Many dairy farmers appear to be considering the exporting slurry option to overcome the nitrates derogation challenge facing them.

Although this may be a viable option for some, you need to evaluate the figures and determine if it is a viable option.

Firstly, you need to remember that the nitrogen (N) value of exported slurry has dropped from 5kg/m3 to 2.4kg/m3 from the start of January.

This means that to export the same amount of nutrients as last year (2023), you need more then double the amount.

This raises questions over the viability of this option, seeing as large amount of valuable nutrients would be leaving your farm.

Exporting slurry

Speaking at the Eurogene future solutions event in Trim, Co. Meath, James Dunne from Teagasc outlined a number of options available to farmers affected by the drop in the maximum stocking under the nitrates derogation.

He firstly advised farmers to look and question all stock currently on the farm, and remove all excess or non-profitable animals from the system.

Dunne said that on some farms, the stock will not be an issue, and that stock that is there will be needed to run the enterprise.

Other options will then need to be explored to offset some organic nitrogen, and one that is there is the exporting of slurry.

He reminded farmers that there is also a cost associated with exporting slurry.

Dunne advised farmers to firstly look at building a relationship with another farmer that is able to take in slurry, whether that is another livestock farmer or a tillage farmer.

He said: “The one thing that I will say about that is, it a cost, it’s a significant cost, which is something that people often don’t consider.

“At current fertiliser prices, for every 100,000gals of slurry you export off your farm, it will cost you €3,500 in chemical fertiliser equivalent.

“So, for every 100,000gals that leaves your farm, €3,500 of nutrient is leaving your farm, if you have to replace that with chemical nitrogen.”

It was noted that dairy farmers are now in a period of trying to spread less chemical fertiliser and obtain more nutrients already present on the farm.

Dunne added: “We know about the challenges around soil fertility, slurry is high value in terms of its phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) especially.

“We know we need a lot of that slurry to go back to silage ground to replace the P and K that has been taken off.

“So, the idea that we are going to build systems around exporting slurry, really is a big cost on the system long-term.”