Hill Farm Centre
The Hill Farm Centre is located at Glenwherry in the Antrim Hills between Ballymena and Larne. Partially situated within the Antrim Hills Special Protection Area (SPA) for Hen Harrier and Merlin, the Hill Farm Centre extends to almost 1,000 hectares and has 100 suckler cows and 1,100 breeding ewes.
The enterprises at the Hill Farm Centre demonstrate to students and farmers effective management practices of upland and hill land with a focus on the integration of livestock and environmental management. Improvements in environmental management have been driven by targets set as part of the Glenwherry Hill Regeneration Project.
Effective grazing management of the land with cattle and sheep, predator control, and habitat management has led to significant increases in the number of hares, farmland birds, in particular breeding waders and grouse. For the first time in 20 years, a pair of curlew fledged chicks on the Hill Farm in 2017 and this success has been repeated each year since. This project involves CAFRE collaborating in a partnership with the Irish Grouse Conservation Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group (NIRSG), the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), and the Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI).
The Hill Farm Centre also demonstrates a range of technologies including the effective use Electronic Identification Devices (EID). It has been very beneficial in helping to monitor growth rates and performance throughout the year and also to help select the best performing animals to be retained as breeding stock.
In Northern Ireland’s Centenary Year, CAFRE staff have been reflecting on the farm’s history. In 1963 the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, or the ‘Ministry’ as it was known then, bought the Hill Farm from the Antrim Estates Company for £39,100. The farm was acquired for demonstration and training purposes.
Over the years, the Northern Ireland agriculture industry has evolved and environmental policies have changed, but one constant has been the Hill Farm’s role in supporting students, farmers and upland land managers develop innovative practices.
Catch up with CAFRE’s Bryan Irvine and Dr Steven Johnston as they discuss how sustainable environmental and livestock management integrate: