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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Livestock and grassland webinar follow up

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Conversations we're having
Cows grazing on rolling green hills
Credit: Judy Dean

On Monday 20 November, we held a webinar for livestock and grassland farmers. Our aim was to go through the 2023 offer for those farm types and answer your questions.  

You can watch a recording of the webinar.

We want to make sure that these webinars are designed and delivered in a way that presents the information clearly and in an engaging way, so we encourage feedback. 

These webinars are very well attended so there’s been a lot to reflect on! We’re already starting to turn your suggestions into actions. We’re changing the way we present, making it much clearer for you to know where to go for information and support — whether you’re totally new to the offer or familiar with it. 

As part of this work to improve, in future posts promoting upcoming webinars, we will set out the offer for that sector ahead of time and provide links to help you prepare. 

Once a webinar is over, we’ll publish the recoding of it in a follow up post like this one. In it, we’ll summarise the top-voted questions with responses. 

And, if you’ve read the guidance and still have questions, we’ll set out the best ways for you to get answers as quickly as possible. 

Top questions from livestock farmers

Is the annual health & welfare review compatible with the Red Tractor Health plan? If it's not, why not?  

An annual health and welfare review and a Red Tractor visit have very different objectives. For example, unlike A Red Tractor visit, the Review is not an inspection. That means that it isn’t possible to use the Review to satisfy the requirements of a Red Tractor visit.

The Review has been designed to act as a complement to existing assurance schemes, however. For example, we specify that disease testing for the Review could be used for the purpose of meeting accreditation scheme requirements, if that scheme allows. That means that farmers who already test for BVD, PRRS or anthelmintic resistance now have the option of covering that cost as part of a Review, freeing the money they were already spending on that testing to be spent on something else.

It's also possible to schedule a Red Tractor visit and Review for the same day. You could start with an assurance visit and moving into a Review. It is down to the vet and farmer to decide how to use their time effectively, this could include an in-depth discussion on issues highlighted in a Red Tractor inspection, as a complement to that activity. 

Why is the annual health and welfare review for cattle restricted to BVD only? Will there be alternative topics for evaluation for vets next year (blood testing in sheep, for example)? 

BVD, as well as PRRS and anthelmintic resistance, were identified as the priority issues to focus on through co-design with industry, vets, non-government organisations and scientists. That's because they offer the greatest opportunity to make a positive impact on overall health and welfare and the associated environmental, productivity and trade benefits.

This will help us show how we are making progress and allow us to continue to build the support available to tackle animal health and welfare. That will include keeping the targeted diseases / conditions under review and expanding our focus when the time is right. 

Will there be any grants for sheep infrastructure, housing, yardage or dung storage? Or other animals for that matter? 

In future, we intend to extend the animal health and welfare infrastructure offer to include grants for adult cattle, pig and poultry housing which have greater infrastructure needs compared to the sheep sector. Support for sheep farmers is available through the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund which offers grants for specific items of equipment to increase productivity, boost environmental sustainability and improve animal health and welfare. 

Top questions from people considering SFI

Who can apply for SFI and when can they apply? 

At the moment, we’re only allowing BPS eligible farmers to apply for an SFI agreement. This is because their details are already registered with the RPA. In future, we’ll allow a wider range of farmers to apply. We’re encouraging those who are eligible not to wait to start their SFI agreement. Check your eligibility for an SFI agreement. 

Tenants and landlord permissions 

Some tenants joined the webinar and asked about landlord permission to enter SFI. Tenants may need to get their landlord’s permission – it will depend on the terms of their individual tenancy agreement.

In practice, most SFI actions probably won’t breach tenancy agreements, but it’s the tenant’s responsibility to check this is the case. However, (unlike CS) SFI doesn’t specifically require tenants to confirm landlord permission as part of application process.  If relevant, it’s just part of their overall confirmation on management control when they make their SFI application. 

Can you add further actions to your SFI agreement? 

It is possible to add actions to your agreement. You can contact the RPA to discuss your options. 

How do SFI and CS work together? 

You can be in more than one scheme – so long as the actions they commit to are compatible and we’re not paying for the same actions twice. 

In future, you won’t have to navigate multiple schemes and forms to access payments. You’ll be able to access the Sustainable Farming Incentive and Countryside Stewardship a single, simple service that shows all the available options in one place. In the meantime, in the SFI guidance for each action, you’ll find a table showing CS and ES options and their compatibility with each SFI action.  

After 2024, when the full and updated scope of the SFI and CS offers are available, we plan to review our schemes and payment rates on a regular, systematic basis so that they continue to deliver the intended outcomes, work for farmers and provide value for money. We will set out our planned approach to this soon. 

How do payments work for hedgerow management? 

Let’s go through the hedgerow actions first.

