Increasing your Score, Increasing your Payment
ACRES Advisor training is underway, within a few days advisors will be out on farms, assessing fields. The scores from these assessments will determine your results based payment for the next two years. But is there anything you can do at this stage to increase your score ?
Well the answer is yes, there is quite a lot you can do, it will not bring you from a score of 3/10 to 10/10 but there is always potential to do a bit better. Lets look at what you can do on grassland.
Move the stock around, if you keep animals on the move, never more than a few days in each field, it will give fields a rest from grazing, even a few weeks at this time of year will lead to more plants flowering, more opportunities for insects and birds. From the payments perspective, remember a large part of the score on grasslands is for structure, fields grazed very short will score badly here (-1/10) so giving even some fields a break and letting the grass get a bit taller is worth it. Having a clumpy sward with a range of vegetation heights earns at least +1/10 and potentially up to +2.5/10. That can make a difference of at least +2/10 and potentially up to +3.5/10 compared to a tightly grazed or abandoned field. These are scores that you can earn this year by the decisions you make today.
If you have hill grazing June is the month to use it, the hill grasses are at their most nutritious and it may make it easier for you to give lowland grass fields a break.
If you have improved grassland fields where grass growth is very strong and there are fewer flowering plants then focus grazing on them now, it will give the other fields a chance to do better and will stop grass in the improved fields from escaping. If grass does get too strong you can consider topping it later in the summer (after it has been scored) or even taking a few round bales off it.
On fields that will be cut for hay or silage, leave a good margin and generous field corners uncut, it may cost you a bale or too but it will increase your score and your payments. Very tight field margins and little or no headlands will get a score of -1/10, wide margins and generous headlands could get a score of up to +2.5/10. Even where there are few flowers in the margins it is still a score of +1.5/10. Leaving margins is worth at least +2.5/10 and possibly up to +3.5/10 to your fields total score.
Getting these points for structure makes all the difference. Improving the number of positive indicators will take time, improving the structure can be done this year, by managing your grazing and mowing. Even by itself it is almost enough to guarantee you a payable score.
If there is rubbish dumped on the land clean it up. Dumping is a damaging activity, it will knock the score for a field back by -1/10. Dealing with it is a quick win. It ensures that you keep the scores that you earned.
Watch the grassland management film that we produced during the Hen Harrier Project. It goes into a lot of these issues in more detail. We will have some tips on what you can do on peatlands later in the week.