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Hedge cutting – a contractor’s perspective


Hedge cutting contractor Liam Herlihy, Co Limerick has changed his hedge cutting practice from cutting the hedges as a flat to an ‘A roof’ as Liam calls it, while still cutting the growing point of the hedge. Catherine Keena and Francis Quigley Teagasc discuss the benefits of sloping the hedge sides

(Photo above: Contrasting hedge cutting practices with the hedge on right showing recommended ‘A roof’ shape)

Sloping sides on a hedge

Hedge cutting contractor Liam Herlihy, Kingsland, Bruee, Co Limerick has changed his hedge cutting practice from cutting the hedges as a flat to an ‘A roof’ as Liam calls it, while still cutting the growing point of the hedge. He decided that for the sake of the birds and the environment, he would leave a sloping top on the hedges and is delighted with the outcome. The hedges are better and thicker and higher. In a few years it will thicken even more and will be great for the birds and the environment. Sloping sides on a hedge allows more light get to the base encouraging growth lower down, where it is wanted.

Some large trees are present on the farm where Liam and his wife Geraldine run a dairy enterprise. In the future they are going to retain a whitethorn or blackthorn tree and allow one grow up in every hedge. This is another change in practice that Liam is delighted to undertake as a contractor, now that he understands the benefits that a thorn tree in a hedge brings for biodiversity – flowers for bees, fruit and perching posts for birds.

This is the second year leaving an ‘A roof’ on the hedges. According to Liam, it’s actually very easy on the machine as well, because a lighter hedge up on top is being cut. It is actually easier and faster to cut the hedge as a slope because the hedge cutter head can run at 45 degree angle on both sides and then the operator can move on. When cutting hedges in a flat-topped manner, you have to cut them and go over them two or three times to get them nice and level.

Retaining a tree sapling

Where farmers need or want to leave a whitethorn or blackthorn tree to grow up in the hedge, for example every 300m on derogation farms, the farmer should identify the thorn sapling to be retained.  Liam advises farmers to mark the spot for the hedge cutting operator. This can be done using a temporary pigtail stake or a more permanent painted fence post. After a few years there will be no need for any marker, as the thorn tree will stand out by itself. It may be more efficient to retain a small bunch of thorn saplings in the first year, which can be thinned down to a single stem in later years.

To see all of the activity of Hedgerow Week follow this link  https://www.teagasc.ie/environment/biodiversity--countryside/farmland-habitats/hedgerows/