Nia O Malley
Nia O Malley farms 60 hectares in the Slieve Aughty Mountains in Co. Galway. She took over the family farm in 2010. Since then, she has worked incredibly hard to rebuild and regenerate the farm and has done so with respect and consideration for the natural landscape and wildlife of the area. “Something you learn as a hill farmer is you have to adapt to the area - you can’t just come in and change things as you wish... You have to adapt to the land and work with the land, rather than forcing the land to adapt to your farming practices.”
Farming in a hen harrier Special Protected Area, Nia joined the Hen Harrier programme in 2018 where she was involved in a mountain grazing project. The trial focused on increasing cattle grazing on areas of bog/heath that are dominated by Molinia grasses and pose serious fire risks. “My involvement with the hen harrier project enabled me to look at my land differently and value what I might not have valued before... The more you graze commonage, the more you will reduce the Molina grass growth and the more you will encourage other grass species to come up. This will eventually extend the grazing season on the mountain.”
Nia currently manages a small herd of Gallowey cattle who play a crucial role in grazing the mountain vegetation, fertilizing the land and regenerating the soil. She has planted hedgerows and areas of native woodland around the farm - “I’m putting a lot into planting hedgerows and trees on the farm, which for me is a long-term thing - I might not see the real benefit of it. But my mother would have planted a lot of trees when she was here, and I’m benefiting from that now.”
Nia is a suckler beef farmer with 60ha of bog/heath and wet grassland in the heart of the Slieve Aughty Mountains breeding Hen Harrier Special Protection Area (SPA). Nia joined the Hen Harrier Programme in 2018 and her first major interaction with the Programme was to volunteer for a feed block and grazing trial that we started that year. The trial focused on increasing grazing on areas of bog/heath that are Molinia dominated to reduce serious fire risks. She worked closely with Agriculture Specialist Eoin McCarthy and bought cull cows specifically for the trial. The trial worked out extremely well for Nia, the cows, the habitat and the Project. The amount of Molinia in the trial area was reduced greatly and the cows came off the hill in great condition. Since then, Nia has worked closely with the Project Team, participating further in trials, providing a stunning venue for some of our training videos, and farming in this very special landscape. She is always thinking about how to improve her High Nature Value farmland in the most sensitive way to benefit her farming system and the biodiversity present on the farm. She planted strips of Wild Bird Cover to help improve the food supplies for small birds (an important prey for Hen Harrier) and intends on reducing the Molinia on her hill land further over the coming years. She has a great attitude and a clear love of the place she grew up on and farms. You can see Nia, her beautiful hill farm and her lovely dog Rosie in our Hill Management training videos.
Nominator: Caroline Sullivan, Assistant Manager, Hen Harrier Project