Say hello to Ballyloughane’s Newest Residents, the Dexter Cow Family!
Exciting Biodiversity Pilot Project Commencing in Renmore in 2024
Ballyloughane will become home to a new group of residents in 2024, with the arrival of a family of Dexter cows, as part of an exciting biodiversity pilot project by Galway City Council. Working with a local farmer, Galway City Council will bring eight Dexter cows to graze the headland east of Ballyloughane Beach over the winter months until March 2024, as part of the ‘Buaile Bó Ballyloughane’ pilot project. Local schools and community groups are invited to participate in an ambassador programme to share information about this native Irish breed, agriculture, and its relationship to Irish biodiversity.
Speaking about this exciting project, Mayor of the City of Galway, Cllr Eddie Hoare commented, “With the arrival of these lovely little cows into Ballyloughane, Galway City Council is delighted to launch the Buaile Bó Ballyloughane project. Local residents and school children will have a chance to learn about these lovely animals, and how they help support wildflowers, pollinators and biodiversity underground, by grazing on the long grass around the headland. Galway City Council is engaging with local schools and community groups to participate in an ambassador programme to share information about the cows, agriculture and its relationship to Irish biodiversity. The ambassadors will be provided with a printed vest and hat to show their participation in the project and their willingness to share details of the project with members of the public. I hope that anyone who is interested in finding out about the project will drop by and say hello!”.
Paula Kearney, Galway City Biodiversity Officer commented, “Dexter cows work very well for conservation and biodiversity projects because they are hardy, and relatively small – so they are not severe on the land. They are good ‘browsers’ and can live on low-quality vegetation and forage for their food. Grazing the long grass in Ballyloughane over winter will help to provide good conditions for wildflowers such as Knapweed, Red Clover, Birds-foot trefoil, and Meadowsweet to establish in the spring - as the grass is kept low, and the cows are removing thatch and creating small patches of bare ground for wildflowers. When the Dexter cows move to other pastures in the summer, we hope to see a species-rich meadow establish in this area, with a diversity of native Irish flora, in turn attracting pollinators such as bees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and other beneficial insects and wildlife such as frogs and hedgehogs. We are delighted to be working with local councillors, schools, active retirement groups, residents and GAA as part of this project, and look forward to seeing what impact our newest residents will have on biodiversity in Ballyloughane”.
Workshops and information sessions for local schools and residents will take place in the New Year to introduce and discuss the project, and to hear your feedback.
In the meantime, if you have any queries, please contact Parks.Department@GalwayCity.ie or 091 536 400.
This project is supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Service under the National Biodiversity Action Plan (2017-2021) and the Creative Ireland Programme.
Dexter cows and calf waiting for their big move to Renmore!
Did You Know?!
- A ‘buaile’ is a cattle enclosure’, and sometimes referred to as a booley.
- Dexter cattle are a native Irish breed and are believed to the one of the oldest cattle breeds in Europe. Hailed as the smallest of the European cattle breeds, Dexters are about half the size of a traditional Hereford and about one-third the size of a Holstein Friesian milking cow.
- Dexter Cattle are used for conservation grazing in many parts of Ireland. Their grazing habits support meadows to establish, with a variety of species, sizes and shapes of leaves. These meadows also support unseen biodiversity underground - The diversity of plant roots plays a key role in the widespread storage of organic carbon. High carbon habitats support biodiversity and provide a Nature based Solution (NbS) to removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The rooting diversity also supports a complex community of soil microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) and invertebrates like earthworms, ants and nematodes which build the soil through their activities.
Wildflower Meadow - We hope to see a view like this develop in Ballyloughane when the Dexter cows leave the pasture
From Shoots to Roots
Learn More about Irish Meadows on this flyer from Pollinators.ie
Great Irish Grasslands
Learn about Irish Grasslands from Great Irish Grasslands
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Buaile Bó Ballyloughane Project?
