Agriculture

Benefits of upland grazing outlined to Tipperary farmers

Hen harrier conservation can boost high value beef production

Tipperary Star reporter

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Benefits of upland grazing outlined to Tipperary farmers

Some of the farmers who were in Kinanes of Upperchurch to hear of the benefits to be got from upland grazing

The grazing of upland pastures, particularly peatlands, by cattle at suitable stocking densities can have a beneficial effect on biodiversity, according to the Hen Harrier Project who hosted a food tasting evening in Kinanes of Upperchurch last week.

It can also reduce wildfire risk by preventing the excessive dominance of purple moor grass.

And carefully managed extensive grazing can improve the utilisation of the upland pastures securing their continued eligibility for direct payments and freeing up undesignated lowland areas for silage production.

The Hen Harrier EIP (European Innovation Project) Project hosted Slieve Felim and Silvermines farmers in Kinanes to promote high nature value farming beef and sample produce from local upland grazing demonstrations carried out in 2018 and 2019.

Ireland’s uplands play a vital role in maintaining biodiversity and safeguarding enormous stock of carbon currently locked up in peatlands and permanent pastures.

These are valuable services that benefit everyone and they are dependent on continued sustainable grazing of livestock.

That in turn requires that the role of the farmers in managing this system is recognised. The responsibility for this is not just a matter for Government, the public too can and should acknowledge that farming in the uplands is valued and should support it.

The participating farmers, the Hen Harrier Project, Devenish Nutrition and Dawn Meats worked towards unlocking the potential of cattle grazing in the uplands with the aim of developing best practice for producing beef and environmental goods.

It was also very important to communicate this to the consumer and to develop markets for beef from farms delivering ecosystem services.

Results showed that, not only did cattle graze the upland habitats very well they also put on an ADG of 1.37kgs. This equals if not exceeds other lowland beef finishing systems.

The opportunity is now there to further develop these trials.

The goal is profitable livestock and income from delivering ecosystem services, according to Eoin McCarthy and Padraig Cronin, project officers from the Hen Harrier Project who hosted the event and gave an update on the project’s work.