Experience of a farmer with nitrates derogation

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Matthew Workman manages a dairy farm along with his father, Dessie, near Aghadowey. He currently milks 200 cows.

The aim of the business has always been to maximise output from land available, and in the past they found it difficult to operate the business under the 170kg N/ha/year Nitrogen Loading limit.

In order to avoid the risk of penalties associated with breaching the Nitrates Action Programme, Matthew successfully applied for nitrates derogation in 2008 and has operated comfortably within the higher limit of 250kg N/ha/year since then.

The additional requirements of operating under derogation has caused minimal disruption to the business. Matthew has discovered that good technical efficiency of the dairy herd goes hand in hand with meeting P balance requirements. Matthew achieves a P balance of 5.7kg P/ha/year through excellent feed efficiency which is well inside the P balance limit of 10 kg P/ha.

The extra soil sampling requirements for farms operating under derogation have posed no problems to Matthew. The farm is soil sampled every four years as part of routine farm management so that nutrients can be targeted efficiently to the areas of greatest crop need. As a result of operating under derogation there is no requirement to export slurry off the farm therefore all slurry can be utilised to reduce fertiliser costs.

Over the years TB has been a major issue in the local farming area and as a result sometimes additional livestock have to be retained within the herd. The higher nitrogen loading limit within derogation has given Matthew useful flexibility to accommodate these extra livestock without fear of breaching the Nitrogen Loading limits.

Remember that the application for the 2018 nitrates derogation has to be made on-line by 1 March 2018 at