Biodiversity seems to be the buzz word in agriculture for 2020.
Those who have issues with mainstream agriculture - many of whom are Green Party members - are driving the agenda that Irish agriculture has a biodiversity crisis. Indeed some have stated to me that Irish dairy expansion has contributed to this crisis.
For a true perspective on this, we firstly need to understand what biodiversity actually is.
In simple terms it is the variety of plant and animal life in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable.
As a dairy farmer who rapidly expanded post-EU quotas - trebling the herd in size since 2015 - I've found myself looking at the farm over the last few months questioning myself whether we lack biodiversity or not.
On the farm we have over 2000 mature trees ranging from various species of beech and horse chestnut, an abundance of oak, sycamore and lime trees and our ash trees have thankfully escaped the dreaded Ash dieback disease.
Over one kilometre of limestone walls are a haven for insect life but there is a lot of work in maintaining those walls and it certainly is something I need to improve on.
Our three kilometres of hedgerows are mature with a mass of whitethorn and in the last few years we have held back on hedge-cutting which has seen wild roses gain a better foothold.
Taking this decision on hedges can only benefit small birds.
I often question the hedge-cutting rules in Ireland. Currently we cannot cut hedges after March 1 to allow birds nest and we can resume hedge-cutting after August 31. But when you think about it, autumn is the time when hedges are full of berries providing a vital source of bird food.
In any case, my thinking now is we will try and cut hedges every third year.
In order to expand the dairy herd we reclaimed 70 acres of low lying land. Many will say that land is merely growing a monoculture of Perennial Ryegrass Sward (PRG) now. As it stood it was really only growing a monoculture of rushes and now we have clover incorporated into most of those PRG swards.
For the land reclamation we fenced of the vast majority of the 2km of streams running through the farm which feed into the River Bride on our boundary. Those streams are full of trout fry and I've seen kingfishers on many occasions.
Apple tart will never be in short supply in Aherla as we have our own orchard which no doubt has benefitted from the many beehives we have.
My favourite aspect of the farm has to be watching the kestrels in flight and seeing our large population of hares having a morning get together.
And as we still have a 500m open section of the old Macroom railway which we use as a farm roadway, I often encounter on-coming traffic in the form of a fox or hare out for a stroll.
One labour intensive task we took lately was to cut all the overgrowth away from electric fences on a large section of the farm using a strimmer and petrol hedge cutter as part of our policy of using less glyphosate.
Some may say we're mad, but it has definitely increased the amount of wild flowers we have in our hedges.
Seeing biodiversity thrive on the farm gives me a great sense of pride. It is something the many farm tours that have visited the farm comment on as they are not used to seeing such variety in other countries.
That said, I do believe we can do more and greatly welcome Minister Creed endorsing the need for a biodiversity survey on Irish farms.
As it is, our farm ticks many boxes for the GLAS scheme . I did enquire whether we should join a few years ago, but was told by an agri advisor that the cost of implementing it and managing the paperwork would leave me no financial gain from the scheme.
Meanwhile, in some ways it seems that if you are not growing multi species swards lately you really aren't with the programme.
I have no doubt there may be some benefits to growing them, but surely there are some negatives and I believe we need more research on this.
Teagasc set up a clover trial in Clonakilty which delivered great knowledge - maybe it's time they developed a full multi-species swards trial.
Some Green Party members seem intent on driving an organic farming agenda with us all growing multi-species swards.
But demand for organic produce has not taken off to a level where we as an industry can go down that route.
If I had a wishlist for biodiversity it would be for a TAMS-style scheme where we could apply to undertake specific biodiversity projects on the farm.
I would love to set a 16ac wildflower meadow and manage it correctly, but currently the seed alone will cost €1000 an acre. That's hardly viable when insects will see more benefit than the dairy herd.
In closing, I would ask does the picture painted of our farm depict a biodiversity crisis? I don't think so