Annual Rules and Key Dates imposed on UK farmers

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  • Ever wondered how and when the Countryside (fields around us) are managed?


    l’ve witnessed farming methods become heavily controlled by rules and regs. More so inline with our membership to the EU. Since changes are afoot. I thought this “calendar” may be of interest to us real-time onlookers.

    Rules/dates have adapted to a changing climate and pressure from environmental groups. For instance with warmer weather, common seasonal birds may start nesting earlier and other flora and fauna can be effected actions of farmers trying to meet the demands of an ever increasing demand for food etc. Changing weather patterns Rain, frost go hand in hand with geological conditions. Eg impermeable soil types lead to added nutrient wash off in periods of heavy rain. This in turn pollutes rivers and streams leading to poor water quality and algae blooming, reduced oxygen availability for fish. Silted river beds reduced fish stocks and the knock on goes from there. So these rules on a fixed calendar (area dependent) are to protect the environment and not to limit the farmers.


    Each year farm activities are governed by strict time restrictions. Just like our course fishing season. There is reason behind the madness.
    These rules have consequences if ignored or abused. Mainly a financial consequence, £% reduction in subsidies, but prison sentences are not off the books for worst offenders. We all know rules set in stone sometimes are inconvenient and cheating will often occur. By understanding some of the key dates in farming we can appreciate why more tractors with muddy tyres are on the road in-front of us at certain times of the year.


    January

    All regions

    • 1 Jan – Rules in the 2020 Cross Compliance Guide must be followed from this date.

    England

    • 1 Jan – Organic manures with a high readily available nitrogen content such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge, can be applied to grassland and tillage land on shallow or sandy soils under suitable conditions. Note: Quantity restrictions must be met (SMR 1).
    • 1 Jan – Start date for assessing the annual amount of livestock manure applied (SMR 1).
    • 16 Jan – Manufactured nitrogen fertilisers can be applied to grassland and tillage land in suitable conditions (SMR 1).

    Scotland

    • 31 Jan – End of the closed period for the application of “organic manure with a high available N content” on all land for all soil types (other than sandy or shallow) (SMR 1).

    Wales

    • 15 Jan – Manufactured nitrogen fertilisers can be applied to grassland and tillage land on all soils after this date if conditions are suitable (SMR 1).
    • 31 Jan – Manure with a high readily available nitrogen content (for example, slurry and poultry manures) can be applied to grassland and tillage land on all soils after this date if conditions are suitable and you adhere to the quantity restrictions for application of these manures.

    Northern Ireland

    • 15 Jan – Ploughing can be carried out without restriction from this date (see GAEC 4).

    February

    England

    • 1 Feb – Organic manures such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge can be applied to grassland and tillage land on all soil types under suitable conditions. Note: Quantity restrictions must be met (SMR 1).
    • 29 Feb – End of quantity restrictions for organic manure – slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge (SMR 1).

    Scotland

    • 15 Feb – End of the closed period for the application of chemical/manufactured fertiliser on all land in the Lower Nithsdale, Lothian and Borders, Strathmore and Fife (including Finavon) and Stranraer Lowlands NVZ areas (SMR 1).
    • 20 Feb – End of the closed period for the application of chemical/manufactured fertiliser on all land in the Moray, Aberdeenshire, Banff and Buchan NVZ area (SMR 1).

    Northern Ireland

    • 1 Feb – Chemical fertiliser may be applied providing environmental conditions are suitable (SMR 1).
    • 1 Feb – Organic manures, including slurry, poultry litter, sewage, sludge and abattoir waste may be applied providing environmental conditions are suitable with wider waterway/lake buffers to the end of February ( SMR 1).

    March

    All regions

    • 1 Mar – Cutting or trimming hedges or trees is prohibited.
    • 1 Mar – Hedge and tree coppicing and hedge laying can continue from this date until 30 April (GAEC 7a and 7c).
    • 31 Mar – Water abstraction licence holders should expect annual bills or first-part charge if two-part tariff agreements are held (GAEC 2).

