Donegal County Council’s Water & Environment Directorate seeks tenders for the services of Farm Inspectors to carry out a programme of farm inspections

A contract will be awarded for the out-sourcing of a series of Farm Inspections in various “At Risk” catchments in Co. Donegal.

The specification may include carrying out of Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) and Investigative Assessment in certain agricultural catchments, as required.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has allocated some short-term funding to local authorities to increase efforts to deal with several water quality pressures in high risk water bodies, the largest of which is agriculture, under the 2nd River Basin Management Plan and continuing into the 3rd cycle plan yet to be published.

As a first step, an increased programme of agricultural inspections will be compiled and commenced in these water bodies in the coming months. The resources for this work will be drawn from the private sector and this contract is for the engagement of suitably qualified contract staff to carry out the required inspections in various catchments within Donegal County Council’s functional area.

These inspections will focus primarily on farmyards and compliance with the Good Agricultural Practice Regulations, eg – slurry storage, silage pits, manure pits/dungsteads, minimisation of soiled water, drains and adjacent water-courses, including cattle access and farm roadways.

Initial planning, selection of sites and follow-up actions, including enforcement will be carried out by local authority staff. The Council will draw up a weekly programme of inspections in a small number of “at risk” catchments and these will be completed by the contract staff using a pre-set inspection template and recorded in electronic format. Farms to be inspected will include the full range of farm types, including, dairy, sheep and mixed farms.

Commonage / Non Commanage Uplands – Management Plans (Wicklow)–events/daily/sheep/suas-sustainable-uplands-agri-environment-scheme.php

Total of seven commonages and three non-commonage upland farmers are currently participating in SUAS

Powercourt Paddock (non commonage)

The commonage is located within the Eastern River Basin District within the Ovoca-Vartry catchment (10) and includes two sub-catchments – the Dargle Sub Catchment (Dargle_SC_010) and the Vartry Sub Catchment (Vartry_SC_010)

Glassavullaun Commonage

The commonage is located within the Eastern River Basin District within the Liffey and Dublin Bay catchment (09) and the Dodder Sub-catchment (SC010).

Ballynultagh (non commonage)

The commonage is located within the Eastern River Basin District within the Liffey and Dublin Bay catchment (09) and the Liffey Sub-catchment (SC010).

Kilmashogue Upland Farm (non commonage)

Corrasillagh Commonage

Slievemweel Commonage

The Slievemweel Stream, which is a tributary of the Coolballintaggart Stream rises within the commonage on the northern boundary of the commonage adjoining a forestry plantation. This stream flows south eastwards to join the Coolballintaggart Stream. The Askanagap Stream rises on the south-western side of the commonage. The Coolballintaggart Stream joins the Askanagap Stream (which is a tributary of the Derry Water) to the south east of the commonage. This tributary of the
Derry Water River then joins the main channel of the Derry Water, which flows north easterly towards Aughrim Village.

Carrigeenduff Commonage

A number of watercourses rise within the commonage on the ridge between Duff Hill and Mullaghcleevaun East Top. These are from north to south – Lavarnia Brook, two tributaries of the Cornagrainya Brook and Cywock Brook. These watercourses are all tributaries of the Inchavore River, which flows into Lough Dan. The Inchavore Brook and Duff Brook rise on the slopes of
Kanturk Mountain and also flow into Lough Dan.

Granamore Commonage

Ballybeg Commonage

The commonage is located within the Eastern River Basin District within the Ovoca-Vartry catchment (10) and the DerryWater Sub Catchment (10). A tributary of the Ballycumber South Stream (IE_EA_10D020600 Ballycumber South) rises within the
commonage on the north-western boundary of the commonage adjoining a forestry plantation and flows north eastwards to join a tributary of the Derry Water, which is then joined by the Askanagap Stream, upstream of Ballinglen Bridge. This tributary of the Derry Water River then joins the main channel of the Derry Water, which flows north easterly towards Aughrim Village.


