UP2: Management of rough grazing for birds

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the management of rough grazing for birds option.

How much will be paid

£88 per hectare (ha).

Where to use this option

In Mid Tier this option can only be used with approval from Natural England. The land must be mapped as Upland breeding bird areas for Countryside Stewardship, see MAGIC.

Whole or part parcel

Only on permanent grassland parcels of at least 2ha that are within a Less Favoured Area. This includes allotments, intakes, newtakes and semi-improved in-bye that already support (or have the potential to support) breeding waders.

The applicant must also meet at least one of the following conditions to use this option:

  • follow a recommended fertiliser management system to plan nutrient inputs across the farm
  • adopt a recommended fertiliser management system within 18 months of the start of the agreement
  • qualify as a low intensity farmer

Features that can be included in this option

The following features can be included if they are part of the land, even if they are ineligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS):

  • ditches, dykes, drains, rivers, streams that are less than 4m wide for the majority of their length in the parcel
  • temporary water
  • natural unsurfaced roads, tracks, paths and bridleways, as long as the requirements can still be met
  • bracken
  • areas of scree, rock outcrops and boulders – each area can cover up to 0.1ha
  • permanent water up to 0.1ha
  • grazed woodland and scrub that allows livestock access and has grass underneath

How this option will benefit the environment

It is for restoring or maintaining upland bird populations. The option brings about water level management and provides the appropriate grassland habitat and sward structure for feeding and nesting.

If successful there will be rough grassland habitat supporting target species. Where appropriate, a water level management regime may also be in place, including scrapes and foot-drains. The water level management will also have enhanced pools or ditches for aquatic plants, invertebrates and other important species.


  • manage the sward by grazing and/or cutting to maintain a varied sward to benefit upland waders by achieving a sward height of less than 5cm over 50% of the parcel area by 15 March
  • only graze in line with an agreed stocking calendar, which includes minimum and maximum stocking rates by grazing animal type by month
  • manage scrub to achieve cover of between 1% and 5% of the parcel
  • manage bracken and make sure bracken litter doesn’t cover more than 25% cover across any area of bracken
  • manage dense rush so that it doesn’t cover more than 20% of the parcel and the rush height is less than 20cm by 30 September
  • manage field operations to reduce effects on breeding birds
  • manage wet features to provide muddy areas for waders to feed

Do not:

  • supplementary feed except for the provision of mineral blocks (non-energy based)

Keeping records

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • stock records to show grazing activity on parcels
  • a count of breeding birds in year 5 of the agreement – send this with the final claim

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you haven’t carried out any activities prohibited by the option requirements.

You should also be aware that at the start of each claim year, a percentage of agreement holders will be asked to take and submit the following photographic records:

  • photographs of the management undertaken

Applicants will have to send the following with their application:

  • a map and photographs of the extent of bracken on the option area
  • a map of the land drainage system
  • a stocking calendar
  • evidence that a recommended fertiliser management system is used or evidence to support low intensity farmer claim - this information can be provided with the application or within 18 months of the start of the agreement, as applicable

The following options and supplements can be located on the same area as this option:

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

Pick the right location

Choose sites that:

  • are open, with any surrounding hedges less than about 2m high
  • experience minimal disturbance (from footpaths or public rights of way)
  • have no overhead pylons or power lines
  • have no in-field trees
  • are not next to woodland
  • have either an existing high water table or surface water attributes (flushes, ditches, foot drains), or where they could be created

Sites to avoid

Avoid sites that are:

  • steep (above 14:1, or 8 degrees)
  • less than 2ha and bounded by tall (over 2m) hedgerows, scrub or trees

Vegetation management

Tailor vegetation management to the target species - usually a range of vegetation heights is preferred.

Management of wet features (drains, grips, scrapes)

Provide surface wet features from 1 March to 1 June (such as scrapes, flushes, foot drains or surface standing water). At least 50% of the wet features’ edges should have exposed mud at the water’s edge to promote invertebrate activity and allow chicks access to feed.

Consider the need to re-profile man-made wet features annually and maintain as required.

Any mechanical operations should be scheduled for the driest period of the year (or after mid-August if breeding snipe are present).

Manage rushes so that they cover no more than 20% of the option land.


Use quiet stock on these sites to avoid unnecessary trampling of nests and chicks.

Adequate grazing and appropriate mechanical operations after the breeding season (August to March) are vital to create the desired vegetation mosaic for the following spring.

It is important that there is adequate grazing available which is not in breeding bird options to retain flexibility to manage the breeding bird areas correctly during the breeding season.

Further information

See the Higher Tier manual to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 2 July 2018 + show all updates
  1. Stocking calendar added - linked from Requirements section.
  2. Updated for 2017 applications.
  3. Updated information for applications in 2016.
  4. First published.