The new rules for catch crops for ACRES 2023/2024 effectively rule out grazing for sheep over the winter period.

Rule one: No grazing before 1 January. Hill sheep and weaned lambs are usually crying out for good grazing from 1 December, due to the lack of pastures at that time of year.

Rule two: The catch crop must have a three-metre border all around the field. This could amount to one quarter of the field being under-utilised.

Rule three: A lay back area of three hectares for every seven hectares of catch crop must be available. Very few tillage farmers can provide an adjacent cultivated stubble field or pasture.

Rule four: Sheep grazing for two to 2.5 months of winter enhances the soil, while increasing the thrive of the sheep immensely. Effectively no grazing of sheep means we must use chemicals to eliminate the residue prior to ploughing for spring.