If you assess and record the condition of your hedgerows, you'll receive £3 per 100 metres for one side of an eligible hedgerow per year. The SFI action is called HRW1. You can do it alongside all CS management options, including BE3 (management of hedgerows) and all ES revenue options.  

For management of your hedgerows, you’ll receive £10 per 100 metres for one side of an eligible hedgerow per year. This SFI action is called HRW2. You can do HRW2 alongside all CS management options, apart from BE3 (management of hedgerows) and you can do HRW2 alongside all ES revenue options, apart from boundary options. 

If you maintain or establish hedgerow trees, you’ll receive £10 per 100 metres for both sides of an eligible hedgerow per year. This SFI action is called HRW3. You can do HRW3 alongside all CS management options, including BE3 (management of hedgerows) and all ES revenue options, apart from boundary options. 

A few people asked about the payments for hedgerows as they relate to sides and lengths. If you control both sides of the hedge you can claim each side for actions HRW1 and HRW2 - for example if you have have management control of both sides and claim both actions you can get £26 per 100 meters. Alternatively, where you only have management control of one side you can only claim for the side you have control over.

Once your SFI agreement starts, you may be asked to submit an RLE1 form and sketch map if no hedgerows are shown on your digital maps for the relevant land parcel. You do not need to check your hedgerows on your digital maps before you apply for the SFI actions for hedgerows. 

Some people in the webinar queried how the management payment was calculated. Areas under HRW actions are converted from meters to a notional ha for the management payment calculations. HRW1 and HRW2 both have a notional ha of 0.0005ha per meter and HRW3 has a notional ha of 0.0010ha per meter (difference being that HRW1 and HRW2 only pertain to one side of a hedge – whilst HRW3 covers both sides). If there are multiple HRW actions taken on a parcel, the HRW action with the greatest notional ha is used to count towards the management payment. As the HRW actions are boundary actions, this calculation is separate from any “in parcel” SFI actions. 

Read the full guidance for hedgerow actions.  

How do payments for grassland actions work? 

Let’s look at the SFI actions first. There are 2 low-input grassland actions for which you can be paid. You can manage grassland with very low nutrient inputs (outside SDAs). This SFI action is called LIG1. You’ll receive £151 per hectare (ha) per year. LIG1 and LIG2 have the same payment rate. The other is an action to manage grassland with very low nutrient inputs (SDAs). This action is called LIG2. The guidance for LIG1 AND LIG2 explains each action in detail. 

A few people asked when there would be more actions available for permanent grassland, species rich grassland and semi-improved grassland. Through CS we currently pay for a number of grassland options including species rich grassland and we are working on these offers to improve them where possible. We hope to publish more details on these in the new year.  

For those who asked about the use of legumes, we can confirm they are not compatible with low input grassland because this action is targeted at improved grassland where there is little species diversity. Low input grassland include species rich grasslands that would be damaged if over sown with clovers.  

If you are thinking about stacking actions, please consider compatibility. GS2/LIG1 and NUM2 are incompatible and cannot be stacked as this would represent incompatible funding as GS2/LIG1 is payment for maintenance of areas of grass and NUM2 for areas of legumes. This is mirrored in existing CS with GS4: legumes and herb rich swards being incompatible with GS2 

A few people asked about the difference in payment rates for grassland actions and this can sometimes depend on how you use the land. For example, the gross margins for arable crops are usually higher than those for livestock enterprises.  We do currently pay for actions on permanent grassland, and are improving the offers for species rich grassland which we’ll tell you about in the new year. You can find more information in the Grassland section of our January publication. 

People also felt that an important part of grassland management is creating habitats like ditches. We do intend to introduce payments for a wider range of field boundaries in the future which includes ditches. You can find more information in our January publication in the wetlands habitat section. 

I'll set out the current offer for livestock and grassland farmers at-a-glance below.

The offer for livestock and grassland farmers

If you're a livestock farmer, consider:

An annual health and welfare review

Farmers who keep cattle, sheep and pigs can get funding to pay for a vet to visit their farm and carry out a health and welfare review of their livestock. You can get: 

£684 for pigs  

£436 for sheep  

£522 for beef cattle  

£372 for dairy cattle     

Apply for an annual review. It's now open to non-BPS registered farmers.

Grants to improve your slurry storage 

Slurry Infrastructure grants of between £25,000 and £250,000 are available to improve your slurry storage to go beyond legal minimums.  Read more about the Slurry Infrastructure grant and apply. 

If you’re a grassland farmer, there are other actions to consider:

Payments for soil actions 

If you assess your soil, produce a soil management plan and test the organic matter in your soil, you’ll receive £5.80 per hectare (ha) and £95 per SFI agreement per year). This SFI action is called SAM1. 

If you establish multi-species cover crop over the winter months, you’ll receive £129 per hectare per year. This SFI action is called SAM2. 

