10 ways to boost a beef farm’s natural biodiversity
Farmers’ actions play a key role in maintaining and managing existing natural habitats while there are opportunities to create new habitats on beef farms according to Teagasc.
Leave a whitehorn tree in every hedge
This provides pollen for the bees and other insects and haws as food for the birds.
Allow routinely trimmed hedgerows grow taller
Birds nest in hedgerows over 1.4m high which provide cover from predators. A mixture of hedgerows that are routinely trimmed and ones that are allowed grow is preferable.
Clean watercourses in an environmentally friendly way
When cleaning a channel, just remove vegetation and silt and spread thinly along the bank. Leave stone and gravel undisturbed and retain bank slopes in tact with a margin of vegetation. Plan work between July and September to avoid disturbing fish and remember all in-stream works should not be carried out before contacting Inland Fisheries Ireland.
Replace drinking points with an alternative water supply
Access by livestock to watercourses destroys vegetation, causing siltation which clogs up gravel. Fencing and providing alternative supplies of water prevents fouling with pathogens and prevents the escape of Nitrogen and Phosphorous to water.
Allow birds and bats nest in buildings
Never interfere with existing bird nests or bat roosts. Any renovation work to affected buildings should be carried out outside the breeding season. Alternatively erect bird and bat boxes either inside or outside farm buildings.
Identify and control invasive species
Invasive plant species such as Japanese knotweed, Giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam are not native to Ireland and spread rapidly. Prevent their spread to or from your land and control or eradicate if already present.
Plant native hedgerows
Plant five whitehorn plants per meter into cultivated ground in a double staggered row. Include some holly, blackthorn, spindle, guelder rose and hazel to increase its wildlife value. Fence out rabbits and hares if necessary using two strands of electric wire.
Plant native trees
Plant bare-rooted two-year-old whips during the dormant season avoiding exposure to air. There is usually no need to stake whips but it is advisable to place a tree guard around each tree and fence off livestock where necessary. Keep an area of around a meter weed free around the base of the tree and choose a native Irish tree species except for Ash due to the Chalara disease.
Grow a crop for wildlife
Rowing crops for wildlife and leaving them un-harvested over winter provides seed food through the winter for seed eating birds. A mix of oats and linseed sown each year is recommended. Crops also provide refuge for hares, mice, voles, owls and kestrels.
Leave field margins and grassy areas
Field margins, corners and grassy farm roadways are valuable provided fertilisers or sprays are not applied which encourages aggressive plants such as nettles, thistles and docks. These areas provide space for broad-leaved plants, traditional grasses, beetles, butterflies, bank voles, mice, shrews linnet an meadow pipit.