If you are planning on planting forage crops on your farm, the sooner it is done the better.

When it comes to forage crops, a day in July is worth a week in August and a month in September. As we are now in September, it is time to plant.

Many farmers opted not to plant, as new rules from the Department requiring a grass lie-back made it impractical. However, those rules are now changed and a stubble lie-back can be used.

The U-turn is welcome, but did come very late and there is no doubt that farmers will be frustrated that they did not plant or that they planted grass and added costs to their system, but at least the rules are now sorted for next year.

New rules

The new rules still require a lie-back area, but it can be stubble. If you have 7ha of forage rape to be grazed, you need 3ha of lie-back made up of grass or stubble.

A buffer zone of 3m - made up of grass or stubble - is required on the field boundary and this must be extended to 4m where there is a watercourse. The buffer strip may be used as part of the lie-back area.

Here are the requirements for the stubble lie-back area:

  • The animals can access the lie-back area at all times.
  • There is sufficient green cover established in the lie-back area, as required under the stubble management requirements of the nitrates regulations.
  • There is no repeated poaching of either the lie-back area or the catch crop area.
  • The Department stated: “For the avoidance of doubt, livestock may be grazed on the entire area. However, landowners must manage the parcel to prevent excessive poaching or damage which could lead to the erosion of soil. This is critically important.

    “The Department will closely monitor the implementation of the GAEC 6 standard to ensure that its objectives are being achieved and will review these arrangements in the light of experience.”

    ACRES

    If you are planting under ACRES catch crops need to be planted by 15 September and they cannot be grazed until 1 January.

    For more details on requirements for growing catch crops in ACRES, click here.