Habitat is the key to farming with nature

July 4, 2022

Park Farmers visit CAFRE Enniskillen Campus and Fermanagh Technology Demonstration Farm

Farmers from Park, Claudy and Feeny recently enjoyed a trip to CAFRE’s Enniskillen Campus and the CAFRE Technology Demonstration Farm of Roy and Marilyn Mayers with their CAFRE Agri-Environment Adviser Mary Ann Alexander.

They started the day at the CAFRE Enniskillen Campus with a guided tour from Estate Manager Jayne Mooney and Farm Manager Sharon Woods. The campus provides equine education and knowledge transfer with part-time agriculture courses, farrier courses and industry training delivered at their breeding, racing and equitation facilities on the 62 hectare farm. It was something a little bit different for the beef and sheep farmers to see!

The Campus estate has also developed in recent years as a platform to demonstrate a range of environmental enhancement works which are complimentary to their equine enterprises and transferable to other types of farming enterprises.  This includes native woodlands, hedgerows, tree corridors, a traditional orchard, agroforestry, pollinator margins, hay meadow, and creation of riparian buffer strips to enhance water quality. Getting to see examples of these environmental measures being delivered on-farm really helped to make theory practical. Jayne shared her wealth of knowledge on hedges with the group using those created and maintained on Campus for demonstration. Her key points were there are no hedge is beyond redemption but that all hedges on your farm cannot be managed the exact same way year in and year out and that by altering the cutting regime many environmental benefits can be delivered. No single method of management is appropriate for all hedges on farm as variations in structure and health must be considered. She gave very practical advice on laying of hedges as a method of hedge rejuvenation. This included the importance of laying the hedge in all the one direction and laying it uphill and the role of coppicing in hedge rejuvenation.

After the campus tour the group made their way to the farm of Roy and Marilyn Mayers. The Mayers’ run a sheep farm near Tempo, Co. Fermanagh. The farm focus is to maximise production while also creating habitats to benefit wildlife and the wider environment. Roy gave the group a tour around the farm where there are some examples of hedges, clover swards, protein crops, lowland raised bog, wet woodland and a lake. On the windy evening it was great to have good hedges for shelter! There has been a lot of work on the farm to establish new hedges and improve older hedges over the last 20 years resulting in a wide range of benefits.  Hedges can provide shelter for stock and improve biosecurity on farm, act as wildlife corridors connecting habitats on farm and act as a refuge for wildlife.

Roy also showed us clover swards which have been established. Introducing clover into grass swards is a great way to reduce the amount of chemical nitrogen fertiliser required and this is certainly evident in Roy’s grassland management. One field that the group visited has had three grazings this season and will now be cut for silage with no chemical nitrogen fertiliser applied. However, as Roy and the group discussed, establishing and maintaining clover swards does require attention to detail. It needs a slightly different approach than a ryegrass sward but Roy has reaped the benefits on his farm.

The group saw a lot on their day trip to Fermanagh that they could bring home and apply practically on their own farms. Although I don’t think any of them will be swapping cattle and sheep for horses any time soon!

If there is anything you have read in this article that you would like more information or advice on please do not hesitate to contact your local CAFRE Agri-Environment Adviser through your DAERA Direct office.

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