Native Breeds and the new ELM Scheme – What we know so far...(REVISED - 22.3.2024)

Defra has recently announced further details of both the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and the new form of Countryside Stewardship (CS) components of the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme that aims to reward England’s farmers for producing sustainable food and protecting the environment.

RBST’s objectives for ELM have been two fold, firstly to ensure support for the sort of farming and land management systems that encourage the use of native breeds, and secondly to ensure that there is specific support for native breeds.

Although we still do not have the full picture, the recent announcements impact on both aspects.

ELM is one part of the Government’s post Brexit agriculture policy. There are of course other parts that concern native breeds including the animal health and welfare pathway, under which farmers can obtain veterinary support and advice, and the various capital and other grants under the Farming Investment Fund. RBST is working with Government officials on all of these.

All of this is England only. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own schemes. Again, RBST is engaged with all of three governments on their proposals.

The SFI is intended as a basic scheme to encourage farmers to adopt and maintain sustainable farming practices to protect and improve the environment. CS on the other hand is intended to provide additional payments for more targeted actions relating to specific locations, features and habitats.

Under both the SFI and CS the farmer is free to choose from a wide range of options. The aim is for the range to be wide enough to enable the government to meet its environmental targets.  There are no mandatory actions that the farmer must comply with.

A number of options under the two schemes will be of interest to people keeping native breeds, including payments for managing grassland, moorland, woodland and coastal habitats.  

Over time it is intended to simplify the system by merging the SFI and CS actions into one list.

At present to qualify under ELM, you need to be eligible for BPS, the old support scheme which is currently being phased out. However, this will change during the summer, and anyone will be able to apply.  The precise date for this has yet to be announced.

Unlike the current scheme, there are no minimum or maximum area requirements.

At the moment, under the existing scheme, Native Breeds are supported under the Native Breeds at Risk Supplement (SP 8), part of the Higher Tier of CS. This is targeted at the most environmentally important sites that need complex management, such as creating or restoring habitats, and improving woodland.


It is available for native breeds that appear on the Defra Native breed at risk (NBAR) register and that are either:

·        registered pedigree pure breeding animals

·        genetically provable purebred progeny of registered pedigree pure breeding parents of the same eligible NBAR breed

The option is available as a supplement to the land management options under the CS Higher Tier.

The species and breeds used for grazing must be confirmed in writing by Natural England as being appropriate for achieving the option’s aims.

Not all the details of the new option have been decided yet, again we will need to wait until the summer for the full picture.  What we do know is entitlement will continue as a supplement to other options.

In common with all ELM options, the payment rates aim to reflect the income forgone and costs incurred when complying with the option. With the native breed supplement the costs are those involved when keeping native breeds as opposed to continental breeds, including registration.

Other than that payment rates will now differ according to the habitat. On grassland it will be £92 or £146 per ha depending on the number of livestock units and on moorland it will be £7 or £11 per ha. The different payment rates between the habitats are intended to reflect the different stocking rates found on them. In each case, the lower rate is intended for holdings where the native breeds are mixed with continentals, and the higher rate for when there are only native breeds present.  

Another change is that it will be available a wider range of habitats including moorland, lowland heath and many less productive grassland habitats in both lowland and upland areas. It will also be available on common land which is not the case with the current option and so marks a great improvement.

In addition, other than on SSSIs it will no longer be necessary to obtain Natural England’s consent, which is also welcome.

Full details of all of this can be found on the Defra website.

Here is the Defra technical paper that lists all the actions that will be paid for under ELM : Technical annex: The combined environmental land management offer - GOV.UK (


Written by Christopher Price, CEO.