Buaile Bó Ballyloughane is a Conservation Grazing Pilot Project which will be carried out on public lands near Ballyloughane Beach. A ‘buaile’ is a cattle enclosure’, and sometimes referred to as a booley.
Working with a local farmer, Galway City Council will bring eight Dexter cows to graze the headland east of Ballyloughane Beach over the winter months until March 2024. Local schools and community groups are invited to participate in an ambassador programme to share information about this native Irish breed, agriculture, and its relationship to Irish biodiversity.
2. Why was Ballyloughane Beach chosen for this Project?
GCC is investigating opportunities across the city as demonstration sites for Nature Based Solutions (NbS). We are following the guidelines of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which is an organisation that is part of the United Nations, and covers global conservation:
‘NbS are actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems, which address societal challenges such as food security, climate change, water security, human health, disaster risk, social and economic development effectively and adaptively, while simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.’
Developing NbS requires a flexible management approach, which includes experimentation, learning, reflexivity, and reversibility.
Ballyloughane Beach was identified as a prime area for a project that would promote the growth of native wildflowers that are already within the wider area, and also safe nesting and feeding areas for coastal birds.
Proposed location of fencing for Dexter Cattle on the headland at Ballyloughane Beach
The area is currently managed as ‘no mow’ under the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. Under this plan the area is mown once or twice a year during the autumn / wintertime. This area is heavy grassland which restricts wildflowers from establishing.
GCC has monitored this site over a year and have found that the existing paths around the grassed areas are used for walking by the public and people do not walk through the grassed areas.
The area is also used extensively by dog walkers. Research shows that well over 50% of coastal bird disturbance involves a dog, mostly involving dogs which are off lead. Dogs are doing what comes naturally and following their instincts - however birds see dogs in the same way as they see any predator, and being continually disturbed can harm their chances of survival. The fenced off area will provide a safe refuge for wildlife whilst maintaining the access to the paths for members of the public and their dogs.
3. Why has fencing been installed?
The fenced off area will provide safe grazing for the cows and a haven for wildlife while maintaining access to the paths for members of the public and their dogs. The fencing will act as a wind break and will be enhanced where needed to provide shelter for the animals.
The fencing was installed in late 2023 in advance of the arrival of the cattle in early 2024, to avail of funding from the National Parks and Wildlife Service which had to be used by the end of 2023.
4. Will I be able to access the headland area to walk?
Throughout this pilot project, members of the public will have full access to the existing amenity paths throughout the headland in Ballyloughane.
5. Where will the cows come from?
We are working with a local farmer from County Galway, who will provide a small herd of Dexter cows. The ownership and welfare of these cows remains with the farmer. GCC staff and project ambassadors will help provide support in keeping an eye on the welfare of these small cows.
6. Why are Dexter Cows being used?
Dexter cattle are a native Irish breed. They are a small breed, hardy animal and because of their size (Dexters are about half the size of a traditional Hereford), they are not severe on land, and they like a good variety of vegetation.
For this reason, Dexter Cattle are used for conservation grazing in many parts of Ireland, including the Burren, Co. Clare, and the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin.
Dexter Cow and Calf
7. What are the Environmental Impacts of this Project?
An assessment of the impacts of the pilot project on the natural environment has been undertaken as part of an Appropriate Assessment Screening Report. Appropriate assessment comes from the Habitats Directive (92/43/ECC), which seeks to safeguard the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. The report concluded that there are no likely potential impacts, whether direct, indirect or cumulative/in-combination, which could give rise to significant effects on the qualifying interests or special conservation interests of any designated European Site, in view of their conservation objectives.
The proposed works will not involve the removal of the existing grassland habitat, but the works will improve the plant species diversity, with positive knock-on benefits for insect and bird species.
This area of grassland has been maintained through mowing over the last number of years. Therefore, no scrub vegetation or hedgerows were removed to install the fencing.
Runoff: Due to the small herd of cattle, the site will not be overgrazed, therefore there will be no runoff from the pastures to the sea. Cow manure will be readily broken down and recycled into the soil increasing biodiversity.
