Farmers have been granted permission to graze livestock on set-aside land to ease the shortage of animal fodder caused by the recent heatwave.

Set-aside land must not normally be used for agricultural production, including grazing from 15 January to 31 August each year.

But the European Union has granted the UK’s request for the rules to be relaxed in light of the abnormally dry weather conditions.

The derogation allows farmers to graze set-aside land with their own animals or harvest hay or silage for their own use.

It follows pressure from farm leaders who had already persuaded the Rural Payments Agency to extend the set-aside cutting season until 31 August.

NFU livestock board chairman Thomas Binns said the latest derogation would go some way in alleviating forage shortages.

“This makes sense given the shortage of grazing in parts of the country.”

Farmers wanting to make use of the derogation should contact the RPA Customer Service Centre providing the reference numbers of fields to be grazed or harvested.

Emails should be sent to csc@rpa.gsi.gov.uk, quoting “Set-aside exemption” in the subject line.

Once the email has been sent, farmers may consider that the derogation has been granted unless RPA makes contact to confirm otherwise.