It was to have been predicted that numbers of farmers and farming organisations would take a shot at the slurry spreading regulations given the current wet weather.
Agriland would be the first to agree that slurry could have been spread on dry fields in the run up to Christmas. And ‘yes’ no farmer in his or her right mind would even attempt to put slurry out on water logged fields at the present time.
But to call for wholesale changes to the current spreading guidelines is, in our opinion, taking things a bit too far. The reality is that, when taken in the round, the current regulations have helped farmers make better use of slurry as a fertiliser. And this welcome trend has also meant that Irish producers have become less reliant on expensive, bagged manure. To us all of this represents a win:win scenario for Irish agriculture.
The fundamental fact remains that Europe wants farming to get its house in order when it comes to adhering to best environmental practice. And for Ireland, this is doubly important, given the clean, green image of our farming and food sectors.
So, going back to the good old bad old days of splash plating slurry on to frozen fields in the depths of winter makes no sense at all. For one thing the slurry applied is only going to end up in sheughs, providing zero plant growth enhancement but adding considerably to the pollution levels within our watercourses.
The real issue at stake here may well be the lack of effective slurry capacity on local farms. Indeed, this is an issue that is due to become even more prominent in our thinking in view of the projected increase in dairy stock levels post 2015. Given this realty, we feel there is very reason for an effective slurry storage scheme to be included within the measures agreed for the next Rural Development Programme.