Biodiversity & the ‘cow’ question; Gleann Buí Farm

Biodiversity & the ‘cow’ question; Gleann Buí Farm

It’s National Biodiversity Week and I thought I might share a little about our farm with you! We ventured back to the land only in the last couple of years and are still finding our feet! We don’t have it all figured out yet, but the one thing we both agreed on from the very start was we had to protect, conserve and manage this patch of land gifted to us! We’re lucky the land was never farm intensively and we take a holistic approach to managing it, so we can conserve & enhance this diverse meadow. Our cows are better for it also!

My studies focused on geography, climate change, agriculture and the intersections between them. My work experience since I returned to university has been in policy and research. So how did I end up farming and managing cows of all things! Well in short it wasnt that I woke up one day and decided I’d farm, it’s kind of evolved and been a journey that I now find myself farming with my partner (It’s a two person operation here in Mayo!). I feel that my perspectives around farming and environmental degradation has shifted, for the better I think.

Coming from a climate change perspective I struggled with the notion of managing ruminants. Having carried out research on sustainable diets meant I faced numerous hours of questioning what was the right choice here! So when faced with this dilemma I delved into the research! In short, cows, managed extensively and holistically have a role to play in conserving our patch of biodiverse, High Nature Value (HNV) farmland!

For me, the problems associated with livestock and climate change is a direct result of modern, industrial production and consumption of meat! Too many refer to cows as livestock units, they are living beings not a production unit! Many say we need to stop livestock farming. I agree when the sentence is “we need to stop industrial livestock farming”. Many say we need to stop eating meat. I agree when the sentence is “ we need to stop eating so much meat”.

It’s impossible to cover all the points and counter-arguments that surrounds “the cow question” in this article. It’s certainly not my intend here to tell you what to do. All I can do is give you my perspective on what we do and that is this; some people will always eat meat, so all we can do practically is manage our farm in a way that conserves and enhances the species rich grasses and produces a high quality, ethically reared 100% grass fed cow (for meat or dairy!). We’ll only produce what the land can manage without negatively impacting the natural world that it’s apart of! That means we only keep a small herd, we don’t cut for silage till our meadow has seeded, we protect and add to our hedgerows and graze in a way that allows space & time for wildflowers to thrive!

Sounds great, but that comes at a cost to both you and I. To sustain a livelihood and continue to farm in harmony with nature, we need to ask a higher price for our stock. I also hope that paying that little bit more for meat/dairy means we’ll all consume less, but better! Unfortunately, the current, dominant systems does not allow for this. And that is a conversation for another day!



  It’s National Biodiversity Week and I wanted to share the beauty of nature on our farm! I’ve actually started uploading and documenting biodiversity on our farm through the National Biodiversity App! I highly recommend it!

From us in Mayo,

Sinéad & Mick

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