Council’s Agricultural Liaison Group visit CAFRE College

2nd August 2022

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FODC delegation CAFRE visit

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Agricultural Liaison Group recently undertook a research and knowledge-sharing visit to CAFRE’s 960 hectares Hill Farm, located in the Antrim Hills at Glenwherry.

The Hill Farm Centre is one of several campuses for the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), and the purpose of the visit was to hear about the innovative environmental enterprises underway which helps significantly improve the impact of modern-day farming on the environment. This included areas around effective management practices of upland and hill land and the importance of good livestock management.

The delegation was met by Mr Paul McHenry, Head of Knowledge Advisory Services at CAFRE, who provided a presentation on the different farming enterprises and the future strategic plans for CAFRE.

Discussions regarding the commercial viability of the various enterprises at CAFRE, the linkages between education and agriculture and the balancing of agricultural productivity alongside environmental management were key topics on the agenda.

Following the presentations, the delegation was taken on a tour of Hill Farm which centred on four stops, each covering a different topic including biodiversity, livestock management, peatland management and forestry/deforestation and demonstrating how farmers can increase biodiversity, improve water quality and water resource, reduce peatland greenhouse gas emissions, return moorland to peat accumulating condition, reduce the flooding risk and maximise wildfire prevention.

Members were advised that significant resources are invested to ensure biodiversity flourishes, with partnerships with RSPB, the Irish Grouse Conservation Trust, the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group, NIEA and AFBI and who are central to this effort. A highlight of the biodiversity on Hill farm was the fledgling of curlew chicks, which happened for the first time in 20 years back in 2017 and continues to this day.

The group also learned about predator control, peatland rewetting, scrape and dam creation, forest to bog restoration work, conservation grazing management and moorland water quality and flow rate.

At the close of the visit, the Agricultural Liaison Group Chair, Councillor Paul Robinson thanked the CAFRE team for hosting the delegation and the constructive discussions held.

He particularly welcomed the discussion around farm productivity and environmental management, as this is an area of work that the Council’s Agricultural Liaison Group takes a keen interest in, recognising the impact on the agricultural community within the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area.