EU Case Study: Hill Sheep farming
The Hill Sheep Farm as a System
Location: Lake District, U.K.
Categories: Pastoral, Commercial, Extensive
Characteristics of a Hill Sheep Farm
There are three zones of land use:
- The fell: the tops of the hills over 300m altitude – sheep graze on this open land in the summer;
- The intake or lower slopes: divided into fields by dry stone walls, some pasture is improved by adding drainage and fertilisers;
- The inbye: the small area of land on the valley floor close to the farm buildings – more fertile soils and sheltered. Used for lambing, shearing etc. and for growing some winter fodder crops, e.g. turnips, hay.
- Hill sheep farming is not always profitable – the land is marginal.
- The threat of removal of subsidies from the EU.
- EU Quotas (limits) on the number of sheep that can be kept.
- Foot and mouth disease has restricted sheep movement and sales.
- Radioactive fall-out from the Chernobyl accident (1986) affected mountain grazing land. Restrictions on sheep sales is still in force in some areas.
- Costs, e.g. fuel, machinery, fodder, have all risen. Lamb prices in the late
- Fewer young people want to carry on sheep farming.
- Conflicts with tourists and National Park Authorities.
Changes and Improvements
- Farmers are continuing to leave the land or take part-time jobs in nearby towns, if available
- New breeding stock to improve quality and quantity of meat and wool.
- Greater use of fertilisers to improve quality of pasture.
- Grants for new farm buildings so lambing can be done indoors.
- EU subsidies and grants to encourage continuation of livestock farming in upland areas.
- EU grants to protect and improve the farm environment e.g. conservation of dry stonewalls, natural pastures, stone barns, and hedgerows.
- EU grants to encourage diversification of farms, either farm-based, e.g. organic farming, rearing other animals (deer, goats), or non-farm based, e.g. campsites, sporting activities, forestry, arts and crafts, rural tourism.
- EU grants to conserve and enhancement the landscape for wildlife. Areas designated as Environmentally Sensitive (ESAs) qualify for grants to reduce the use of fertilisers, restore heather moorland and wetlands.
- Some farms could not survive and have been sold – often as second homes.