From February 1 (on farms in Northern Ireland) or January 16 on farms in the Republic of Ireland, slurry goes from being a massive nuisance to a huge resource.

With milk price much lower than it was 12 months ago, we must ensure these valuable nutrients are targeted on low fertility paddocks.

If soil samples were not collected last year, these must be done this year.

On farms that are grass budgeting, it is clear to see what paddocks are growing the least tonnes of Dry Matter (DM). These paddocks will continue to affect overall grass grown if we do not ‘limit their limiting factor’.

slurry deadline


Their limiting factor may well be grass variety, but usually it is pH (Calcium), P (Phosphorus) or K (Potassium).

The target soil pH is 6.5 – not 6.0. Low Calcium availability in the soil leads to low availability of soil nutrients; in particular Phosphorus.

The reason most milking platforms are high in P is because the Calcium is usually not available enough to maximise P availability and so it remains in a locked up state.

Last week we had a fresh calving cow with sub-clinical milk fever. She was treated for milk fever after having twins and was fine. The next morning, she was lying out flat with P deficiency. Why?

The low Calcium levels in her bloodstream reduced her ability to access sufficient P from her body. Is soil any different?

The more we learn about soil nutrition, the more we can directly link it to animal nutrition.

Soil sample

Our first port of call when examining our soil samples is Calcium availability, indicated by our pH.

If finances are very tight, soil sample your worst performing paddocks only – but treat them with whatever lime, P and K they require.

Otherwise, money spent on soil sampling is a waste.

The level of research being conducted by Teagasc is truly impressive and some of this research was discussed by speakers last week at the Positive Farmers Conference.

If we are to increase our level of efficiency, grow our business to a size where we can have the quality of life that we desire, then we must grab every bit of research we can.

We must implement the research findings that is relevant for our own businesses.