Emissions: The grasslands at Ballyloughane have been managed as ‘No Mow’ under the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. Under this plan the area is mown by specialist machinery once or twice a year during the autumn / wintertime. Moving away from the usage of powered equipment will further reduce emissions and disturbance factors for pollinators and other wildlife.
Heavy machinery compacts the ground and mowing removes minerals. Cows in contrast recycle what they have eaten, via dung, soil invertebrates and fungi.
The greater diversity of wildflowers and grasses, which we expect to see once the cows move to other pastures in March 2024, can reduce emissions from animals.
These wildflowers and grasses will form meadows, or communities of perennial herbaceous plants with a diverse range of root depths and leaf cover. The diversity of plant roots in a meadow plays a key role in the widespread storage of organic carbon. High carbon habitats support biodiversity and provide a Nature based Solution (NbS) to removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Meadows can store 500% more carbon than fields of pure grass.
By eating and trampling vegetation, dung and dead plant material becomes available to ground dwelling organisms and fungi that store carbon and recycle the minerals. In turn these are used by the roots of plants, shrubs and trees.
Biodiversity: A typical meadow can support thousands of different species including a vast array of bees, hoverflies, beetles, spiders, grasshoppers, butterflies, moths and worms. Pollinators are in decline because of a loss of habitats like meadows which contain the native wildflowers they need to survive. You can see some of the species we expect to grow in Ballyloughane as a result of this pilot in this graphic by Vicky Bowskill or this leaflet about Meadows from Pollinators.ie
8. Is Planning Permission required for this Project?
Planning permission is not required for this project.
9. How will this Project impact on invasive species?
There is an active treatment and control programme ongoing at Ballyloughane by the Parks Department in relation to invasive species. The maintenance of the grassland is undertaken mindful of the locations of the invasive species.
10. How will the Pilot Project be assessed?
While the cattle themselves have heritage value and raise awareness of where food comes from, they are also there to provide very important ecosystem services, by supporting biodiversity, and offering more opportunities for engagement and learning about our local environment.
Galway City Council has engaged with independent ecologists and students from ATU for this project. They will record species diversity and carbon sequestration within the paddocks prior to grazing. Wildflower meadow development will be monitored when the cattle have been removed to assess the project effectiveness.
This pilot project is a great chance for Galway City to show their commitment to increasing biodiversity and our resilience to Climate Change. There is great scope in Ballyloughane to provide for eco-tourism and demonstration sites particular to an urban Nature Based Solutions for water quality, biodiversity and the climate change crisis.
11. What consultation has taken place?
Galway City Council’s Biodiversity Officer has been engaging specific groups in the Renmore Community over the last few months to discuss this very exciting Biodiversity pilot. These include a City Councillor, schools, sports clubs and active retired groups. This engagement has been very positive and there is considerable support for the project with a number of Project Ambassadors already signed up!
There will be further engagement on the project and Galway City Council is in the process of preparing media and education material which will be published on our website, social media, and local media. A leaflet about the project will also go to residents in the Renmore area prior to the cattle being introduced to the fenced areas.
We welcome your engagement and support for this pilot project, which will start in early 2024.
12. Who are the Buaile Bó Ambassadors?
Galway City Council is inviting members of the local community to become Buaile Bó Ambassadors. Buaile Bó Ambassadors will wear a purple hat and high vis vest when they are in the headland area, showing that they are happy to chat to anyone who is interested in the project, and to explain it to them.
If you would like to find out more about becoming a Buaile Bó Ambassador, contact Parks.Department@GalwayCity.ie or 091 536 400.
13. How is this project funded?
The 'Buaile Bó Ballyloughane' Conservation Grazing Pilot Project is funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service under the National Biodiversity Action Plan (2017-2021) and the Creative Ireland Programme.
14. Where can I learn more?
There will be workshops in the new year will the local community and schools regarding the project.
You can also read more at www.GalwayCity.ie/BuaileBóBallyloughane