There is a lot of talk doing the rounds of farmers potentially cutting stock numbers in light of escalating input costs or purchasing the minimum numbers required to satisfy scheme stocking rate requirements.

The latter aspect is an area farmers need to be careful about, with forward planning advisable to give yourself the most options.

For example, I have received phone calls from farmers in the last week who would normally purchase cattle in line with grass growth increasing, but this year, some are planning to frontload purchases to be in a position to sell cattle earlier for fear that markets could be under pressure next autumn.

Predicting market prospects for the latter half of the year is impossible at this stage, but leaving yourself with more options is one way of potentially reducing your exposure to market dynamics, such as a higher number of cull cows coming on to the market.

Stocking rate requirements

With regards scheme requirements, the Areas of Natural Constraint is the scheme that will require the most attention. There are two stocking rate requirements eligible farmers must satisfy.

Firstly, applicants must satisfy a minimum stocking rate averaging equal to or greater than 0.15 livestock units per eligible forage hectare across the 12-month calendar year.

The second aspect is where the 31 May date comes in to play, as applicants must also maintain a stocking rate equalling or greater than 0.15LU/ha across a consecutive seven month period within the calendar year.

Leaving yourself with more options is one way of potentially reducing your exposure to market dynamics

Where farmers are currently not satisfying the seven month consecutive period, the final date to do so is 31 May. Take note, however, that if this is the avenue selected, then numbers will need to be retained until the end of year.

Also, if stock are being maintained for the minimum period of seven months, then the stocking rate will need to equal or exceed an average of 0.26LU/ha during this period to achieve an average of 0.15LU/ha across the full year.

Failure to satisfy either of these requirements will deem an applicant ineligible for payment. The exception to this rule is where a lower stocking rate is commanded under an agri-environmental scheme or commonage framework plan.

Animal values

There is also some confusion surrounding changes to the livestock unit value of different categories of stock.

These changes relate to schemes under the impending CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027 and are not applicable to the ANC scheme in 2022.

They do have a role to play in determining stocking rate calculations for proposed eco schemes that will be introduced in 2023 and based on 2022 stocking rate calculations.

More information on this is available on

For the purposes of the 2022 ANC scheme, the livestock unit equivalents which will be used are detailed in Table 1. Note that since 2020, donkeys can only be used to satisfy 50% of a farm’s stocking rate requirement.

With regards horses, they are deemed to be eligible to satisfy ANC requirements if they are held on an equine breeding enterprise. This is defined in the terms and conditions as a holding which has bred a foal in either 2021 or 2020 from a mare registered on the holding in 2021.

The mare must be registered in a stud book approved by the Department with pedigree recorded (sire and dam).