Farmers should always seek to make best use of the nutrients in slurry and manures by spreading during the growing season.
This also ensures that storage capacity is maximised as winter approaches.
It is important to remember only to spread slurry when conditions are suitable. No organic manures can be applied on land which is waterlogged, flooded, liable to flood, frozen or snow covered or when heavy rain is forecast. Applications also cannot be made on steep slopes where a risk of water pollution exists. Remember also that to make best use of the fertiliser value of slurry, there needs to be crop growth to use the nutrients it contains.
New Requirements in October and February
New requirements introduced with the Nutrients Action Programme 2019-2022 mean that from midnight 30 September 2019 until 15 October buffer zones for spreading slurry and other organic manures have increased from 10m to 15m of any waterway and from 20m to 30m for lakes. Furthermore the maximum slurry application rate is reduced from 50m3 per hectare (4500 gal/ac) to 30m3 per hectare (2700 gal/ac) for this period.
These requirements also apply during the month of February, immediately following the end of the closed period. The purpose of these measures is to reduce the risk of nutrient run-off which causes water pollution.
Midnight on the 15 October marks the start of the closed period for spreading organic manure on farms. The closed period prohibits organic manures, including slurry, poultry litter, sewage sludge, anaerobic digestate and abattoir waste, from being spread from 15 October to 31 January. Farmyard manure must not be applied from midnight 31 October to 31 January. These periods represent the time when the risk of nutrient leaching is at its highest and there is little or no plant growth. Ultimately, the aims of the closed period are to protect water courses from pollution and ensure efficient use of nutrients.
All farmers are required to have at least 22 weeks slurry/manure storage for their livestock enterprises. Pig and poultry enterprises require a minimum of 26 weeks storage. Having enough storage tank capacity gives the ability to store organic manure until the closed period has ended and have flexibility in the timing of spreading if conditions are unfavourable in early spring. All farmers are required to have sufficient slurry storage to cover periods of adverse weather and soil conditions.
Maximise your Storage Capacity
Now is a good time to examine all slurry storage tanks, dirty water storage tanks, silage effluent tanks, silage clamps and middens on your farm. It is important that you check around your yard to ensure that you are making the most of your storage capacity. You may be able to identify some improvements which could increase your effective slurry storage capacity for the winter period.
Examine the rainwater running from roofs or clean concrete areas. Where this is entering slurry tanks and stores, valuable slurry storage space is being used unnecessarily. Check that all guttering and downpipes around your farmyard are functioning properly and repair where necessary. Likewise any rainwater falling onto clean yard areas should be diverted to storm water drains and not collected in slurry tanks.
A reduction in the volume of contaminated water produced could also be achieved by reorganising the farmyard to reduce the area of yard which livestock have access to. Keeping the yard free from manure will significantly reduce the volume of dirty water or slurry to be collected in a tank.
It is important to note that the Nutrients Action Programme is a requirement of Cross-Compliance. Failure to comply may result in a breach and could potentially result in a reduction in your Basic Payment Scheme and other direct payments.
More information about the requirements under the Nutrients Action Programme 2019-2022 is available from the DAERA website: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/nutrient-action-programme-regulations-2019-2022