Richard Starrett, a dairy farmer and Aurivo milk supplier from Lifford, Co.Donegal, was awarded the prestigious title as winner of the NDC & Kerrygold Milk Quality Awards for 2020, which recognise dairy farming excellence. Judges commented that the “passion and commitment that Richard Starrett displays make him a phenomenal ambassador for Irish farmers”.
Richard studied agriculture in the 1980s and took over the farm in 1994 when his father took the early retirement scheme. The father-of-three lives on the farm with his parents, his wife Wendy and children, David, Holly and John. He has been a member of the local East Donegal Discussion Group since its inception in 1994 and is now the current chairman.
In 1994, the herd size was 80 cows, and with the combination of availability of additional milk quota and increased land base, this number has steadily grown to a current number of 160 cows. In 2020, cows produced 594kgs MS with other key performance metrics highlighted below.
The Starrett family have demonstrated that they can sustainably produce quality milk that is compatible with commercial viability. In an era where food safety and consumer health protection are paramount, attention to detail on the farm with excellent parlour hygiene and milking routines are appropriate for a high-quality food business.
Consumer confidence in the dairy sector is vital if the industry is to have a viable future. The Starrett herd’s animal health status is high, and milk recordings used as a key management tool. New legislation will take effect from January 28th, 2022, restricting farmers from administering blanket dry cow therapy. Richard noticed antibiotic resistance creeping into his own herd and now adapts a selective dry cow therapy. Only 14% of the cows now receive antibiotic dry cow therapy with no impact on the quality of milk produced on the farm.
Sustainability & the Environment
Consumer concerns about the potential adverse environmental impacts of modern dairy farming can see that preserving natural habitats and inclusion of biodiversity on the farm can be achieved in parallel to running one of the best dairy farms in Ireland. Richard has also been using solar panels on the farm for over 2 ½ years, allowing him to self-generate electricity for all his farm needs and save on electricity costs.
Quality milk and sustainable practices in the area of water, biodiversity, soil and grassland management show the consumer the way forward, demonstrated through the day-to-day practices on the farm. The Starrett family has thrown down the gauntlet, and it is good to know that the dairy sector can be both sustainable and progressive in the future.