Major changes on the way for slurry spreading equipment

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has recommended that major changes should be made to the way in which slurry is spread on derogation farms, following a review of the nitrates derogation.

The current nitrates derogation stipulates that at least 50% of slurry produced on such holdings “shall be applied by June 15”. It also states that “low-emission slurry spreading (LESS) equipment shall be used for any slurry applications after June 15”.

According to the recommendations, released today, Wednesday, July 24, low-emission slurry spreading (LESS) equipment should be used for any slurry application after April 15, 2020.

The recommendations go on to further specify that, from January 12, 2021, all slurry on such holdings must be spread using LESS equipment.

It is also recommended that these conditions should apply to all farms with a whole farm stocking rate in excess of 170kg (livestock manure) N/ha.

Welcoming these recommendations, Minister Creed said the review “was conducted to examine further opportunities for derogation farmers to improve efficiencies and continue to reduce their environmental footprint”.

“Given the challenges, I must acknowledge all the submissions received as part of this review and the level of ambition voiced to meet these challenges. This is an important cohort of farmers committed to high levels of efficiency who have an important role to play in protecting our environment,” he added.

According to the department, the derogation allows more intensive farmers to operate at a higher stocking rate than that stipulated in the Nitrates Directive, subject to adherence to stricter rules to be implemented.

According to department figures, over 7,000 intensively-stocked farmers – accounting for 11% of the Irish agricultural area and 20% of bovine livestock – availed of the derogation in 2018. A similar number of farmers are anticipated to avail of the facility in 2019.

In addition, a further 5,000 farmers – accounting for 13% of bovine livestock – exceeded the 170kg N/ha livestock manure limit but exported slurry, or took other actions to comply with the limit.