The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett has encouraged farmers to prolong the cutting of hedgerows for as long as possible this autumn/winter.

Despite the fact that hedges can be cut from next Thursday 1 September, the minister has said that there are still many sources of food in hedges that birds need to survive.

“The first of September is the date in which hedges can be cut, but rather than just starting straight away on the first of September, I would encourage, where possible, that farmers cut their hedges as late as possible, to allow birds to avail of those much needed food sources later on this autumn and throughout the winter," she told Teagasc's Signpost webinar on hedgerow management on Friday 26 August.

The minister said she accepts that in certain circumstances this isn’t going to be possible, but suggested that farmers practice more “sympathetic cutting” and leave some areas of the hedges uncut.

"We see our hedges now as not just boundries and stock-proof fences, but as essential habitats. We know our numbers of wildlife are in decline, some bird species and insects also.

"Everything that could rely on a hedge is challenged when we remove those vital fruits," she said.

She also said that hedgerows around the country are looking bigger and taller from what she could see from her travels in the last year and a half.

The importance of hedgerows is filtering through

“We do see, particularly on social media, bad examples of hedgerow management, but there’s also a lot of good out there.

“I for one can say, having travelled around the country, existing hedges are looking bigger and taller.

“I think that’s all progress and I think the importance of hedgerows is filtering through,” she said.

Ireland has an estimated length of about 700,000km of hedgerows, covering about 4% of the Irish landscape, the minister explained.

This, she said, is quite significant, but there is still more farmers can do in terms of best practices when it comes to hedgerow management.

"Remember that it is through best practice hedge-cutting that our hedgerows can flourish and our appreciation for hedgerows can continue," she concluded.