Feed trade tackles environmental challenge

Michael Graham, Farm Manager at Greenmount outlines some of the environmentally friendly features of the College dairy unit.
Michael Graham, Farm Manager at Greenmount outlines some of the environmentally friendly features of the College dairy unit.

Feed manufacturers and suppliers across Northern Ireland are tackling the challenges of protecting our environment through an educational program focussed on controlling emissions from agriculture.

“Over 120 field staff employed in selling and providing technical support to local farmers are registered in a program of training and continual professional development,” says Robin Irvine of the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association.

CAFRE staff demonstrate some of the equipment used to ensure efficient application of slurry on the Feed Advisers training course.

CAFRE staff demonstrate some of the equipment used to ensure efficient application of slurry on the Feed Advisers training course.

“Members of the Feed Advisers Register (FAR) are actively engaged with farmers – with hundreds of conversations taking place every day relating to the supply and use of farm inputs.

“The big volume purchases such as feed and fertiliser are essential to efficient, profitable livestock production - the over supply or inefficient use of these nutrients however will not only reduce profitability but gives rise to emissions which can be harmful to the environment.

“We have consulted widely with industry and government agencies and have produced a comprehensive course covering the key messages relating to reducing emissions.

“Supply trade staff are in close daily contact with farmers and are in an ideal position to deliver these messages through the discussions around purchases of feed and fertiliser.

“Using the right balance of nutrients and the optimal feed rate to balance the animal’s requirement will ensure that production potential is fulfilled while minimising the harmful emissions. This “Precision Nutrition” approach to rationing depends on accurate analysis of farm produced forages and will be essential to calculate protein requirement and help reduce the levels of ammonia released to the atmosphere.

“Similarly fertiliser applications need to be guided by regular soil analysis to establish need and avoid excessive enrichment of waterways.

“We are grateful for the support of CAFRE in the delivery of the training and for hosting the courses at Greenmount College. The training program includes a tour of the college dairy unit demonstrating best practice in the feeding and winter management of dairy cows – focussing particularly on the storage and application of farm manures.”

Training of ruminant advisers is already under way and a series of courses will run over the winter months with specialist events for pig and poultry advisers to follow. Each course will finish with a validation test leading to the award of a certificate of competence.