Henry O Donnell

Henry O Donnell manages a mixed organic farm in the uplands of north Donegal. The 92-hectare farm is made up of different types of land – lowland pasture, marginal upland and commonage. He runs a flock of 60 horned upland ewes. The sheep enterprise is a low input and low-cost system. Henry also runs a herd of suckler cattle, half continental breeds and half Galloways, producing high quality organic beef.

External inputs are extremely low on the farm. Silage is cut off the better land to supplement winter feeding for the animals and very few concentrates are fed on the farm. The sheep lamb outdoors, as do some of the cattle depending on the weather and the time of year. Henry has been experimenting with growing red clover swards for winter fodder, as well as multi-species swards for grazing on the lowlands. The animals graze a mixture of diverse vegetation throughout the year as they move from the lowlands to the uplands. Last year Henry moved the Galloways uphill even further to graze the commonage land – “Galloways have done an excellent job on the upland and commonage vegetation as they are non-selective grazers. They have removed a lot of millennia and dead grass, thus improving the biodiversity of the land. They have also improved the grazing for the sheep that are coming after them.”

Henry is passionate about the importance of grazing animals in maintaining marginal uplands – through reducing fire risks, maintaining plant diversity and fertilizing the land. “My whole attitude is to try and have a farming system that works for the environment that I'm in...” He is a strong advocate for low-impact, high nature value farming systems and this is reflected in the way in which he runs his own farm in the hills of Donegal.

Nomination Description:
Henry is working on a EIP project to encourage grazing of the uplands of Inishowen. The project encourages the use of lighter animal such as Galloway, Highland or Angus breeds to graze this land and thus improve biodiversity of the plant and animal species in the region. The plan is also to plant more trees and to incorporate Agroforestry onto the farmlands to provide shelter belts and biodiversity corridors in the region. The project is seeking to mitigate against climate uncertainty and ensure that the region becomes more resilient.
This project aims to improve the economic sustainability of farming High Nature Value (HNV) land in Inishowen through the implementation of a range of innovative measures which also deliver on environmental sustainability by increasing biodiversity, improving water quality and combating climate change.
To achieve these goals, the project will pursue the following specific objectives:
-Provide a best practice management template to Increase farm profitability.
-Demonstrate that by adopting a whole farm approach that addresses both the economic and environmental aspects of mountain upland and improved lowland on the farm will lead better long-term outcomes.

Nominator: Grace Maher, Organic Inspector, IOA

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