Lakeland Dairies recently held three SoilSmart demos hosted by Clive Reed, Mullagarry, Castleshane, Co. Monaghan, Raymond Scott, Caughoo, Co. Cavan and Jimmy Maloney, Redmondstown, Castlegeoghan, Co. Westmeath.
Speakers at the soil improvement workshops included Alan Hurst, Technical Manager with Lakeland Dairies Agribusiness, Enda Duffy from the Lakeland Dairies Dairy Development programme and Dr David Atherton from Thomson and Joseph in Britain.
Alan said: “Our most efficient grassland farmers are growing and utilising in excess of 12 tonnes of dry matter per hectare, yet our national average is only about seven tonnes dry matter/hectare.”
In SoilSmart programme Alan said: “We are taking a more detailed look at the chemical, physical and biological properties of soils and introducing practices such as soil aeration and the treatment of slurry to increase the production potential.
“On our monitor farms we are also measuring a number of key performance indicators which include grass utilisation, Kgs of milk solids produced per hectare, milk from forage and grazing season length.“
Enda Duffy told the farmers present that they had analysed almost 6,000 soil samples. Less than 20% of soils sampled had an optimum pH so 80% of the soils needed lime to maximise the response from fertiliser.
Dr Atherton spoke on the importance of earthworm activity as an indicator of the overall biological health of the soils.
The addition of the biological digesting agent “Digest -IT” to the slurry has significantly reduced the ammonia in the slurry (a lot less smell says Clive) and is kinder to earthworms and soil life.