The View from Northern Ireland: Recent weather and field conditions have provided an excellent opportunity for livestock farmers to spread any slurry remaining in tanks in the approach to the winter housing period.

Having empty tanks at the point of housing enables you to make the most of your existing slurry storage capacity. It will also provide you with the flexibility in early spring to choose when to spread in order to maximise the nutrient value of slurry and coincide with peak nutrient demand from grass.

Even where good planning exists, it is important not to be complacent and assume that the tanks you emptied over the past few months are empty now. A final check of all tanks should be made to make sure that they have not filled up over the summer with rainwater or yard run-off. This is also an opportune time to give the farmyard a thorough check over to ensure that no roof water or clean yard water can enter tanks unnecessarily and use up valuable storage space.

Remember that the Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) closed spreading periods are as follows:

  • Chemical nitrogen fertiliser must not be applied from midnight 15 September to midnight 31 January.
  • Organic manures, including slurry, poultry litter, sewage sludge and abattoir waste, must not be applied from midnight 15 October to midnight 31 January.
  • Farmyard manure must not be applied from midnight 31 October to midnight 31 January.
  • Dirty water can be spread over the winter months, provided that NAP application restrictions are complied with.

Further details are contained in the Nitrates Action Programme 2011-2014 and Phosphorus Regulations guidance booklet which can be accessed online at or from your local DARD Direct office.

By Michael Oliver, DARD Countryside Management Unit

Image Shutterstock