Ger Farragher runs a beef operation alongside his wife, Cáit and father, Paddy, in Cong, Co. Mayo.

As a drystock farmer, Ger understands the importance of keeping inputs as low as possible and has made significant strides over the last number of years to improve grassland productivity on his farm.

“In order to keep our costs low, it’s essential we get the most out of our soil and grassland,” he said.

Regular application of Grolime has played a key role in this and in the video below Ger, along with local certified Grolime supplier Pat McGrath of McGraths Limestone Cong Ltd., discusses his liming programme and why adopting a “little and often” approach has led to significant benefits on farm.

Producing and utilising home-grown grass at a low cost requires very good levels of management, and according to Pat McGrath, applying lime is one of the most simplistic and cost-effective ways of doing so.

“Higher rates of lime application tend to be associated with large dairy enterprises, however it is something that all farming operations, big and small, should be considering,” said Pat.

Irish liming requirements yet to be met

Due to our high levels of rainfall, Irish soils have a natural requirement for lime to control soil acidity and maintain a favourable soil pH for crop growth, nutrient release and soil quality.

Despite this, currently only 50% of our national lime requirements is being applied and 80 – 85% of our soils are testing sub-optimal for soil pH, and major nutrients such as Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K), according to Teagasc research.

“As seen from Ger’s farm, grassland soils maintained close to the target pH will have benefits of increased yields, more efficient utilisation of applied fertilisers and better persistence of the more productive species in the sward such as perennial ryegrass and clover,” Pat added.

The results of a strong liming method and application are in plain sight, with Pat adding:

“The benefit of regular lime application is a multiple of the cost, with research showing that liming acidic soils increases grass production by 1t of dry matter [DM]/ha.

“On a drystock farm, this is valued at €105/t of DM, and €180/t of DM on a dairy farm.”   

Not all lime is equal

Beyond a suitable liming method, the importance of a good-quality lime product also makes a huge difference to grass on-farm.

“We’ve been using Grolime on this farm for three generations and we find it to be a fool-proof product. It’s tested leaving the quarry, so we know the product we are getting is of the highest standard, allowing us to get the best return from our lime investment,” said Ger.  

When choosing your lime, Pat emphasises that not all agricultural lime is equal and the quality can be determined by two factors; the particle size of the ground limestone and the neutralising ability of the material, expressed as the Total Neutralising Value (TNV). 

All lime sold in Ireland must have a TNV greater than 90% to conform to the Department of Agriculture specification. At least 35% of ground limestone (350kg/t) should have a particle size < 0.15mm. This component of the lime is fast acting and very reactive and will start working immediately (0-6 months).

The remaining 65% lime (650kg/t) will be broken down in the soil in the medium-term (6-24 months) and helps to maintain soil pH levels in the longer-term until the soils are resampled in years four to five.

“Using lime with a high TNV will result in a large cost saving for the user as less material will be needed to adjust the soil pH. In addition, the more finely ground the lime is, the more surface area it has and the more available it is to react with the acidity in the soil to neutralise,” Pat concluded.

Grolime suppliers are acutely aware of the expectations and needs of Irish farmers and are committed to the highest standards of production and quality control. All members undergo independent twice-yearly testing for TNV, moisture value and grading.

From now into the back end of the year is an ideal time to spread lime. To view the full list of Grolime-approved suppliers, click the button below.