Where Old School Farming meets High Tech
In this article we speak to Pat McKenna, a North Monaghan farmer about his role in the innovative conservation grazing programme on Sliabh Beagh. We also find out how “Virtual Fencing” and other conservation efforts are helping restore Sliabh Beagh’s ecological richness.
Back in 2007 a massive fire destroyed over 700 hectares (1750 acres) of the Special Area of Conversation located on the upper slopes of Sliabh Beagh in North Monaghan. The fire wiped out ground nesting birds and vast areas of rare flora and fauna and it can take an upland many years to recover: in the aftermath of a fire some of the first species to reestablish are the invasive and quick growing grasses that can choke and restrict the rarer plant species. Locals were also noticing reductions in rare ground nesting birds as well as increasing amounts of self seeding Sitka Spruce from conifer forestry plantations. In response, a group of stakeholders developed maps detailing vegetation types across the vast area as well as history of burns in the area. It was decided that conservation grazing would be a cost effective method to graze the fire prone vegetation and thus reduce the intensity and spread of any future fires. The mountain area is vast and so electronic collars are fitted to the cattle enabling the farmer to track their movements and also allowing virtual fencing to restrict cattle to where they are needed.