Liam and Thomas Molan of Ardglare, Mitchelstown, Co Cork.
  • Tipperary region

  • Regional winner - Ann O’Connell Ryan and Conor Ryan of Dunhill, Clogheen, Co Tipperary.
  • Regional finalist - Maurice and David Hall of Clogharden, Clonmel, Co Tipperary.
  • Regional finalist - Michael Houlihan of Suircastle, Ballyvada, Golden, Co Tipperary.