In 1990 over 60 percent of the land was devoted to agriculture, most of which was grassland pasture. However, in 2009 the percentage had dipped to 55%. See the agricultural and other land-use in Ireland by opening the CORINE land-cover map for Europe and zooming to Ireland. 

Over the past 50 years grassland farming has changed from traditional haymaking to silage feed for cattle that are overwintered in slatted houses. This change has produced the combined environmental risk of silage effluent and increased loads of animal manures, both of which pose a threat to water quality if not managed correctly.

Direct payments to farmers by the EU are no longer linked to increased animal numbers or to agricultural output and it is hoped that this will prevent the kind of environmental degradation that was caused by excessive sheep numbers in upland areas in the past.


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