A number of far-reaching recommendations have been made by the nitrates expert group in a report today, Wednesday, July 24, following a review of the nitrates derogation.

The recommendations have been proposed for all farmers availing of the derogation for a stocking rate above 170kg N/ha in the coming years.

Focusing on improving environmental efficiency in 2020, the suggested measures impact on: crude protein in concentrate feeds; grass reseeding; and grassland management, the latter mooted for 2020 or 2021.

The review group recommends a measure to reduce the crude protein in concentrate feeds for grazing livestock on farms with a grassland stocking rate greater than 170kg/ha in order to reduce excess protein in animals’ diets.

It was also noted that Ireland is a predominately livestock country with 81% of the agricultural area devoted to grassland.

Grassland and its productivity are central to Irish livestock systems.

From an efficiency perspective, the review group recommended that derogation farmers:
  • Record through appropriate software technology the grass produced annually on the farm. This grassland management decision support tool enables the advancement of the decision-making process through regular pasture measuring and budgeting on farm, improving nutrient use efficiency, grass production and utilisation; or
  • Undertake certified grassland measurement training.

In addition, the group advised that all new grass reseeding completed by derogation farmers must include minimum clover content as part of the grass seed mixture; however, the inclusion rate must not exceed 50% of the sward mixture.