    Scotland

    • 1 Mar – Start of the ban on removing/burning scrub and gorse (SMR 2).
    • 1 Mar – Deadline for preparing and implementing a fertiliser and manure management plan (SMR 1).
    • 1 Mar – Hedge laying can continue from this date until 31 March (SMR 2, GAEC 7).

    Wales

    • 1 Mar – End of five-month storage period for all the slurry of livestock, other than pigs and poultry (SMR 1).
    • 1 Mar – Maintain minimum soil cover following harvest until this date (GAEC 4).
    • 15 Mar – Ban begins on burning heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium other than in upland areas (GAEC 6).
    • 31 Mar – Upland area ban on burning heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium begins (GAEC 6)
    • 31 Mar – Ban on carrying out any hedge-laying or coppicing starts unless with permission from the Welsh government for education or training purposes (GAEC 7).

    Northern Ireland

    • 1 Mar – Final date for online submission of Nitrates derogation application (see SMR 1).
    • 1 Mar – Final date for online submission of fertilisation account for the previous calendar year (if the farm has an approved nitrates derogation) (see SMR 1).
    • 1 Mar – Fertilisation plan for the current calendar year to be ready and available for inspection (see SMR 1).

    To be Continued

  • April


    • 1 Apr – Ban begins on burning heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium other than in upland areas (GAEC 6).
    • 1 Apr – 28-day window opens for winter or year-round water abstraction licence holders (authorising abstraction outside the period April to October) to submit readings to Environment Agency (GAEC 2).
    • 16 Apr – Upland area ban begins on burning heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium (GAEC 6).
    • 30 Apr – “Specified” livestock numbers kept on individual farms during the previous calendar year must be recorded along with the calculated amount of nitrogen they produced. The number and type of livestock in a building or hardstanding during the previous storage period must also be recorded (SMR 1).

    Scotland

    • 1 Apr – Start of the ban on hedge laying (SMR 2, GAEC 7).
    • 15 Apr – End of the standard muirburn season (SMR 2).

    Wales

    • 1 Apr – End of six-month storage period for pig and poultry slurry.
    • 30 Apr – Livestock numbers kept on individual farms during the previous calendar year must be recorded along with the calculated amount of nitrogen they produced. The number and type of livestock in a building or hardstanding during the previous storage period must also be recorded (SMR 1).

    Northern Ireland

    • 15 Apr – Ban on burning heather, gorse, whin or fern applies starts (GAEC 5).

    May

    England

    • 1 May – Ban begins on hedge or tree coppicing and hedge laying (GAEC7a and 7c).

    June

    Northern Ireland

    • 15 Jun – For derogated farms only: at least 50% of slurry produced on the holding must be applied by 15 June and slurry must be applied using Low Emission Slurry Spreading Equipment (LESSE).
    • 30 Jun – Nitrates record for previous calendar year must be available for inspection (SMR 1).

    August

    England

    • 1 Aug – Rural Payments Agency derogations begin for cutting or trimming hedges throughout August, to sow oilseed rape or temporary grassland (GAEC 7a).
    • 1 Aug – Closed period begins on applications of organic manure such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge to tillage land on shallow or sandy soils, except where crops will be sown on or before 15 September (SMR 1).

    Scotland

    • 1 Aug – Start of the closed period for the application of “organic manure with a high available N content” on all land (other than grassland) where the soil type is sandy or shallow (SMR 1).
    • 1 Aug – Cutting or trimming hedges/trees is allowed to sow oilseed rape or grass or another crop (subject to written consent from RPD) (SMR 2, GAEC 7).

    Wales

    • 1 Aug – Start of closed period for applying organic manure with a high readily available nitrogen content to tillage land on shallow or sandy soils (application is allowed between 1 August and 15 September as long as a crop is sown on or before 15 September).
    • 1 Aug – Hedges or trees may be trimmed on arable land where the normal agricultural practice requires a winter arable crops to be planted before 31 August, so long as nesting birds are not disturbed (GAEC 7).
    • 31 Aug – Hedges and trees can be trimmed after this date (GAEC 7).

    Northern Ireland

    • 31 Aug – Heather, gorse, whin or fern burning can begin from this date (GAEC 5).