The Glasnamullen Stream (also known locally as Barrack River) rises within the site almost bisecting the commonage and a smaller watercourse (known locally as the Ballinastoe Stream) is found along the southern boundary of the commonage where it adjoins the Ballinastoe Woods, which are owned by Coillte. Both of these watercourses are tributaries of the Vartry River, which feeds the Vartry Reservoir and as such form part of the drinking water supply for North County Wicklow and Dublin.

LESS Data by County, by Year: grant uptake for LESS equipment across LESS, OCIS & YFCIS


Download file in Excel:

Notes: as per PQ

Under the Ag Climatise Strategy, the targets regarding Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) include achieving a target of 60% of all slurry spread by LESS by 2022, 80% by 2025 and 90% by 2027. This action will make a significant contribution towards meeting our ammonia reduction targets.

The current Nitrates Action Programme provides for compulsory usage of LESS equipment for all farmers operating above 170 kg N/ha. In order to meet our ammonia and Ag Climatise targets, further compulsory implementation of LESS for more farmers is required and under the draft 5th Nitrates Action Programme there is a phased approach proposed for the introduction of LESS for less intensive farmers as follows:

(a) Low emission slurry spreading equipment must be used for the application of slurry on holdings with stocking rates of :

i. 170 kg nitrogen per hectare from grazing livestock manure or above prior to export of livestock manure from the holding. 

ii. 150 kg nitrogen per hectare from grazing livestock manure or above prior to export of livestock manure from the holding from 1st January 2023. 

iii. 130 kg nitrogen per hectare from grazing livestock manure or above prior to export of livestock manure from the holding from 1st January 2024.  

iv. 100 kg nitrogen per hectare from grazing livestock manure or above prior to export of livestock manure from the holding from 1st January 2025. 

v. slurry produced by pigs on any holding from 1st January 2023.

From 1st January 2023, low emission equipment shall be used to apply livestock manure to arable land or the livestock manure shall be incorporated within 24 hours.

An indicative budget of €395m was made available for TAMS II under the current RDP (2014-2020). The allocation for all the TAMS schemes including the Low Emission Slurry Spreading equipment for the transitional period to the end of 2022 is now €507.77m plus €96m under the European Recovery Instrument (EURI) for 2021 to 2023.

Under Article 17 of European Parliament and Council Regulation (EU) No. 1305/2013, grant aid can be provided for investments for a maximum of 12 months after the imposition of new mandatory requirements. This applies to all TAMS II schemes. TAMS schemes will continue to be grant aided under the Rural Development Programme until the end of 2025.

Examining the relationship between farmer participation in an agri-environment scheme and the quantity and quality of semi-natural habitats on Irish farms

Agri-environment schemes (AESs) have been developed by governments to improve biodiversity, reduce pollution from farming and encourage the provision of agriculture’s non-market benefits. Despite the substantial amount of money spent on designing, implementing and monitoring AESs, their environmental effectiveness is ambiguous. The objective of this paper is to investigate the relationship between farmer participation in an AES and the quantity and quality of semi-natural habitats found on farms. This study combines socio-economic survey data from Irish farms in 2012 with farmland habitat data collected in 2015–16 from a subset of participating farms in the original 2012 socio-economic survey. Given the voluntary nature of AESs, a matching technique is applied to control for self-selection bias and test whether farmer participation in an AES is related to the quantity and quality of habitats found on Irish farms. Although farmer participation in an AES is found to be positively related to habitat quantity and quality, we are unable to reject the null hypothesis of no statistically significant differences between habitat quantity and quality of participants in an AES and non-participants. However, results highlight that the share of habitat area (proxy variable for habitat quantity) varies significantly across farm households with different socio-economic characteristics, soil type, farm structures and location. Future policies could scale up the implementation of outcome-based payments or market-based instruments to incentivize farmers in improving their environmental performance. However, such policy improvements would still require the development of robust and transparent monitoring mechanisms.


