As farmers are well aware, fertiliser is an expensive product that must be handled and treated with caution before and during spreading on land.

Many farmers use older-type spreaders when applying fertiliser. Many of these spreaders are simply adjusted using an experienced eye, often to impressive accuracy on application rates.

However, applying fertiliser can be a tricky task without the aid of GPS and often can result in overlapping, or stripes being missed – especially when spreading on larger fields with low grass covers.

With the above challenges in mind, and considering that many farmers already have a significant workload, more farmers are hiring a bulk-spreading contractor to apply their fertiliser.

It is generally accepted that where GPS technology is not used, losses as high as 5-10% can be incurred (5% in larger fields and 10% in smaller paddocks) due to inaccurate spreading.

The table below gives two scenarios for a 10t load of fertiliser bulk-spread with GPS technology:

Load size (t)Paddock typeRate/acac/loadEstimated spreading time (hours)ac/hourCost/hour
(Can vary)
10Large – silage3 bags66.61.544.4€75-€100
10Small- grazing1.5 bags133.3433.3€75-€100

It is important to outline that the cost of spreading depends on the rate per acre and the product type.

In a situation where 10t of fertiliser is spread with 5% waste from inaccurate spreading, 500kg of fertiliser would be lost.

Assuming a cost of €750/t for fertiliser, this would amount to a loss of €375 where 10t is spread.

In this situation, hiring a contractor with a GPS fertiliser spreader would result in a saving of €37.50/t of fertiliser spread before contractor charges are taken away.

With fertiliser prices having drastically increased this year and likely, are set increase further, precise fertiliser spreading has never made more sense from an economic point of view.

When losses from spreading fertiliser without GPS are counted, hiring a contractor with a specialised spreader may make more economic sense.