Livestock and the arable rotation

Learn about the benefits of livestock in the arable rotation. See our information on forage crops, cover crops, outdoor pigs, farmyard manure and more.

Why incorporate livestock in the arable rotation?

Including livestock in the rotation can bring multiple advantages, including improving soil health and weed management. The aim is to increase the productivity of arable fields, particularly those identified as underperforming.

By working with other farming enterprises, income streams can be diversified, and the risks of production spread, leading to mutual benefits for both parties.

Agreement types

There are numerous business models that can be used to set up agreements before incorporating livestock within an arable rotation. Legal advice should always be sought before setting up a working relationship, and it is essential that agreements are reached before livestock arrive on the farm.

Agreements should be made in writing, fully stating each party’s intentions and expectations of the relationship.

It should include, for example:

  • Which party is responsible for all aspects of husbandry and care
  • Which party is claiming subsidy or agri-environment payments

 The parties should also ensure that adequate markets are available for the products generated by any agreement.

 Some examples of the agreement types that can be used between farms include:

Grazing or cutting agreement

This is appropriate when the landowner is looking to rent out grass for grazing or to ‘take a crop of grass’ for less than a year (short-term agreement).

Breeding enterprises can’t be grazed using a grazing agreement. It is a right to buy and take a crop, not a lease or license to occupy. The landowner continues to claim subsidy on the land. The grazier has no rights of occupation and can be asked to leave quickly.

Grazing licence

This is more formal than a grazing agreement. The grazier still has no right to occupy the land and can be asked to leave quickly. Often, the landowner also continues to claim a subsidy on the land. The licence, however, can last up to two years, and a fee is paid (generally as a lump sum) rather than rent.

Farm business tenancy agreements

This agreement is used when someone grazes animals on crops that are being taken over a period longer than one year, with rent being paid.

Such agreements can be used in England and Wales (for Scotland, consult the Scottish Government or an adviser) and require a minimum notice period of 12 months. This type of agreement is best used in an existing, successful relationship, for example, after a two-year grazing licence.

Joint ventures

Joint ventures allow two or more separate businesses to work together. These arrangements can be quite simple or more complex, but all arrangements are based on a willingness to collaborate.

Contract farming agreements are probably the most common: the farmer typically provides the land and buildings, and the contractor usually supplies the labour and machinery. Both parties receive a first charge which should cover their costs, plus a split of the divisible surplus based on a pre-agreed ratio.

Agreement lengths are normally determined by the level of investment needed and may be fixed and reviewed prior to an optional renewal. Other joint ventures offer parties the chance to further combine their skills and resources to grow a separate business. Profit must be the driving force behind such a venture with a focus on income, opportunity and growth.

Opportunities for livestock in the arable rotation

Options for arable and livestock farmers to work together


Beef and lamb



Muck-for-straw deals


Yes Yes

Host outwintering livestock (e.g. dry cows, rearing heifers, beef cattle)




Contract growth of forage crops (silage, maize or cover crops)




Grazing or cutting agreement (up to one year)




Grazing licence for a grass ley or grazing (up to two years)




Farm business tenancy agreement (e.g. for outdoor pig production)




Joint ventures (e.g. share milking agreement)




Things to consider

If moving livestock between farms and areas, health and disease risks such as bovine tuberculosis (TB) must be considered. For further information, visit the TB hub.

Livestock should be managed by trained and experienced stockpeople with good observational skills and the ability to care for stock. Suitable grouping, feeding and handling minimise stress. A grazing agreement can reference the five welfare needs described in the Animal Welfare Act.

Cross-compliance: to reduce soil erosion, compaction and diffuse pollution, location and soil type should be considered when looking at options.

Consider fencing, watering and feeding facilities, along with good handling facilities to minimise stress. If indoor housing is required, accommodation should:

  • Be well ventilated
  • Have sufficient space
  • Have feeding facilities
  • Be designed for easy cleaning

Grass leys for the arable rotation

There are many ways grass can be used within the arable rotation. Read about the types of grass ley and the benefits for black-grass control. 

Find out about grass in the arable rotation

Cover crops

From understanding the benefits of cover crops to choosing a cover crop for your farm, find information on cover crops for livestock and the arable rotation.

See more about cover crops

Forage crops

Find out more about brassica and forage crops and information on feeding, management, crop choice and outwintering.

Find out more about grazed brassica and forage crops for cattle and sheep


From establishment and crop nutrition to feed value of silage and grain, you will find a wealth of information about maize.

More information on growing maize for silage

Outdoor pig production for the arable rotation

Find out the benefits of pig production and how outdoor pigs can fit into the arable rotation. See our information on costs and business options. 

Find out more about outdoor pigs

Livestock manures for the arable rotation

Find out more about the benefits of livestock manure for arable systems. You will find information on muck-for-straw deals and the financial value of livestock manures.

Learn more about livestock manures

Useful links

Download our guide to Livestock and the arable rotation

To order a hard copy of the Livestock and the arable rotation guide, please contact or call 0247 799 0069.

The home-grown forages directory

Feeding cereal grains to livestock

Information on herbal leys

Read the beef-up the rotation CPM article