Ann and Paddy O’Reilly are the owners of two award-winning forests in County Cavan. These forests are now maturing on-farm assets that have also enhanced the picturesque surroundings near Crossdoney and Belturbet.
Both Ann and Paddy have no regrets about their decision to establish their farm forests. “The soil is good here and the trees have done well for us. We also believe we have established a valuable resource as well as a nice legacy for the future”.
Ann’s Farm Forest
Ann established a 10.6ha forest at Bellahillan, Co. Cavan in 1997. Her forest won first prize at the RDS Forestry Awards in 2010 and subsequently second prize at the 2017 awards.
Ann discussed the benefits of a farm forest with a local forestry consultant. He advised her to plant a species mixture that included 6ha of Oak woodland on the hilly land and 4.6ha of Norway spruce on the lower ground with larch included for further landscape enhancement. The farm is 3km from Lough Oughter, which forms a complex of lakes on the Erne water system.
The forest itself has thrived since its establishment and received a first thinning in 2015.The thinnings from Norway spruce provided material for the manufacture of paling posts and pallets, helping to create valuable local employment.
Thinning of the oak was also undertaken, with the harvested wood making excellent firewood. Ann’s mixed forest is delivering many benefits. While the oak will take longer to mature into highly valued woodland, it already provides a range of additional environmental services.
The faster growing Norway spruce at Bellahillan is a complementary crop, providing periodic income from thinnings and is projected to mature around 2030, delivering on Ann’s financial objectives.
Paddy’s Decision to PlantAccording to Paddy, “the land is excellent for growing trees as it has a favourable nutrient status from previous farming activity. I now have a vigorously and productive forest”.
Like Ann, Paddy also established a mix of tree species including Sitka and Norway spruce along with 5ha of Oak. “We were very satisfied with the establishment work that was done,” said Paddy. Paddy’s forest also achieved an RDS Awards accolade in 2012.
Paddy continued: “We also received good advice and technical support from Kevin O’Connell, our local Teagasc forestry adviser. The forestry premiums are very attractive and make for good cash flow.”
Paddy has also put in bird boxes through his forest to help wildlife and has hosted quite a few visits by local schools, walking groups and forestry students from the nearby Teagasc College in Ballyhaise.
Teagasc Forestry Adviser Kevin O’Connell says “that the decision to plant should not be taken in isolation but should be part of the whole farm planning process.
Forestry is an important resource that provides a range of benefits to local economies in Co. Cavan. According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine statistics, 462 farmers in County Cavan received a total of €2,383,273 in forest premium payments in 2017. In the same year, an estimated 71,000 cubic metres (m3) of timber was harvested. Of this, an estimated 25,000 m3 was harvested by private forest owners.
The value of timber sold by private owners in the Cavan that year is estimated to be in the region of €638,000 which feeds into the local economy. Forestry also contributes significantly to enterprise in County Cavan, with an estimated 380 employed in the forest sector. For every 100 jobs in the forestry sector, an extra 90 full-time equivalent jobs are provided in other sectors of the economy such as tourism as Killykeen forest park.
Image Source: Ray Faden