Best Farming Practices (2008): Profit from a Good Environment

Out-wintering stock



The soil and weather conditions on your farm may mean it is not possible to out-winter stock without damaging the land or compromising the welfare of your animals. Out-wintering large numbers of stock is a pollution risk both for groundwater and for surface water. But in some areas of the country you can extend the grazing season or keep stock outside throughout the winter if you take precautionary action to protect the soil.

Take care when identifying fields for out-wintering stock. Free-draining fields, away from watercourses, are at least risk of poaching and of breaking cross-compliance rules.

Move electric fences frequently and use back fencing to prevent poaching and to control access to forage crops, supplementary feed and cut grass left on your fields.

You can use stand-off pads to enclose large numbers of sheep and cattle in winter, as long as the pads are lined and you build in enough storage to safely contain and recover the effluent produced. Discuss your plans for stand-off pads with us so that we can help you come up with an environmentally sound design.

You can retain topsoil strength and resilience to trampling by drilling forage crops directly into glyphosate-treated old pasture. But beware of compacted soil that is at risk of runoff.

Place winter feed in the fields in dry weather to avoid traffic on wet soils. You can improve access by creating suitable tracks for stock and vehicles, reinforcing gateways with stones and using mobile feeders on hard surfaces.

Outwintering in upland areas is more difficult, but low stocking rates and regular movement of feed sites can take the risk acceptable. Move stock to fresh land when field conditions deteriorate or when there are clear concerns about animal welfare. Plan ahead for extended periods of bad weather by identifying and preparing the land you will use.

You can back fence to control access to heavily used areas, and fence off watercourses and boggy areas to avoid soil loss.

Construction of a well-drained lying area with its own shelter belt will provide cattle with a refuge where they can rest with minimal heat loss.

Helpful hints

  • Use level, well-drained fields - away from watercourses - for outwintering stock.
  • Move supplementary feeders to prevent poaching.
  • Reduce stocking by selling barren ewes after scanning in mid winter.
  • indicates where you may get grant funding in support of particular practices Provide dry lying areas and shelter belts for periods of bad weather.
  • Direct drill suitable forage crops into sprayed off grass or stubbles with good soil structure.
  • Back fence stock and place feed before the winter.
  • indicates where you may be at risk of a fine or other financial penalty if a practice is not followed Do not cause damage by overgrazing or supplementary feeding.

Your fields will be vulnerable to poaching if you do not move feeders regularly. Move stock to fresh land when field conditions deteriorate.
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