Agricultural expansion and intensification has been associated with reductions in semi-natural grasslands and other habitats, and a decline in farmland biodiversity across north-west Europe and north America (Cerezo et al., 2011). Agri-environment schemes (AESs) and market-based instruments (e.g. taxes, subsidies and tradable permits, auctions) have been developed to incentivize environmentally positive practices on farmland. The majority of recent AESs in most European countries aim to reduce biodiversity loss and achieve other environmental goals (e.g. water pollution reduction and soil protection), by compensating farmers for income loss related to certain management actions that farmers perform to mitigate environmental externalities associated with intensive agricultural practices (Batáry et al., 2015).2 Nevertheless, the ecological impact of some AESs on biodiversity conservation is widely debated in the empirical literature (Arnott et al., 2019). In light of the concerns about the effectiveness of AESs to protect biodiversity, this paper aims to assess the environmental effectiveness of AESs by combining farmland habitat data with socio-economic survey data from Irish farms.

The Republic of Ireland (hereafter referred to as Ireland), is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish Sea, and the Celtic Sea (Fig A.1-Appendix A), hosts exceptional ecosystems that support a rich and diverse fauna and flora (EPA, 2020). In response to the European Union’s Agri-environment Regulation 2078/92/EEC, the Irish Government introduced a voluntary action-oriented AES, the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) in June 1994. REPS operated over four iterations (REPS I to REPS IV) (Finn, Ó hUallacháin, 2012). The Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) replaced REPS in 2010, followed by the Green Low-Carbon Scheme (GLAS) in 2015.

Since its inception in 1994, there has been strong demand for evidence of the environmental effectiveness of Ireland’s AESs, which have paid farmers over €3 billion up to 2010 (Finn, Ó hUallacháin, 2012). Owing to difficulties in isolating and quantifying outcomes from AESs, the lack of reliable baseline data to compare change over time, along with the complex non-linear dynamics of ecosystem features at various spatial and temporal scales, the evaluation of AESs in Ireland and other countries remains challenging. By also taking into account the potential self-selection bias induced by the voluntary (non-random) participatory nature of AESs and the criteria used in the selection procedure, the evaluation of AESs becomes extremely challenging as AESs results may substantially differ between participating and non-participating farms.

The voluntary nature of AESs makes self-selection into a scheme one of the key factors determining its environmental benefits and cost-effectiveness. AESs are expected to be more attractive for farmers who do not have to significantly change their management practices to qualify for scheme participation, than those farmers who incur a significant cost associated with participation (Kelsey and Seema, 2019). Researchers, designers and funders of AESs have long worried that environmental subsidies flow to landholders who would have adopted conservation practices even without participation in an AES, undermining the additionality and cost-effectiveness of AESs. Hence, ex-post scheme evaluations that do not control for self-selection, may produce biased estimates.

A central question in this paper is: Does quantity and quality of on-farm habitats differ between farms participating in an AES and non-participating farms? The relationship between the ecological status of habitats and participation in AESs accounting for self-selection bias has been analyzed by only a few studies. This study aims to contribute to the AES evaluation literature by combining socio-economic with farm habitat data and employing a quasi-experimental method that accounts for self-selection bias (inverse probability weighting estimator with regression adjustment) to compare the quantity and quality of habitats across farms participating in an AES and non-participating farms.

The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. Section 2 provides background information related to Ireland’s AESs. A brief review of the literature follows in Section 3, while Section 4 refers to the datasets used in this study. Section 5 introduces the conceptual framework and the econometric approach undertaken for data analysis. Results and limitations of the study are presented and discussed in Section 6. Finally, Section 7 provides some concluding observations and policy implications.

