Natural England has relaxed its rules to make it easier for farmers affected by the snow to feed their animals.

Farmers in agri-environment schemes which normally impose restrictions on supplementary feeding will now be able to give their livestock additional feed to help maintain animal welfare during the cold period.

This is a temporary relaxation and takes immediate effect for the duration of the severe cold weather.

Wherever possible, land not under agri-environment land management options should be used first for supplementary feeding.

Where this is not possible, agri-environment land can now be used for supplementary feeding but to reduce damage to environmental features Natural England is offering the following guidance:

– Supplementary feeding areas should be moved whenever possible
– Any leftover forage should be completely removed to reduce damage to the sward after the snow has thawed
– Feeding on archaeological features should be avoided
– On moorland and common land, where landowners restrict the practice of supplementary feeding, graziers should consider whether to inform them of their intention to feed during this period of adverse weather
– Farmers on SSSI-designated land should contact their Natural England adviser before undertaking supplementary feeding

Supplementary feeding may continue for four days after the snow has cleared if the ground remains frozen. It should cease once the ground thaws.

Under normal circumstances farmers and land managers are required to contact Natural England prior to undertaking any activity which is not part of their agri-environment agreement.

On this occasion, however, it is not necessary for farmers to contact Natural England for permission for supplementary feeding.

Farmers seeking further information should contact their local Natural England office.