HNV farming in Achill

To get a flavour of what a HNV farming landscape looks like and what it is like to farm it watch this video put together by the EFNCP. It shows the importance of farming for a number of habitats and species and also for the local community.

It’s a lovely video, well done all. For other videos on HNV farming in other countries click here




High Nature Value farmland website

We are pleased to launch our website . It explains what High Nature Value farmland is in an Irish context and also shows some of the results of the research the IDEAL-HNV team have been carrying out over the last three years.


Some aspects of it are still a work in progress but we hope that it becomes an important and up-to-date resource for people interested in High Nature Value farmland.

Any comments or feedback can be directed to and if you have any events, workshops or training programmes that might be relevant to High Nature Value farmland we are happy to advertise them.


IDEAL-HNV farmer workshop outcomes

Four workshops took place in late July and early August in four locations across the country; Maam Cross, Co. Galway, Castletownbere, Co.Cork, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow and Sligo town, Co. Sligo. Sligo TV attended the Sligo workshop and the piece can be viewed here

Sixty farmers in total participated. Before the workshops commenced participants were asked to fill out a very short questionnaire. This questionnaire asked farmers to describe the land they farm in five words. A word-cloud was generated based on these words. The larger the word, the more often it was used in the questionnaire responses. The results of this can be seen below.


The wordcloud gives us an insight into the type of land that farmers in HNV areas have.

The workshop began with an overview of the IDEAL-HNV project and High Nature Value farmland in general. Some research into the types of HNV farmland in Ireland was then presented. This was followed by a general discussion on the challenges faced by farmers in HNV farmland areas and solutions or innovations that might help reduce these challenges.

The challenges identified in all regions fit under four headings:

  1. Keeping people on the land
  2. Land type
  3. Weather
  4. Government Agencies

In all regions there was concern about the next generation of farmer in Ireland and where supports to encourage them to stay on the land will come from. All regions identified the hill land or wet lowlands that they were farming as requiring very specific management. Careful consideration of stock type, stock breed, stock numbers and land condition were required. All regions highlighted the impacts that poor weather can have on farming these areas such as high costs of supplementary feeding and also a lack of opportunities to save their own hay or silage some years (including this year). Finally, all regions highlighted the challenges they face when dealing with government agencies, particularly when they receive conflicting advice from two different agencies. They also felt that more regionalised advice would be more beneficial.

If you are interested in the challenges and potential solutions that were discussed or have any suggestions of your own, please contact

A detailed report on the workshops will be available in due course.

HNV farming events October 2015

Teagasc Biodiversity Conference, October 21st-22nd

Teagasc will host the Teagasc Biodiversity Conference on Wed October 21st and Thurs October 22nd in the Killeshin Hotel, Portlaoise, Co. Laois.

The sessions include:

  1. Agriculture and Biodiversity Policies
  2. Locally-led Agri-environement Schemes
  3. High Nature Value farmland
  4. Ecosystem Products and Services
  5. Promoting Biodiversity in the Wider Countryside

For further information on the speakers in these sessions click here. This promises to be a really interesting conference with speakers such as Davy McCracken (Scotland’s Rural College), Alan Matthews (Trinity College Dublin) and several of the IDEAL-HNV team members. Closing date for registration is Friday October 9th.

Burren Winterage School, October 22nd-25th

The Burren Winterage Weekend will take place from Thursday October 22nd to Sunday October 25th. One of the many events running over the weekend will be the Burren Winterage School, the title of which is Supporting High Nature Value Farming in Europe. Click here for a draft agenda of the school.

There will be contributions from farmers and researchers from HNV areas in Croatia, Austria and Ireland.

Members of the IDEAL-HNV team will be presenting and participating in discussions over the 4 days. There is a special farmer rate. Book before September 30th by following directions here.

HNV farming in West Cork

HNV farming in West Cork

Upcoming events in 2015

There are a number of interesting events coming up in the next few months that may be of interest to folks. The IDEAL-HNV project will be running four farmer workshops across the country in late July and early August. See here for further details.

In September, several members of the IDEAL-HNV team will attend an international conference in Rome, Italy to present some of the latest project results at a symposium on High Nature Value farmland: towards more effective conservation and monitoring of biodiversity across European landscapes. Further details on the conference are available here.

October will also be busy with two events on the week of October 20th. The Teagasc Biodiversity conference will be held in the Killeshin Hotel in Portlaoise on October 21st and 22nd. Anyone who wishes to submit a paper or poster can do so until Monday July 27th. Further details are available here. The IDEAL-HNV team will be attending. The Burren Winterage Festival is also on that week and we will be announcing further details on events in conjunction with that in the coming months.


IDEAL-HNV farmer workshops

We will be running four workshops across the country in the next couple of weeks for farmers who are farming High Nature Value farmland. The workshops aim to gain farmer input on what it is like farming HNV farmland and provide information that can be used to design appropriate potential supports for these areas.