    September

    England

    • 1 Sep – Ban ends on hedgecutting or trimming (GAEC 7a and 7c).
    • 1 Sep – Start of closed period for applications of organic manure such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge to grassland on shallow or sandy soils (SMR 1).
    • 1 Sep – Start of closed period for applying manufactured nitrogen fertilisers to tillage land (SMR 1).
    • 15 Sep – Start of closed period for applying manufactured nitrogen fertilisers to grassland (SMR 1).
    • 16 Sep – Start of closed period for applying organic manure such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge to tillage land on shallow or sandy soils that has been sown with crops on or before 15 September (SMR 1).

    Scotland

    • 1 Sep – Start of the closed period for the application of “chemical/manufactured fertiliser” on all land (other than grassland) (SMR 1).
    • 1 Sep – Start of the closed period for the application of “organic manure with a high available N content” on grassland where the soil type is sandy or shallow (SMR 1).
    • 1 Sep – End of the ban on cutting or trimming hedges/trees (SMR 2, GAEC 7).
    • 1 Sep – End of the ban on removing/burning scrub and gorse (SMR 2).
    • 15 Sep – Start of the closed period for the application of chemical/manufactured fertiliser on grassland (SMR 1).

    Wales

    • 1 Sep – Start of closed period for application of organic manure with a highly readily nitrogen content to grassland on shallow or sandy soils, and for applying manufactured nitrogen fertilisers to tillage land (SMR 1).
    • 15 Sep – Start of closed period for applying manufactured nitrogen fertilisers to grassland (SMR 1).

    Northern Ireland

    • 1 Sep – End of closed period for hedge, tree and scrub cutting (GAEC 7).
    • 15 Sep (midnight) – Closed period for chemical fertiliser application starts (SMR 1).
    • 30 Sep – Buffer zones for slurry are increased to 15m from a waterway and 30m from a lake (see SMR 1 and GAEC 1).

    October

    England

    • 1 Oct – Ban lifted on burning heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium on land in upland areas (GAEC 6).
    • 1 Oct – Start of closed period for applying organic manure such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge to tillage land on heavier soils – not sandy or shallow (SMR 1).
    • 15 Oct – Start of closed period for applying organic manure such as slurry, poultry manure and liquid digested sewage sludge to grassland on deeper and heavier soils (SMR 1).
    • 31 Oct – 28-day window open for readings to be sent to the Environment Agency by holders of summer water abstraction licences (authorising abstraction wholly within the months of April to October) (GAEC 2).

    Scotland

    • 1 Oct – Start of the closed period for the application of “organic manure with a high available N content” on all land (other than grassland) for all soil types (other than sandy or shallow) (SMR 1).
    • 1 Oct – Start of the standard muirburn season (SMR 2).
    • 15 Oct – Start of the closed period for the application of “organic manure with a high available N content” on grassland for all soil types (other than sandy or shallow) (SMR 1).

    Wales

    • 1 Oct – Start of closed period for applying organic manure with a highly readily available nitrogen content to tillage land on heavier soils (SMR 1).
    • 1 Oct – Start of six-month storage period for all slurry types.
    • 1 Oct – Burning heather, rough grass, vaccinium or gorse is permitted on upland areas from this date (GAEC 6).
    • 15 Oct – Start of closed period for applying organic manure with a highly readily available nitrogen content to grassland on heavier soils.

    Northern Ireland

    • 15 Oct (midnight) – Closed period for application of organic manures, including slurry, poultry litter, sewage, sludge and abattoir waste begins (SMR 1).
    • 31 Oct (midnight) – Closed period for application of farmyard manure begins (SMR1).

    November

    England

    • 1 Nov – Ban ends on burning heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium in all areas (GAEC 6).
    • 30 Nov – Two-part tariff agreement holders for water abstraction licences should expect to receive the second-part charge (GAEC 2).

    Wales

    • 1 Nov – Restrictions end on burning heather, rough grass, bracken gorse or vaccinium on all land types (GAEC 6).

    December

    All regions

    • 1 Dec – Annual inventory of sheep and goats must be completed (SMR 8).

    Scotland

    • 31 Dec – Deadline for submitting abstraction data returns to SEPA (GAEC 2).
    • 31 Dec – End of the closed period for the application of “organic manure with a high available N content” on all land where the soil types are sandy or shallow (SMR 1).

