William Mulhall

William Mulhall is an organic beef farmer in Allenwood, Co. Kildare. He farms 66 hectares (163 ac) of grassland and has and around 30 hectares (74 ac) of mixed forestry, with both a mix of both broadleaves and Spruce. He hasn’t looked back from converting to organics in 2015 – he is enjoying the greater amount of control he has over what happens on the farm. He has one of the first herds of Speckle Park cattle in Ireland and is the Treasurer of the Speckle Park society. They’re hardy and a low input animal and he’s hoping to expand more into direct selling as a more financially and environmentally sound business model.

Wary of disruptions to supply chains he operates a ‘home bred and home fed’ closed loop system where all animal feed is produced on site. He manages the grassland with a form of mob grazing, uses multispecies swards for good quality silage and sows combi crops for supplementary feed to achieve this.

William participated in the Protecting Farmland Pollinator EIP where he more than doubled his farm pollinator score on the results-based scheme. Now a fierce champion of biodiversity on his land, he has installed owl and kestrel boxes and has developed a particular interest in insects ‘it’s pretty crazy to see what’s floating around at night-time that you’d have no idea about’.

Always learning more about wildlife, he hopes to have an increased percentage of Scot’s Pine in a new Native woodland plantation as they encourage the red squirrel which he says ‘makes my day when I see one’. Already on the farm are healthy, minimally managed hedgerows which feature holly, guelder rose, blackthorn and spindle amongst others. Wild orchids have been left alone and now have a thriving population in field corners. He says ‘we don’t get excited about scruffy bits now that we can see what they can do’.

NOMINATOR: Saorla Kavanagh, Teagasc
Willie Mulhall runs an organic calf to beef suckler system in county Kildare. He has a “home bred, home fed” moto and is managing Speckle Park cattle. He farms 158 acres of grassland and 70 acres of mixed forestry under continuous cover. Willie has great interest and knowledge in nature and the environment. He transfers this knowledge to farmers, the local community, national and international governments and his children. He has adopted a very low input system to allow nature to find a balance in order to maximise the ecosystem services on the farm. He is looking for a simpler way of farming rather than an intense, high input, high-cost regime. He is watching and waiting for the natural balance of the farm to reshuffle since he converted to Organic five years ago and aims to eliminate as many inputs as possible.

He changed his management to suit the local environment. He is calving late to tie calving in with grass growth. He grows clover, combi crops, and mixed species swards and has a number of permanent pastures rich in floral diversity including many species of orchids. Willie experiments on his farm to try to find new ways to help biodiversity that have knock on effects for farm economics. By increasing birds of prey on the farm, he has eliminated the need for rodenticides. He maximises the benefits of his hedgerows for biodiversity and livestock by cutting hedges on a 3-year rotation.

Willie is a member of the Irish Organic Association and the Bee Friendly Farmers WhatsApp Group. He monitors Moths on his farms and submits data to the National Biodiversity Data Centre. He has worked with BirdWatch Ireland to install Kestrel and Owl boxes on the farm. As well as farm walks, he hosts and coordinates fundraising BBQs to bring friends and family together on the farm to raise funds for different charitable organisations.

There are visiting Lapwing and Curlew on the farm. He has created solitary bee nesting sites as part of the Protecting Farmland Pollinators EIP Project. He more than doubled his whole farm pollinator score within the course of the project. He has helped to promote pollinators and biodiversity and communicate what actions can be taken to help pollinators on the farm through, social media, hosting farm walks and though public speaking. Willie is looking to improve biodiversity and his work life balance while maintaining a productive farming system.

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