‘BRIDE project is opening eyes to another aspect of farming’

More than 100 people attended a public information night about the ‘Farming with Nature’ BRIDE project at Corrin in east Cork, last Wednesday (May 2).

The project aims to reward farmers for biodiversity improvement in the River Bride catchment area. It is open to livestock, bloodstock and tillage farmers.

The ‘biodiversity regeneration in a dairying environment’ (BRIDE) project will provide participating farmers with farm habitat plans that identify the most appropriate and effective wildlife management options for individual farms.

It will pay farmers for their conservation efforts. An innovative element of the project is its higher payments for higher wildlife gains.

This results-based approach has been welcomed by project manager, Donal Sheehan. He said that the greater reward for a higher quality product is very familiar to farmers.

“The BRIDE project applies this principle to the management of wildlife habitats,” he said.

The initiative involves targeted measures for every farm and is locally-led and farmer driven. The project will run for five years and is designed to increase and maintain biodiversity on intensively managed farms in the area through simple innovative measures.

‘Suitable habitats’

The effects on wildlife will be monitored through the project which aims to create suitable habitats for local important populations of wildlife including: skylarks; yellowhammers; bumble bees; frogs and newts.

An ecologist will work with participating farmers to develop a farm plan and advise on how to maximise the wildlife on their farms – with a focus on important habitats such as hedgerows, bogs, woodland, ponds and derelict buildings.

The project is designed to work on a landscape scale. It will involve several clusters of neighbouring farms to collectively enhance biodiversity on a much larger scale than would be possible with individual farms.

A secondary aim of the project is to encourage community participation and this will involve regular school visits and public meetings.

“The public information night went way beyond our expectations – with over 100 people turning up and over 50 taking an ‘expression of interest’ form,” said Sheehan, a 70-cow dairy farmer in Castlelyons, near Fermoy who supplies Glanbia on a 100% on a spring calving herd.

It looks like we are going to be over-subscribed; but we are not going to turn anyone away. We don’t know how the budget will roll out, but people can be involved in some shape or form.

Last year Sheehan was honoured by Cork Environmental Forum for his work in sustainable agriculture.

He was recognised for his work in ensuring and improving habitats for wildlife and increasing biodiversity on his farm.

Sheehan said he was “hugely encouraged” by the positive response at and since the meeting.

We have been floored by the reaction. There is a movement for change and farmers can shape the countryside positively. The feedback we got is that people want to be involved in some way – farmers want to be part of change.

“Intensive farmers we have spoken to want an alternative. People can see the wood from the trees and this project is opening eyes to another aspect of farming,” he said.