Technology Demo Farms for slurry management

Trailing shoe technology.
Trailing shoe technology.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is currently establishing a network of Technology Demonstration Farms (TDFs) and applications are being invited from dairy farmers.

TDFs will showcase the use of innovative technologies and farms will be recruited under three themes, one of which is slurry management. Two farms are being sought to host demonstrations in relation to this important issue on dairy farms.

Good nutrient management revolves around four basic questions, namely: what does the crop require; what is supplied by the soil; what is supplied in manures applied and what nutrients subsequently need to be added as bagged fertiliser. There are a suite of calculators in the online section of the DAERA website to help with these nutrient management decisions.

Soil analysis is a vital part of any nutrient management plan. However, the majority of soil samples analysed from Northern Ireland consistently show that very few fields are in the ‘sweet spot’ for pH, phosphorus and potash.

Farmers applying to TDF under the slurry management theme must be able to demonstrate that they have a regular soil analysis program and that pro-active decisions are taken based on the results of soil analysis, for example, correcting low pH fields with lime, prioritising manure applications to fields where P & K indexes are sub-optimal and applying appropriate quantities and types of bagged fertilisers, depending on crop nutrient requirements.

Agricultural activities are responsible for 94% of ammonia emissions in Northern Ireland, with the majority of emissions arising from cattle manure production and associated manure management. Use of low emission spreading techniques has been proven to reduce ammonia emissions after slurry application and by so doing, the fertiliser nitrogen value of the applied manures is improved, with similar yields of grass grown from reduced bagged fertiliser. In addition, low emission spreading reduces greenhouse gas emissions through a lower requirement for bagged nitrogen fertilisers.

Dairy cows produce large amounts of urine and faeces, which in most housed situations is collected together and stored as slurry. Slurry management is consistently a high risk area for accidents and near misses on farms in Northern Ireland, as outlined by the Health and Safety Executive.

Farmers applying for the TDF slurry management theme, must demonstrate good practice in relation to health and safety around slurry mixing/spreading, showing how they minimise the risk of injury/death to people and animals on their farm.

There are a number of legal aspects around manure management on farms, such as limits to organic nitrogen loading, minimum slurry storage capacity requirements and limits to phosphorus applications. Farmers must demonstrate that they are fully compliant with these regulations, (which they should be, irrespective of whether they are applying for this scheme or not).

Good nutrient management should be a win/win situation for the farmer and the environment, resulting in both a lower environmental impact and similar or higher crop yields from reduced bagged fertiliser applications.

Farmers applying for the slurry management theme must be able to demonstrate good nutrient management and be able to demonstrate an understanding of the impact of their farming activities on the environment and how any negative impacts are being reduced.

If you are a dairy farmer who is focused on nutrient management, apply to become a Technology Demonstration Farm. To find out more details about the scheme and complete an online application, go to: https://www.cafre.ac.uk/industry-support/technology-demonstration-farms/

Applications will close today (Wednesday) at 4.00pm.