Farmers and agricultural contractors can once again break out the tractors and hedge-cutters as the hedge-cutting season opens today (Tuesday, September 1).

The window for cutting hedges will remain open until the annual hedge-cutting ban under the Wildlife Act comes into force next year on March 1.

Teagasc has the following advice for farmers when it comes to managing hedgerows, depending on the type of hedge:
  • Hedgerows with a dense base;
  • ‘Escaped’ hedgerows;
  • Relict hedgerows.

Hedgerows with a dense base: Trim from a wide base with sloping sides to a triangular shape, leaving mature trees and new saplings, including thorns, at irregular intervals.

‘Escaped’ hedgerows: ‘Escaped’ hedgerows occur through lack of management and are hedgerows that have grown high and escaped, losing their dense base, but not yet becoming a line of mature trees with a full canopy.

These hedgerows are typically thin at the base with gaps and no longer stockproof. Allow to grow into relict hedgerows (as below) or rejuvenate by laying or coppicing.

Relict hedgerows: Relict hedgerows are where the shrubs have grown to mature trees with a full canopy, while others have died out and have not been replaced, leaving large gaps.

Teagasc advises leaving these alone. The wildlife value of these relict hedgerows is in the canopy, which provides food, shelter, home and highway for bats, birds and other species.