Look at silage clamps now, before spring, to ensure they are compliant with Environment Agency (EA) rules advises Will Wilson, business development director at ARK Agriculture.

He said: "We have had a surge of enquiries about the options for silage clamp systems in the south west. This is the result of focus from the EA which is now paying very close attention to clamps."

Some farmers have found that their clamps have been condemned, which will be a major issue in the spring when they need to find alternative storage arrangements.

Silage clamps and clamp construction fall under the SSAFO regulations which have applied since 2010. The regulations also apply to any clamps altered since then, which the majority will have been.

"Some of the clamps we see are well over 40 years old, have been expanded several times and are no longer fit for purpose. The EA, quite rightly, is looking at these clamps and taking action." said Mr Wilson.

The risks to the environment from leaking or failing silage clamps should not be taken lightly as the leachate produced by silage is significantly more damaging to water course than human effluent and fines for polluting from clamps are becoming more common.

If you are not sure about your clamps or you have been visited by the EA and need to find solutions then consider the following.

1. Understand the exact regulations you have to meet by reading the SSAFO regulations

2. Confirm if you think your clamps are compliant based on those rules. The most common issues are:

- No perimeter drains behind a concrete clamp wall

- Failed and leaking walls

- Leachate tanks that are undersized

- Concrete floors that have broken up and become porous

- Earth banks are very rarely compliant

- Clamps built within 10m of water courses such as rivers, bore holes and potentially ditches

3. Consider your options to rectify these issues:

- Replace old clamps as often the best solution is to find the space to start again with the right clamps for your current needs

- Replace earth banks with a vertical or sloping wall concrete system that has been approved by the EA and meets the SSAFO regulations

- Short term fixes could include the use of concrete Lego blocks to build clamp walls

- Asphalt original concrete bases