    Wales

    • 31 Dec – Organic manure with a highly-readily available nitrogen content can be applied to grassland and tillage ground with sandy and shallow soils (SMR 1).
  • wish they would burn heather in winter they always start in march and april, at lambing time causes no end of bother sheep and lambs all over the place and sometimes bird nests get burned. Guess they would never burn in december at peak grouse and pheasant time. We used to get lambs aborted or singles where doubles should have been .


    vet says its caused by stress,and sheep ingest a twin lamb if under stress, the hunt now goes on the moors all winter as the low lands are always wet nowadays,


    Parents have had to alter how they farm as shooting is so popular nowadays they gather sheep in if a shoot or hunt is happening as they get sick of there sheep scattered all over the place after such events.


    then they now shoot pheasant and grouse on the moors, so all winter its dogs horses lots of bangs and stressed sheep


    then come april the signs go out to tell the walkers to keep there dogs on a lead as its a critical time for grouse nesting birds, oh the irony.

  • Thats a hell of a list of compliance but as pointed out with the ever increasing rise in industrial sized activity on farm land for crops etc , in these times the impact on all wild life and the countryside as a whole is ever greater. It does need t be monitored and regulated as much as we need farmers to produce food etc they cannot have a free for all. I heard a very interesting report on rivers and water courses on Radio 4 a while back and they are suffering a double blow from farming activity from drawing water for irrigation to leaching of applied sprays and fertilisers and weather impacts. The good thing on that score is that the wildlife and environmental monitoring has risen ten fold and probably more, this needs to run hand in hand with farming practices.


    Me personally, I know the drive to produce cheap food is at an all time high, the environment will take a hit to acheive it and that shouldnt be so. I would rather see farming cleaned up even more with better animal welfare again and if that means the mean price of food goes up, so be it. I am not a cheap food shopper, A. for my health and well being and B. that money going to local growers and producers who care more for the land they farm.



    One reg that is being broken round here at the moment, a farmer has set a gas gun in a field not far from me and it starts going off at 5.15 a.m. I think they are not supposed to start until 6 am in areas of no dwellings and 7 p.m in more sensitive areas. Good job I'm an early riser and am genrally waking by 5 ish after a good 7-8 hour sleep and it is in the distance. One thing I do know is that farmers do rely on neighbouring dwellings to let them know if they malfunction which they do, by that I mean going off 8 times an hour instead of the regulated 3 times an hour or if they dont automatically switch off after 7-8 p.m.

    Over the last 40 years the countryside has got so much noisier than ever it used to be and the impact along with much more housing being put up which is expanding small villages which in turn again is going to have an impact on wild life with more cars commuting to towns and cities to work so more road kill is occuring plus the concreting and tarmaccing is causing more flooding. I wonder if the impact reports are as rigorous for new build housing complexes in the countryside is as rigorous as farming practices.

  • Over the last 40 years the countryside has got so much noisier than ever it used to be and the impact along with much more housing being put up which is expanding small villages which in turn again is going to have an impact on wild life with more cars commuting to towns and cities to work so more road kill is occuring plus the concreting and tarmaccing is causing more flooding. I wonder if the impact reports are as rigorous for new build housing complexes in the countryside is as rigorous as farming practices.

    it is noisier in our countryside. It’s noisier in villages, towns and Cities. According to latest Boris report, residential building projects on land with planning permission will be forced through. Regs will be “as strict” but “red tape” cut. How that works we wait to see.
    If agricultural/animal welfare standards are to stay as high as EU if not even tighter. Then developers have got plenty of hurdles to comply with.


    Apparently Big Ben played a crucial role In the City of London. Folk could clearly hear its bells for miles and miles around, even out in the suburbs. Recently sound engineers recreated the sound track to some historic film footage of London back in the late 1800’s early 1900’s and even above the noise of horse drawn traffic, hustle and bustle of London life the bells from Big Ben could be heard further than they are today with the increase in buildings.

    Folk insulate themselves from the outside environment with double glazing etc, but our ears are often tuning out much of the day to day sounds we once relied on so much for our safety.