Coping with NVZs on a mixed beef, sheep and arable farm

What will NVZ rules mean for farmers with beef, sheep and arable systems?

Together with consultant Andersons, we’ve created another example farm to show how the NVZ regulations will affect its management.


Meadow Farm is a 788-acre beef, sheep and arable farm somewhere in the Midlands. It supports 350 lowland Mule ewes lambing in March with all progeny finished on the farm. There are 100 Continental-cross beef finishers, bought as stores and taken through to slaughter. There are 184ha of arable land split equally into winter wheat, winter feed barley, winter oilseed rape and winter beans as the principal break crop.

Muck management

“The farm does have to look at the production and storage of animal manures,” says Andersons’ consultant Oliver Lee. “But as it doesn’t produce any material with highly available N – like slurry, poultry litter or pig slurry – it’s not required to calculate the manure produced by its individual animals. So there’s no requirement to make the volume calculation as on a dairy farm – provided Meadow Farm doesn’t import any highly available N material.”

However, Meadow Farm still has to adhere to solid manure storage rules. “The key one for Meadow Farm applies to any solid manure – defined as ‘stackable’ material. In most cases this is stored in field heap.

Check locations of springs, boreholes and wells at 

“These heaps must be more than 10m away from any land drain and more than 50m from any spring, well or borehole – and that includes neighbours springs, if the heap is near a boundary.”

Shifting heaps

The most important implication for farmers in NVZs is that it is no longer permissible to maintain a permanent muck heap – temporary field heaps must be moved every year. “The other option is to store manure on a concrete pad, or other impermeable base, and collect any liquid run-off,” says Mr Lee.

Spreading FYM

Unlike animal manures with highly-available nitrogen, farmers can spread basic farmyard manure throughout the year, and are not subject to the closed periods. “However, you must adhere to cross-compliance rules which state that manure can only be spread when conditions allow – so not when fields are frozen or water-logged,” says Mr Lee.

But it’s not business as usual. Farmers must stay within the Field Nitrogen Limit of 250kg/ha for any animal manure – the 170kg figure mentioned earlier is the Whole Farm N Limit – and any livestock manure must be incorporated on bare or “tillage” land within 24 hours of being spread.

Risk maps

Every farmer in an NVZ must complete detailed risk maps of their farm by 1 January 2010, to demonstrate how they will manage manures on their farm. “It’s best to use Entry Level Scheme maps or Rural Payments Agency maps,” says Mr Lee. “The maps should show suitable sites for temporary muck heaps for that year. They must not be on slopes of more than 12 degrees. It’s also worth drawing on the locations of any land drains. And this applies to anyone spreading manure on their land – whether they have livestock or not.”

Risk maps must be updated within three months of any change, he says.

Back to front page of guide

Futures markets and commodity risk management online course:

  • Risk management strategies for a more predictable financial performance
  • Educated conversations when collaborating with your advisors
  • Negotiate better prices with your grain merchants

View course