Greening - A new opportunity for livestock farmers?

CAP reform will be implemented in 2015 and, as everyone affected will be aware by now, the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) is to be replaced by the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), about 30% of which will require adherence to the new ‘greening’ rules. It is important to realise that these rules are compulsory, so if you haven’t already investigated how they will affect your farming operations from next year it would be well worth doing so in the near future.

We don’t intend to give an exhaustive interpretation of the new rules here, but as we understand them at present if you have less than 10 hectares (approx. 25 acres) of arable land there will be no requirement for change. If your arable area is between 10 and 15 hectares (approx. 25–37acres) the new crop diversification rules may apply to you, and if you have more than 15 hectares of arable land you may need to have Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) as well.

Arable land is defined as land cultivated for crop production, including animal feed crops such as maize, forage rape and root crops. It also includes fallow land and temporary grassland, so it is important to check the definitions that apply on your farm, and also to check on the various exemptions that may also be relevant.

While none of us enjoys jumping through the various bureaucratic hoops that are set up to make life complicated, these new rules could present an opportunity to take stock of your farming operation and see whether they could, in fact, help to reduce reliance on bought-in concentrate feeds. 

For example, if your holding has between 10 and 30 hectares of arable land and does not qualify for any exemptions you will be required to grow at least two different crops and the largest of these must not cover more than 75% of the area. The crops must be of different genera, e.g. not just two types of cereal.

If you have more than 30 hectares of arable land you will have to grow at least three types of crop, the largest not more than 75% of the area and the two largest not more than 95%.

While there are many possible options for crop diversity, those that should be of particular interest to livestock farmers are legumes – peas, beans and lupins – which can serve a dual purpose in replacing or reducing the need for bought-in (possibly imported) protein, and have a beneficial effect on soil fertility because of their nitrogen-fixing ability. Furthermore, they may count towards your EFA exemptions.

Beans and peas, while not supplying protein of ‘soya quality’, can, nevertheless, play a useful part in beef, dairy and sheep diets and can be harvested either when their moisture content is 25-30%, crimped, treated with Crimpstore and ensiled, or allowed to get a little drier (18-20% moisture) then rolled and treated with Propcorn NC for storage in a dry grain store or bin. 

Alternatively, taking beans and peas as a wholecrop silage can provide a high-protein forage which, when treated with Safesil, which overcomes the problems of the crop’s high buffering capacity and potential for aerobic instability, can also supply a good level of ‘scratch factor’ to both dairy and beef rations.

Lupins can be treated in the same way, but they present the exciting opportunity to produce ‘soya quality’ protein on your own farm.

The LUKAA (Lupins in UK Agriculture and Aquaculture) Project is a joint initiative co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Technology Strategy Board and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) with industrial support from: Alltech, Alvan Blanch,
Birchgrove Eggs, Ecomarine, Germinal Seeds, Kelvin Cave, NIAB TAG, PGRO, Soya UK and Wynnstay PLC, and with the University of Plymouth and IBERS, Aberystwyth University has shown that farmers can reduce their reliance on bought-in soya and other
imported proteins by growing and processing lupins on farm.

With varieties now available to suit most parts of the UK with soil pHs below 7, lupins are certain to become more popular, particularly now that they can earn you ‘greening points’, and release your farm in whole or part from the vagaries of the world soya market. 

Some useful information can be found at the following websites: 

www.gov.uk/cap-reform

http://www.nfu-cymru.org.uk/news/cap-reform-2014-2020-what-has-been-decided/ 

and at:
http://scottishgovernment.presscentre.com/News/Clarity-on-greening-f29.aspx

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