Perhaps last year’s harsh cold wet weather, this year’s wet spring along with a very hot dry summer illustrated the benefits to be had from our hedgerows for livestock.
Hedges and hedgerow trees really do help animals avoid the extreme effects of climate which was very evident this year as animals sought out both shelter and shade.
A thick (but still wind permeable) hedge will provide shelter for a distance roughly three times its height – with less turbulence beyond this zone than a solid barrier (such as a wall) generates.
Less obviously, hedges and in particular trees will provide firm ground above their root plate which water infiltrates much faster. In addition, this dry area is much less suitable to the snails that host liver fluke.
Increasingly, hedges are not just being considered for their agronomic benefits. There is major governmental and public interest in the other services they provide – the provision of the following habitats, such as food for wild birds, animals that have become increasingly scarce, predatory insects that attack pests a mechanism for capturing carbon, stabilising soils, reducing wind erosion and for protecting plants adapted to their shade and shelter.
Given the relatively low tree cover in Northern Ireland hedges are also important for their ability to link wildlife areas in otherwise open landscapes. They are a key component of the landscape.
Grant support for planting new hedges (and woodland) has been available under the Environmental Farming Scheme. This scheme offers the chance to plant hedges and trees to help protect the environment and will help you to future proof your farm against the effects of the increasingly extreme weather and provide enhanced environmental benefits.
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