Dairygold Co-operative Society was formed in 1990 with the merger of Ballyclough Co-operative Creamery Limited & Mitchelstown Co-operative Agricultural Society Limited. The Society’s Co-operative ethos goes back over 100 years to the formation of Ballyclough and Mitchelstown Co-operatives in the early 1900’s.
Ballyclough 1908. 1908 saw the establishment of 17 co-operative creameries in the Munster area, among them Ballyclough Co-Operative Creamery. When this was formed, there was nothing to mark it out of the ordinary. It was a small Dairy Co-Op situated six miles from Mallow in north Cork, not far from the Blackwater River. From this tiny seed a mighty oak was to grow in the years that followed.
Production of butter began in May 1908. The peak intake in 1908 was in June with an average intake of 1,500 gallons (6,750 litres) per day. The creamery rented its first store room In October 1917 and became involved in cheese production in 1918. During this time the creamery worked with I.A.O.S. to develop a solution to the problem created by creamery effluent in the river Finow.
During the post-war depression, there was a steely determination among committee members and shareholders to over-come the economic difficulties of the time. In 1922, P.J. Power was appointed manager of the creamery and thus began his long and illustrious career at the helm of Ballyclough Co-operative Dairy Society. Under his guidance total milk intake increased from 400,000 gallons in 1922 to 560,000 gallons in 1926. During this time he also established a vibrant store trade, initiall dealing in feedstuffs, but expanding to include farm requirements and grocery items. The net profit for 1922 was £991, with £160 of this contributed from the store trade.
In 1926, Ballyclough expanded to include Cleeves Mallow factory, Tempemary, Doneraile and Castletownroche. In 1928, Ahadillane and Farrahy creameries were acquired, with a new creamery being built at Ballinamona. At this point, Ballyclough was one of the largest creameries in Ireland. The 1920s proved to be a pivotal decade in the history of the society and provided a basis for future expansion.
In 1943, a farm at Ballyvorisheen was purchased to carry out research on cattle breeding to enhance the milking ability of dairy herds. The Ballyclough Cattle Breeding Station started trading in February 1946. Thus Ballyclough pioneered the concept of Artifical Insemination in Ireland.
Mallow Mart was purchased in 1958 and had its opening sale in 1959. The mart provided a valuable outlet for stock on the locality and there was an excellent working relationship with Cork Marts. Its financial results allowed it to pay a dividend to its Co-operative members as well as funding considerable expansion in its facilities.
The 1960s saw a massive expansion in the business of its milk divisions and its trading divisions. By the 1970s Ballyclough employed over 1,000 people.
Ballyclough continued to produce into the 1980’s until the merger in 1990 with Mitchelstown Co-Op to form Dairygold.
Mitchelstown 1919. Local farmers, pooled their resources to purchase a quantity of grass and corn seeds directly from wholesalers. Within weeks, those same farmers had begun discussions with the Irish Agricultural Organization Society with a view to forming a co-op. Plans were then advanced for the formation of Mitchelstown Co-Operative Agricultural Society Ltd. Thus one half of what would become Ireland’s largest agricultural co-operative came into being.
In May 1919, a shareholders meeting decided to establish a Co-Operative store. If this store proved successful, the meeting agreed that the Co-op should found a creamery. The first seven months of trading showed a profit of £361; this was re-invested in the business, which gradually expanded both in terms of shareholding and in trading.
In 1925, the Co-Op opened a creamery on Clonmel Road under the management of former TD Eamon Roche. The creamery's main product was 'Galtee Butter'. The creamery managed to achieve a peak average daily milk intake of 4,900 gallons (22,280 litres) by 1928. Over the following years Mitchelstown Co-Op expanded its network of creameries to include Curraghgorm, Ballindangan, Ballyhooly, Darragh, Glanworth, Knockadea, Ballyporeen, Araglin and Burncourt, thereby increasing its daily milk intake to 29,000 gallons (132,000 litres).
In 1932, Mitchelstown obtained a monopoly licence from the government for the production and sale of processed cheese on the Irish market. The production of cheese created environmental problems as cheese production created whey as a by-product. Farmers were encouraged to enter pig production and to fatten pigs on the whey. Pig production increased in the area and in the 1960s, the decision was made to establish Galtee Foods, for the processing of pork.
By the time the co-op reached its 50th anniversary, Mitchelstown employed 800 people. Its turnover reached £6.2 million. It had 2,391 shareholders. These figures were soon to increase dramatically with the amalgamations of over 20 other co-ops with Mitchelstown during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Mitchelstown continued to produce into the 1980’s until the merger in 1990 with Ballyclough Co-Op to form Dairygold.
Dairygold Family Tree
In May 2006, Dairygold’ s three non-farming businesses; the consumer foods business - Breeo Foods, the DIY retail business - 4Home Superstores and the property business – Alchemy Properties were transferred into a new company, called Reox Holdings plc. Reox shares were 25% owned by the Co-op with the remaining 75% spun out to co-op members. The latter shares were traded on the grey market.