Grianan Farm (the levels outside the lake boundary) is owned by Donegal Creameries Plc, it is being farmed partly as organic and partly mainstream.; The organic section is farmed by both Donegal Creameries and a tenant dairy farmer, producing organic milk.
The farm was managed in the past as a large dairy farm along with arable crops grown as feed, it was this intensive patchwork of crops with good grass that made it so attractive for wildfowl. During the late 90's and early 00's, the farmed changed to largely arable crops with much less grass, this had an impact on the birds and numbers dropped. This along with unregulated hunting resulted in significant intervention being needed.
NPWS initiated a Farm Plan agreement with Donegal Creameries and with the tenant farmer, which provides the geese and swans with suitable feeding on the fields during the winter months. The Farm Plan includes a need for the provision of quality grass during the winter. This has been further enhanced by the start up of the Organic Dairy Unit on the farm in the last five years. In an interesting development, the wildfowl seem to prefer the organic grass to the non-organic grass, this now poses questions for the Farm Plan and how best to adapt to the preference of the geese and swans.
There is also a significant area of wet grassland around the lake, this area of wet grassland is farmed less intensively. As wet grassland becomes rarer throughout the country, it is increasingly difficult for wading birds to find suitable habitat for breeding. When NPWS took control of the site in 2002, a combination of scrub encroachment and rush growth made the wet grassland unsuitable for breeding waders. Initially we brought in heavy diggers to clear large scrub, this was followed by intensive mowing and weed licking to control the rush. This is now an annual maintenance issue along with suitable grazing from cattle. The wet grassland is grazed by a tenant farmer from May to October each year with a prescribed number of cattle.