The Rural Stewardship Scheme
Small Units Prescriptions
Almost all the habitats in our country have been modified by the activities of man. Much of the present rural landscape in Scotland was only established during the course of the last two centuries. Until the middle of the twentieth century, the speed and scale of change gave wildlife time to adjust. The adoption of more intensive husbandry methods on farms and crofts over the course of the last fifty years has caused the decline or even local extinction of some species. In order to arrest or even reverse this decline and to enhance our distinctive landscapes, more farmers and crofters need to adopt environmentally-friendly management practices. Such practices do not necessarily involve a return to labour-intensive 'traditional' methods.
The unique community structure of crofting lends itself to achieving results through co-operative efforts, involving a plan that takes in at least the whole of a croft and preferably all the crofts within a particular township or community. For this reason, the Rural Stewardship Scheme includes two prescriptions targeted specifically at smaller units. The first option involves the creation and implementation of a detailed Conservation Management Plan for each of the units (i.e. the entire inbye and any apportionments) within a business, while the second prescription encourages the retention or re-introduction of traditional or native breeds of cattle.
The decline in cattle numbers in crofting areas in particular has consequences for conservation, as cattle can bring positive benefits to the environment. Cattle can be used to control the rank growth of coarse vegetation of low conservation value, as they are not selective grazers. In addition, cattle, through the adjustment of stocking rates, can be employed to maintain any habitat from a short sward, important for the chough and marsh fritillary butterfly, through to a varied vegetation structure which supports a diverse range of invertebrates, birds and small mammals. Keeping a herd of cattle can deliver indirect benefits to wildlife. Examples of such benefits are: the shelter afforded by crops of winter keep during the Spring and early Summer to such birds as the corncrake; the provision of undigested or uneaten feed to seed-eating farmland birds; the re-cycling of nutrients through dung and the spur to regeneration by the breaking up of mats of plant litter.
Native or traditional cattle breeds and crosses are both thrifty and hardy - being naturally adapted to surviving year-round on rough pasture in poor conditions while still producing a marketable calf. The common grazings associated with the croft can be particularly important in providing the extensive pasture necessary for traditional cattle breeds. Extensive environmentally-friendly cattle production on small units will be encouraged through the 'Retention or Introduction of Cattle of Native or Traditional Breed(s)' option.
What prescriptions are available?
- Conservation Management Plan with Special Measures for Small Units
- Retention or Introduction of Cattle of Native or Traditional Breed(s)
Are there any entry requirements?
The area of inbye (excluding apportionments) occupied by your business must not exceed 20 hectares. You will only be eligible to take up the option Retention or Introduction of Cattle of Native or Traditional Breed(s) if the unit in question is also the subject of a Conservation Management Plan with Special Measures for Small Units.
33. Conservation Management Plan with Special Measures for Small Units
Aim: To encourage a mosaic of habitats of conservation value across the whole unit including apportionments or, on non-croft land, rough grazings extending to less than 10 hectares, by implementation of a management plan. Within the Crofting Counties, to encourage a community effort by means of a management plan, to maintain or enhance areas of conservation interest within the boundary of a crofting community.
Eligible sites: Units with inbye amounting to no more than 20 hectares on entry to the Scheme and any apportionments but excluding any share in the common grazings.
Implementation of a detailed Conservation Management Plan for the whole unit (i.e. entire inbye and any apportionments or, on non-croft land, rough grazings extending to less than 10 hectares).
The Plan must:
a. Set out clear environmental objectives.
b. Explain the management to be undertaken to achieve these objectives by addressing all areas of activity on the unit (i.e. grazing management, winter feed production, cropping, stock management, management of special habitats/features etc. including BAP habitats and species, pollution control).
If your submission is one of at least four current applications to adopt this option from the same crofting community, it will be deemed to be part of a collective application and be eligible for the premium rate of payment.
34. Retention or Introduction of Cattle of Scottish Native or Traditional Breed(s)
Aim: In combination with prescription 33, to encourage a mosaic of habitats with conservation value across the whole unit including apportionments or, on non-croft land, rough grazings extending to less than 10 hectares, by means of a management plan and the appropriate management of Scottish cattle of native or traditional breed(s), providing significant benefits for both the natural heritage and local economy.
Eligible sites: Units with inbye accounting to no more than 20 hectares on entry to the Scheme and any apportionments but excluding any share in the common grazings.
- Option 1: The unit supports two or more breeding cows of Scottish traditional or native breed(s) on entry into this Scheme and will continue to do so for the lifetime of the agreement.
- Option 2: On application to join the Scheme, the business either does not have a herd of breeding cows or the existing herd has only one or no dams of either purebred or first cross native or traditional stock and the unit will run two or more breeding cows of traditional or native breed(s) by the end of the first plan year. If SEERAD deem it necessary to achieve sustainable stocking levels and ensure that Scheme objectives are not frustrated, the numbers of any sheep on the unit must be reduced. You will be eligible for the premium rate of payment if you are able to adopt this option.
What is a breeding cow?
In order to be considered a breeding cow, the cow must form part of a herd either used for rearing calves for meat production or used for milk production and have borne a calf.
What breeds of cow are acceptable under this Scheme option?
Any of the following Scottish native and traditional breeds:
and first crosses of these native breeds. The use of a continental bull across the herd is permitted.