Christine Kelly-O'Brien is an organic farmer based in Tulla Co Clare. She farms 40 ha of bog, wet grassland and scrub/woodland. The farm is in the Slieve Aughty Hen Harrier SPA and partially in the Oystermans Marsh NHA. Christine has been farming the land since 2006 and she has been gradually restoring the land in a manner that protects the habitats and species on the farm. Scrub encroachment has been a challenge on parts of the land, and Christine has used rescue donkeys to help manage the gorse. The donkeys are naturally managing gorse through ring barking the mature gorse plants and trampling the younger plants. Christine runs a small herd of Angus cattle. The cattle overwinter outdoors and external inputs are very low in this farming system. She also grows vegetables on the farm, for the home and a few neighbours. She has set up a night roost on the farm for bats and she also keeps a few hives of bees.
Christine takes great pride in the high nature value of her land and the important habitat it provides for wildlife, especially the Hen Harrier. The blanket bog contains a wide range of wildflowers. “I'm proud to protect and act as a caretaker of this land. We want to pass on the land to our children in as good or better condition in which we found it.”
Christine is an organic farmer with 40 hectares of bog/heath, wet grassland and scrub/woodland in the Slieve Aughty Mountains in Co. Clare. She has been farming here since 2006. Farming in a Hen Harrier Special Protection Area, Christine joined the Hen Harrier Programme in 2018. She is innovative and is constantly looking for ways to improve her High Nature Value farmland to benefit her farming system and the biodiversity present on the farm. The Vincent Wildlife Trust, in a project funded by the Hen Harrier Projects Local Actions Grant Fund, installed a bat box on her farm. She encourages the growth of plants, such as comfrey, to improve the quality of the soil on her farm. The donkeys on her farm are naturally managing gorse through ring barking the mature gorse plants and trampling the younger plants. She has taken advantage of this by applying for funding through the Annual Works Plan component of the Hen Harrier Project and received partial funding to erect fencing and gates on areas of her farm to allow the improved management of stock. This allows her to concentrate the donkeys grazing efforts in an area that needs it and moves them in to more dense areas by strategically placing hay to coax the donkeys in. It has worked so well that she intends to put more fencing in place for the same purpose. Controlling the gorse in this manner allows other species to thrive and protect the neighbouring bog from encroaching gorse. Among the livestock present on her farm, there is a highland bull named ‘Harry’, numerous donkeys and a neighbouring farmers goats pay a visit from time to time. Christine is very passionate about farming, nature and how they work together and that is evident in speaking to her, even for a moment.
Nominator: Kristina Feeney, Project Officer, Hen Harrier Project