Section snippets

Ireland’s agri-environment schemes (AESs)

REPS was the first national AES in Ireland. The objectives of REPS were applied at farm level through 11 measures. REPS paid farmers for undertaking measures on a per hectare basis, with the subsequent iterations of REPS having differing rates of graduated payments. The highest payments were for the first 20 ha, with different rates of declining payments for additional hectares across different iterations of the scheme. This hectare-based variation in payment rates rendered farm size a strong

Literature review

As scheme effectiveness may depend on sufficient farmer participation levels (along with other factors), researchers have been interested in identifying the drivers of farmer participation in an AES, by using either data on observed farmer behavior (e.g. Wąs et al., 2021; Wilson and Hart, 2000) or conducting choice experiments (e.g. Espinosa-Goded et al., 2010; McGurk et al., 2020) and meta-analyses (e.g. Lastra-Bravo et al., 2015). As shown in many studies, there is substantial heterogeneity

Socio-economic survey

In late 2012, a questionnaire-based survey of 1000 Irish farms was conducted to gather information on variables including farmers’ decisions to participate in AESs, farmer socio-demographic profile, farm location and structural characteristics of farms (e.g. farm size, number of livestock units). The timing of the survey coincided with the conclusion of the AEOS scheme at a period of maximum occupancy in schemes, which had been in existence for a number of iterations, and before the launch of a

Conceptual framework

In a randomized experimental setting where participation in an AES would be randomly assigned to farmers, the effect of participation on habitat quantity or quality, would be assessed by calculating the difference Δ in outcome variables (habitat quantity, habitat quality) at time t between what is empirically observable after participation (treatment) and what one would have observed in the same period and for the same farmers, in the case of non-participation. However, calculating Δ is not

Descriptive statistics

Table 2 presents descriptive statistics for the full sample of farmers, plus descriptive statistics of the variables classified by participation status. These indicate that the share of semi-natural habitats of ecological value in surveyed farms was approximately 18%. Table 2 also shows that 45% of farms have participated in REPS IV or AEOS in 2012. The average differences in the characteristics of participants and non-participants are also presented in Table 2. Statistical tests show that the

Conclusions and policy implications

The sustainable management of natural resources and the provision of public goods such as biodiversity, nature-based cultural values and climate stability are key deliverables for modern agricultural production systems. During 1990’s, following the 1992 McSharry reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), voluntary AESs became an important mechanism to safeguard a wide range of environmental and aesthetic functions in European farmed landscapes. Given the growth of AES investment, the

Declarations of interest

This work was supported by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) (RSF15_S_619).

References (102)

Moving to more sustainable methods of slurry application: implications for water quality of waterbodies and water protected areas

This report is a quick scoping review (QSR) of peer reviewed and grey literature to provide an evidence-based comparison of different low emission slurry spreading (LESS) approaches in terms of farming practice, ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions and risk of water pollution from slurry spreading to inform farmer-focused guidance on LESS. The work is focused on slurry-borne contaminants that are relevant to the water quality objectives under the river basin management plans (RBMP) set by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), such as nitrate, phosphorus and faecal indicator organisms (FIO).

The key question addressed by the project is ‘What are the effects of low emission slurry spreading (LESS) approaches on water quality?

This QSR showed that the key factors influencing the impact of LESS approaches on losses of slurry-borne pollutants to water are precipitation, soil moisture, soil permeability and drainage, and presence of vegetation, be it crop, grass or vegetated buffer strips. The role of these factors has already been captured in the current regulatory framework, stipulating specific obligations for farmers under GBR18 and The Action Programme for Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (Scotland) Regulations 2008. The already existing guidance is still valid to protect water quality.  However, the choice of LESS approach should be determined by environmental designations and account for the most vulnerable environmental component (soil/atmosphere/ waterbodies) of the agro-ecosystem. Guidance to farmers should also consider a compromise between feasibility, cost, and environmental and agronomic objectives.

Low Emission Slurry Spreading Equipment Scheme (LESS) Grants under TAMS II

Among the items eligible for grant aid under TAMS II is low-emission slurry spreading equipment. Farmers can avail of grant aid of 40% while eligible young farmers are entitled to grant aid of 60%.