The workshops will run for ~2 hours. They will begin with a short introduction (15-20mins) to the project and will also show some of the results from farm surveys carried out in 2013 and 2014. We will spend most of our time discussing issues around farming these types of land in general such as scrub encroachment, invasive alien plants like Rhododendron and Japanese Knotweed, Bracken, poaching, deer grazing etc. We are also interested in hearing how farmers have adapted their management for these lands and any suggestions on future solution for the problems faced in these areas. We will also discuss whether these areas need supports and what those supports might look like if they do.

The information gathered will be reported back to the Department of Agriculture and will be used to design supports for farmers in HNV areas.

Dates and venues of workshops are listed below:

Peacockes Hotel, Maam Cross, Co. Galway         July 28th 2015                     7:30pm

Twomey’s Bar, Castletownbere, Co.Cork              July 30th 2015                     7:30pm

Glendalough Hotel, Laragh, Co.Wicklow              August 4th 2015                 7:30pm

Room B1201, Sligo IT, Sligo                                     August 10th 2015              7:30pm

All are welcome and refreshments will be provided

For further information contact Caroline Sullivan on 0863519657 or email

Calculating a nature value index for Irish farms

Researchers from IT Sligo and NUI Galway (including two members of the IDEAL-HNV team) have just published a paper in Ecological Indicators on Development of a nature value index for pastoral farmland-A rapid farm-level assessment. The paper proposes combining three simple measures, proportion of improved agricultural grassland, stocking density per hectare of Utilisable Agricultural Area (UAA) and length of linear habitats (field boundaries) to give a value on a ten point scale that indicates the nature value of the farm. The methods used could be applied to other systems in other European countries.

The index was developed based on farms in counties Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim and tested on farms in east Galway. The index could be incorporated into farm sustainability indices as the nature value component, or adapted for labels such as Origin Green. It could also be applied to identify High Nature Value farmland as farms with high nature value index scores are most likely HNV farms. Click here or contact Pamela Boyle, James Moran or Caroline Sullivan for further details.

Cattle grazing by the shore in Co Sligo

Cattle grazing by the shore in Co Sligo

Stakeholders meeting for IDEAL-HNV project

The IDEAL-HNV project hosted a stakeholders meeting on April 9th in IT Sligo. The event was held in parallel to the Environ 2015 meeting. Some preliminary results on HNV typologies were presented (based on the 2013/2014 fieldwork). A number of stakeholders were in attendance including representatives from the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Department of Agriculture, Mountaineering Ireland, farmers, local community groups and organisations with HNV farming interests.

Participants raised issues such as CAP funding limitations, the need to get other agencies involved in discussions, the possible policy implications of the results of the project and the need for dissemination of the results to the wider public. We have taken all the views on board and aim to incorporate them into future analyses, report writing and information dissemination sessions.

Further similar discussions  will no doubt take place at the Irish Uplands Workshop in Trinity College, Dublin next Wednesday (April 15th) and at the British Ecological Society (BES) agricultural ecology annual conference in Belfast next Wednesday and Thursday (April 15th and 16th).

Discussion during the stakeholders meeting

Discussion during the stakeholders meeting

IDEAL-HNV progress update

IT Sligo

We are busy with data entry and analyses. All of the 102 farm habitat surveys and farm questionnaires have now been digitised. There are a number of other tasks remaining including calculating field boundary lengths (another digitising task), stocking densities and lots of other farm-level variable calculations that we need to complete before we can begin describing the types of HNV farms in Ireland.

Some preliminary results were presented at a meeting of the British Ecological Society in Lille, France in December. The initial analyses (with 64 farms) were interesting  (click here for poster) and we are looking forward to seeing what the full analyses will tell us.


SPOT 7 satellite data of 1.5m spatial resolution is now available and will be used to classify HNV farmlands in the Comeragh Mountains, Co Waterford. Broad methodology on image segmentation and classification has been developed and applied to sample data. This will be used to  to develop a final methodology for farm-scale HNV maps.

We analysed the distribution of HNV farmlands in the Irish uplands using a coarse resolution HNV map and digital elevation model data. Outputs of the work will be presented at the Agricultural Research Forum 2015 in Tullamore, Offaly early next week.

True colour SPOT 7 satellite image of Comeragh Mountains. Date of satellite pass is October 7 2014

True colour SPOT 7 satellite image of Comeragh Mountains. Date of satellite pass is October 7 2014

Upcoming events in April

Hi all,

There are a number of events in April that may be of interest so I thought I’d post about them all here. The IDEAL-HNV team will be presenting results at all of these.

Environ will be on from April 8th-11th in IT Sligo. The deadline for abstract submission is Feb 18th

For further information and to register etc. see

Uplands Workshop 2015 – Research for a Sustainable Future is organised jointly by the Irish Uplands Forum and the Trinity Centre for Biodiversity Research, and is to be held at TCD, April 15th. The deadlines for abstract submission is Feb 15th

For further information see this flyer or

British Ecological Society (BES) Agroecology meeting will be held in Queens University Belfast on April 15th-16th. The deadline for abstract submission is March 15th

For further information see

Hope to see ye at some of these

Poster on preliminary data analysis on 64 farms in the IDEAL-HNV project  on display at the BES AGM in Lille, France

Poster on preliminary data analysis on 64 farms in the IDEAL-HNV project on display at the BES AGM in Lille, France