Contractors call for extensions to slurry and fertiliser spreading dates

Agricultural contractors are calling for the deadline dates for the spreading of both chemical fertiliser and slurry to be extended.

The Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) is calling for both deadlines to be extended by one month.

As it stands, the closed period for spreading chemical fertiliser begins on September 15 – while the spreading of slurry is prohibited from October 15 onwards.

Given the current “unprecedented” soil moisture deficit levels, the FCI believes that ground conditions into early November will be suitable for the spreading of slurry – with “no environmental risks associated”.

In order to have a planned and orderly extension of the deadlines, the FCI is calling on the Minster for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to give “urgent and immediate attention to the need for consultation” with the Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Environment, Denis Naughten, and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy.

The association believes that a one-month extension in each case will provide contractors with an opportunity – weather and ground conditions permitting – to complete land-spreading activities.

These activities have been curtailed during the last two months due to the exceptionally dry weather conditions experienced across the country. Many agricultural contractors are reportedly concerned about their ability to meet the current deadline dates.

Workload set to multiply

With weather conditions returning to normal in most parts of the country, agricultural contractors are expecting that their workload will multiply in the coming weeks.

National chairman of the FCI, Richard White, believes that the harvesting of grass silage will extend at least towards the end of October.

This will be coming at a time when the much larger national maize harvest will also be arriving early. It will also coincide with the current animal slurry spreading deadline date – all of which will be difficult to achieve in practice and in safety.

Continuing, White added: “In order to cope with the current grazing challenges and the expected return to growth in late August, we believe that ground and soil conditions will allow for the optimum uptake of [chemical] fertilisers later this year – where grazing and late silage will be urgently required.

Image source: Shane Casey

“We also understand that the Irish maize silage area has grown by close to 70% this year, due to the late spring cereal growing conditions.”

Combing this with hedge-cutting work, sowing grass seed, sowing winter cereals and muck spreading will mean a very busy month of October for agricultural contractors, White added.

Safety concerns

There are fears that this “huge national workload on contractor services” could come at a time when seasonal and student workers will no longer be available.

Postponing the decision to extend the slurry and fertiliser spreading deadline dates to the last minute will only increase the health and safety risks on farms, in a year when we have already reported a very high national level of farm accidents and fatalities.

“Creating a last-minute panic and an expectation that the slurry must be spread before the October 15 deadline, against the backdrop of more than 10 weeks of exceptionally dry weather conditions, can be considered to be tantamount to creating an additional and unnecessary health and safety risk on many farms,” White said.

The FCI stated that the extensions it is calling for would allow agricultural contractors to “complete their land-spreading operations, in safety and with due efficacy, on behalf of farming customers”.