Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 21 August 2017

Gorse fires leave hill farmers with forage shortages

Gorse fires blazing in Co Sligo last week. Sligo County Council estimate that approximately 4,000ac was affected or threatened by fires in the Killery Mountains area
Gorse fires blazing in Co Sligo last week. Sligo County Council estimate that approximately 4,000ac was affected or threatened by fires in the Killery Mountains area
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

Wildfires in the west have left hill farmers without sufficient foraging lands for livestock, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has warned.

After days of raging gorse fires across thousands of acres in Sligo, Galway, Mayo and Donegal many farmers have been left with no option but to relocate animals.

Fire fighters also battled blazes across Midland and Roscommon bogs over the weekend.

Last week, the Irish Wildlife Trust claimed some fires were "deliberately set" by hill farmers to clear heather from the land.

However, Vincent Roddy INHFA chairman insists hill farmers are not to blame and claims "copy-cat" arsonists may be the root cause.

"These fires are putting livestock, property, fencing, homes and people including those fighting them at risk as well as damage to wildlife.

"For farmers it's causing major problems. Livestock remain under risk. For many putting sheep back on hills after lambing the forage needed is now destroyed," he said.

Mr Roddy said the wildfires highlight the need for changes regarding controlled burning.


Currently it is illegal to cut, or destroy hedgerows and burn vegetation in uplands between March 1 and August 31 in order to protect breeding birds.

However, Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is working to push the 2016 Heritage Bill through the Oireachtas, which would allow cutting, destroying and removal of hedgerows in August and burning in March on a two year pilot basis.

"It will help stimulate re-growth but more importantly it will act as a buffer in the event of wildfires," said Mr Roddy.

Seanie Boyle, a sheep farmer from Falcarragh, Co Donegal fought fires near his farm last week. "The wind was changing in all directions. The fear I had was for my forestry plantation. Between 15 fire fighters and ourselves we got it out but a big area is left burnt. I can't get my head around who would be crazy enough to start these fires. There's not a hope in hell a farmer would do it. Some now have to move flocks because they've nothing to eat," he said.


For Stories Like This and More
Download the FarmIreland App


Indo Farming