If you establish and maintain herbal leys with a mixture of grasses, legumes, and herbs, you’ll receive £382 per hectare per year. This SFI action is called SAM3.  

The guidance for each action, linked above, shows which actions are compatible with Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship.  

Payments for moorland actions 

If you assess your moorland and produce a written record, you'll receive £10.30 per hectare (ha) and £265 per SFI agreement per year. This SFI action is called MOR1. MOR1 can be carried out alongside all CS management options (if located above the moorland line) and all ES revenue options (if located above the moorland line). 

Payments for buffer strips 

If you establish a 4m to 12m grass buffer strip on improved grassland, you’ll receive £235 per hectare per year for the total area of land you choose to enter. This SFI action is called IGL3. The guidance sets out compatibility with CS and ES.  

Payments for farming in protected landscapes 

Through the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme, farmers and land managers can get funding to deliver projects in National Landscapes (formerly Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty), National Parks and the Broads.  

Where to next? 

If you’re totally new to the Sustainable Farming Incentive offer or thinking of adding more actions to your existing agreement and want to learn more, visit our dedicated SFI site on GOV.UK. 

The SFI Handbook for the 2023 offer sets out the official guidance in a single PDF document. The official SFI guidance is also presented in individual, accessible webpages on GOV.UK. 

If you want to talk to someone about your application, the RPA has a dedicated team in place to help.  

If you’d like an independent adviser to talk you through the complete farming offer for free, you can find a local adviser in your area and make direct contact. Defra is paying these advisers to give farmers support through the agricultural transition.   

The best place to see all the funding opportunities for farmers in England is Funding for farmers and land managers on GOV.UK.  

Through Countryside Stewardship, you can get funding to protect and improve the land you manage. You can have an SFI agreement and a CS agreement at the same time - you just won’t be paid twice for carrying out the same action. You can also apply for CS grants. Find them all by using the CS grant finder on GOV.UK. 

Earlier this year, we created a single page on GOV.UK called ‘Rules for farmers and land managers’. This page groups together rules for farmers in England in one place. It’s arranged in a more intuitive way, by the activities that you do. For example, using pest control products. 

We’ll always let you know when new funding is available to farmers in England, so subscribe to the Farming blog. Every time we publish a post about our work or a new funding opportunity, you’ll get an email notification. We tend to publish posts twice a week.  

Finally, if you have a question about our work or suggestions, please leave a message in the comments section. 

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  1. Comment by toby posted on

    is LIG2,the same as in the handbook,where it is called IGL2?

  2. Comment by James Fanshawe posted on

    You dodge the question on grassland.

    Why dont you publish how you have calculated the grassland rates?

    Its all very well saying that gross margins have been higher for arable but much grassland could be ploughed and become arable except that you put several obstacles (and cost) in the way and may refuse permission. So why not pay the same rate for all land?

    And you are under an international obligation to maintain a certain percentage as grassland. So why dont you pay grassland farmers who help government meet their obligations?

    Who says that BVD is the most critical disease to eliminate so that is what the pathway pays for? Where is the evidence. I am not aware of any instances where beef farmers were consulted. Why is Johnes for example not an area for concentration and thus eligible under the beef pathway? Or even give farmers recognition of where they are on their journey of disease eradication and allow them to chose the disease for which testing should be carried out under the pathway?

    • Replies to James Fanshawe>

      Comment by beckybriggs posted on

      Hello James,
      We try to answer as many questions as possible in the webinar, apologies if yours was missed. Payment rates for the SFI 2023 offer have been calculated using current data on the costs to a typical farmer of delivering the SFI actions (income foregone plus costs).  Overall, the payment rates are intended to be fair, while offering value for money to the taxpayer. We use ‘income foregone plus costs’ to calculate SFI payment rates because this is how we calculate rates for other existing schemes, such as Countryside Stewardship.  We want to have fairness across our schemes. This way of calculating payment rates fits with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.  It helps our schemes to have little or no trade distorting effect, and therefore qualify as ‘green box’. We are currently exploring alternative approaches to determining payment rates, including ‘payment by results’ through our programme of ELM Tests and Trials.

      In response to your questions about the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, we have worked closely with key industry stakeholders to co-design the Pathway – including farmers (both beef and dairy), vets, academics, and industry representatives. The initial cattle priority of BVD was agreed with industry, whilst also acknowledging that it was not the only important cattle disease affecting farmers. Although the Annual Health and Welfare Review requires diagnostic testing for the identified priority disease of BVD, the Review has been designed to be flexible. We recognise that many farmers are already working with their vets to improve animal health and welfare on their farm. What the Review can offer over and above this is funding towards an additional 2 to 3 hours of vet time that has a completely bespoke conversation about the health and welfare issues on farm at its core, and to signpost where further support might be available.


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