The links between farming practices and biodiversity is well established. This paper develops a farm typology based on eighty hill sheep farmers on the biodiversity rich uplands of the Iveragh peninsula, SW Ireland. Despite outward appearances considerable diversity was found to exist within their livelihood strategies and farming styles. Using a combination of a detailed farm management survey and grazing state evaluation, the farms were classified into four distinct types environmental stewards, support optimisers, traditionalists and production maximisers. Our results suggest that knowledge of the different farming styles is critical for more effective biodiversity conservation and for the design of more targeted agricultural and agri-environment policies. We suggest the need to move away from the 'one size fits all' approach, which on the Iveragh currently rewards the most overgrazed farms with the highest agri-environment payments. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.