As of January 1st 2021, every farmer stocked at greater than 170kgs organic Nitrogen per hectare (NPH) will have to fence off all drains, streams and rivers on their farms. Teagasc recently updated farmers on what will be required of them of comply with the Nitrates Action Programme.

Over the last few years Europe has warned Ireland of issues with our water quality and are concerned that trends indicate the situation is not improving. From this, our Nitrates derogation could be in jeopardy. These new measures are being introduced in an effort to stop the decline in water quality, and allow Irish farmers retain Nitrates derogation.

The fencing of watercourses is part of a suite of new rules that are being introduced as part the stricter Nitrates Action Programme. Every farmer stocked at greater than 170kgs organic NPH will be required to fence off all drains, streams and rivers on their farms, from January 1st 2021. This also includes moving water troughs back 20m from all watercourses. The measures also state that cattle will only be allowed cross through a stream in exceptional circumstances.

This programme will become law from next year and is thought to affect over 12,000 Irish farmers. A farmers stocking rate in 2020 will be used to determine who must follow these new rules. One of the newer aspects of these rules is that farmers who traditionally exported slurry to come in under the 170 kgs NPH limit will now also be obliged to adhere to the updated regulations.

Farmers will be required to erect a fence, 1.5metres from the top of the bank, alongside every watercourse on the farm. The definition of a watercourse for the purpose of these regulations includes any waterbody or any drain that eventually leads to a waterbody. This includes any “dry” open drains on the farm that may or may not convey water. If there is an existing fence within 1.5m of the drain, the farmer will not be required to move the fence.

Drinking points from waterways will also be prohibited, farmers must install alternative sources of drinking water for animals on their farms. Other regulations include not having a water trough within 20metres of an open drain. Also, cattle will be prohibited to walk through watercourses with the programme encouraging farmers to install culverts or bridges. Farmers should be aware that it is a requirement to contact Inland Fisheries Ireland before doing any works regarding culverts or bridges. It is also an offence under the Fisheries Acts to disturb the bed or gravel of streams from mid-September to mid-May where fish may spawn or have already spawned.

These additional restrictions combined with the new rules regarding farm roadways will mean that most farmers will have to make some changes on their farms in the coming months.

With a short timeframe being given to fix any deficiencies on farms, we encourage farmers to start planning any work or repairs that need to be done.  FRS Fencing have serviced the contract fencing needs of farmers for 40 years and provide top quality DIY fencing materials and supplies coupled with expert fencing advice. For more advice and a free quotation on your fencing requirements contact your local FRS Fencing office. Contact FRS in Roscrea on 0505 21166 or FRS in Cahir on 052 41598 or visit