Total LESS grants €22,124,421.85

1650 LESS grants

Average grant amount Euro 13,408

AIE needs to be updated as CAP 2014-2020 was extended to end of 2022

Download LESS Grants in Excel here:

NMP Online: Teagasc Nutrient Management Planning (NMP) System

NMP Online is an online web application that allows Agricultural Advisors to prepare Nutrient Management Plans required for farm management purposes.

These plans are required both to show compliance with regulations and as a criteria for participation in farm management schemes.

NMP Online has met the requirements for Nutrient Management Planning (NMP); for participation in the GLAS Scheme and for submission of the NMP element of the Nitrates Derogation application. 

It has been developed to handle the complex legislative and compliance framework that governs the management of nutrients and protection of waters.

The system is used by more than 850 farm advisors nationwide, who now have more than 250k plans on the system for 60k farmers.

The NMP online system was developed by Teagasc in conjunction with Compass Informatics Ltd, starting in 2014. It has continuously evolved since, to comply with changing legislation and to introduce new features.

Technical Overview of NMP:

  • NMP web application instance (including ArcGIS and the ArcGIS API for JavaScript)
  • Batch import of soil sample data  (currently XML files exported from a Laboratory Information Management System to a network location) into the NMP database
  • Batch load, parse, validate Client data (currently XML files exported from Teagasc CRM to a network location) process and load into NMP database and log results.  This includes creating new clients and the update of client information where updates have been made to existing clients.
  • Interface with Teagasc User Authentication System (A&A) to authenticate users logging into NMP.
  • Interface with Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM) webservices (including downloading and uploading of information)
  • Interface with OSI MapGenie
  • Annual import of LPIS data (land parcel GIS data) from Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM)
  • NMP Mobile apps (IOS and Android and associated web service).

Reporting functionality:

• NMP produces the following bespoke reports, selectable from a Plan:
o Farmer Short
o Farmer Full
o Farmer Fertiliser
o Derogation
o Records
• Custom Map based reports in PDF from Map Viewer
• A PDF is created using a HTML to PDF parser (IronPDF)
• A soil sample report facility is also available with allows for a more dynamic type of reporting on soil samples
• Export of data to Excel

GIS functionality:
• ArcGIS API for JavaScript V4
a. API V4.x config via Nuget package
b. JSON configuration files for each of the map viewers (a) Land setup, (b) Farm Specific Features & (c) General Plan map viewer
c. Style widget icons and CSS (colour theme)
d. Layerlist layers for each of the viewers
e. MXDs for styling, labels etc.

• Land Setup digitisation
a. Digitisation widget
b. Plot Splitting functionality via Widget
c. Plot Combine functionality via Widget

• Farm Specific Features digitisation
a. Digitisation widget

• General Farm Viewer Print functionality
a. Custom print widget
b. Styling, user instructions & feedback area managed via widgets


Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM):
Information required for the Teagasc NMP system is provided to Teagasc using a DAFM Webservice hosted in DAFM. The webservice supports the following operations:
• Download of NMP Profile consisting of land parcels for the Herd. Only the Agent associated with an applicant are permitted to download their data from DAFM.
• Check that Agent has authorisation from Applicant to transfer to their Agency. The Agent receiving the plan has an active association to the applicant for the BPS or GLAS schemes.
• Upload of GLAS and/or Nitrates plan data. The Agent performing the upload of a GLAS plan must be registered with DAFM as a GLAS Agent.
• Bulk Parcels/Shapes data transferred periodically to NMP. Contains anonymised ParcelShape information. The Land Unit Number (LNU) is be used to link the Teagasc and DAFM systems.

The attached tender document gives some sample screenshots to illustrate functionality and data fields

Download more screenshots here:

NWP Demo

File name is NMP_Demo.mp4 view here:

Note: Where a new or amended NMP is submitted in 2022, only a plan produced by the Teagasc Online Nutrient Management Plan programme or the Farm Eye Nutrient Management Plan programme is acceptable.

Alternative to NMP Online

The Farmeye NMP (nutrient management plan) portal has been approved by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as an alternative to the Teagasc system for preparation of compliance-based NMPs such as derogation plans.

Also see