Farmers have been urged to remain vigilant during the summer months – especially when harvesting silage and spreading slurry – in order to avoid water pollution and the loss of nutrients into rivers, lakes and other watercourses.

This appeal by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) follows a major fish kill discovered in Claremorris, Co. Mayo, last week – where over 1,000 wild brown trout, along with other fish species, were killed due to suspected agricultural silage effluent leak.

Also Read: Over 1,000 fish killed following pollution of river

At present, farmers are busy replenishing their respective supplies of forage ahead of next winter. These silage-cutting operations will remain ongoing throughout the summer months.

Silage effluent has the potential to cause “devastating pollution” in streams and rivers, IFI stated.

Such effluent is a significant polluting substance, starving fish and invertebrate life of oxygen – resulting in potentially massive fish kills if it enters a watercourse, it added.

Farmers were warned that even a small leak can cause huge damage, especially when water levels run low during the summertime – reducing the dilution capacity in the process.

IFI is advising farmers to follow its “simple” six-point plan to ensure good farmyard management and reduce their risk of polluting.

The six-point plan encourages farmers to:
  1. Use round bales as the most environmentally-friendly way to store silage;
  2. If a silage pit is being used, ensure it is properly sealed to prevent leakage from under the slab;
  3. Carry out slurry spreading in dry weather and never when heavy rain is forecast;
  4. Never spread slurry close to a watercourse – be aware of the slope of land to the watercourse;
  5. Do not clean tanks beside any watercourse, stream or a river;
  6. Do not allow any effluent or washings to enter any rainwater gully.

Commenting on the appeal, the head of operations at IFI, Dr. Greg Forde, said: “Warm summer weather can magnify the impact of even the smallest leak of silage effluent, with potentially devastating consequences for the environment.

“Inland Fisheries Ireland is grateful to the farming community for their continued consideration and vigilance.

“Good farmyard management can help to prevent accidental runs of polluting substances and protect the local environment. This will have a significant and lasting positive impact on valuable wild fish populations in an area,” he said.