In term of new nitrates rules, there has been a lot of concern among farmers about how the banding for various farms is going to calculated.
Many farmers are concerned that they could potentially be placed in the highest band initially and then have to prove they belong in one of the lower bands.
Agriland understands that banding will be calculated using annual milk reports and Animal Identification and Movement System (AIMS) data.
In a document seen by Agriland which outlines amendments to the nitrates regulations, the method to calculate banding is indicated along with the choice farmers will have regarding how it is calculated for their farm.
The document has been amended to state: “An occupier of a holding shall maintain records of all milk deliveries to milk purchasers from that holding over the previous three calendar years, and shall, with effect from January 1, 2023, make available, on an annual basis, to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, or any third party certified by the minister, such records in order to determine the excretion rates of dairy cows on the holding in accordance with Table 6 of Schedule 2.”
Table 6 of Schedule 2 outlines each of the bands, as displayed in the table below.
Agriland now understands that milk used on farm will not be taken into account in the calculation, so e.g., milk used to feed calves on farms will not be included.
The latest amendments to the document also outlined that farmers will have a choice regarding their banding calculation. Farmers will be able to choose from the average milk yield/annum for the three preceding years, or the year preceding the implementation of the respective band.
Based on how they will calculate the banding, it does appear that farmers may move between the different bands depending on the year, however it is unclear at this time how that situation would be handled.
The amendment does go on to state that if milk delivered from a holding to the milk purchaser on an annual basis over the previous three calendar years is not submitted, the occupier’s herd will be assigned, by default, to the highest excretion rate band.
This will be the case until the occupier submits information to the satisfaction of the minister confirming a different excretion rate band.
The document also outlines that a third party may be certified to provide a service for the minister in the provision of data in order to monitor and evaluate compliance.
Agriland understands that this third party would be the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF). It is not fully clear what this will entail, but it appears that farmers may have to grant access to their data to this third party.
The introduction of banding will mean the cows are no longer automatically assigned a figure of 89kg of organic nitrogen (N).
Instead dairy cows will be given an organic N figure based on milk yield; this will be calculated on a rolling three-year average or based on 2022 yields.
With banding now in effect as of January 1, 2023.
Bands Milk yields Excretion rate Band 1 <4,500kg of milk 80kg organic N/cow Band 2 4,500-6,500kg of milk 92kg organic N/cow Band 3 >6,500kg of milk 106kg organic N/cow
The changes introduced by banding mean that the maximum stocking rate in Band 3 is reduced by 19.1% (assuming the farmer cannot rent or buy land).
For farmers that are placed in Band 1, the maximum allowable stocking rate could increase by 11.3%.
There has also been a number of other changes to nitrates regulations, including a 10% reduction in chemical fertiliser.