Fergus O’Rourke, Teagasc Manorhamilton, has urged farmers to make the best use of cattle slurry in 2022, in light of record-high fertiliser prices.
During a recent Teagasc Sligo/Leitrim Donegal webinar, he advised farmers to apply slurry on farms that require P and K but stressed the importance of soil sampling.
He told farmers “It is like throwing darts at a board blindfolded if you do not have a set of soil samples for the farm, and up-to-date samples at that. It is going to be very difficult to get the maximum use out of the slurry.”
“By having soil samples up-to-date, we can determine what fields are low in P and K and ultimately, we can target them fields with slurry.”
He added that ultimately, soil samples will determine the application rates, as they will identify fields that have high P and K demands.
He continued: “Is it in a grazing scenario, or is it to grow a crop of first or second-cut silage? We do not want to be under-supplying the nutrients or spreading them in excess either.”
“The important question to ask ourselves is when and how should we apply it? In an ideal world, we should be applying as much as possible in springtime.”
During his presentation, O’Rourke also shed light on the value of cattle slurry.
He said: “When you go to a co-op and buy a pallet of fertiliser, you are given a label. From that, you know exactly the value of that product, and you can determine how you are going to apply it then.”
“With slurry, I suppose it is a little bit different. The important point here is, in fact, that not all slurry is the same. It might look the same in the tank or out on the field, but there is significant variability in it.”
“Where that comes from, or where it is driven from is primarily the DM %. The more dilute slurry is, the less nutrient-dense it is,” he added.
How much is slurry worth (€)?
He then put slurry values into monetary terms based on recent price comparisons from Teagasc in Johnstown Castle.
On the back of this, he stressed that slurry is a “very valuable resource, not just this year, but, in fact, every year”.
“To put that into simple terms, every time you go out with a 2,000gal tank of cattle slurry, there is approximately €78 floating around. It is a valuable resource that you are pulling behind the tractor.”
“If you were to take the amount of the amount of slurry in a slatted shed, if you take a three-bay double with a suspended passage, which is a common enough shed in this part of the country, you are looking in the region of €4,200 worth of nutrients below the slats.”