Fermanagh dairy farmers head south to study soil improvement

Dairy farmers from Fermanagh undertook a recent summer study tour organised by local CAFRE Dairying Development Adviser, Alan Warnock.

They visited farms participating in the Teagasc Heavy Soils Programme. In total seven dairy farms in Counties Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Kerry are involved in the Programme. This was a follow up to the land improvement events organised by CAFRE in 2013.

James O’Loughlin from Moorepark Research Centre who has responsibility for the Programme, explained that the objective of the work undertaken is to increase the profitability of dairying on marginal land. This will be achieved by increasing grass production and utilisation mainly through carrying out drainage and improving soil fertility.

James explained that following a site investigation on each farm to identify the drainage problem a programme of drainage and reseeding commenced from 2013 onwards. This involved cleaning out open water courses, installing collector drains and mole draining where necessary.

Widespread soil fertility problems due to low pH, phosphate and potash levels were identified and corrected through the application of lime and compound fertiliser. Reseeding was carried out using mainly late perennial ryegrass varieties with good sward density. These varieties are best suited to farms where turnout can be delayed due to poor weather and the risk of poaching.

The group found it reassuring and educational to see milk production and land improvement on farms in Clare and Kerry with difficult soils similar to those in Fermanagh. All farms had a high standard of grassland management and the group were interested in how this was achieved on heavy clay soils. The group would like to acknowledge and thank the Vaughan Trust for its financial support of this very worthwhile study tour.

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