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What does derogation farming involve?

Nitrates Derogation

In this article, That’s Farming looks at nitrates derogation, what is involved, and what you should know if you are interested in farming at a higher stocking rate.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, there are approximately 7,000 derogation farmers in Ireland.

Farmers involved in nitrates derogation can farm at higher stocking rates, above 170kg livestock manure nitrogen/ha. 250kg nitrogen/ha is the limit on derogation farmers. This higher figure equates to up to 3LU/ha.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible to farm at this higher stocking rate, your farm must comprise at least 80% grass. It is also important to note that your farm must include livestock.

Furthermore, in relation to livestock, they should be excluded from watercourses by means of a stock-proof fence. Animals should be restricted 1.5m from the top of a riverbank or water edge.

From April 15th to September 30th, grazing livestock should not consume concentrates with a crude protein content greater than 15%.

You will apply slurry using Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) equipment.

You should apply online through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The deadline this year was 14th April 14th, 2022.

It is also important to note that a Nitrogen and Phosphorus Statement, which is available to you each year via, contains quantities produced by your cattle only during the previous year.

Should you obtain other livestock on your farm, such as horses, poultry, pigs or sheep, you will need to calculate the N and P produced from these animals and add to the final figure.

Nutrient Management

Farmers involved in derogation are not allowed to import slurry, even in the processed form. Importation of slurry will result in automatic rejection from derogation.

Moreover, commonage is not eligible for the upper limit of 250kg N/ha. 50kg N/ha is the maximum limit allowed on commonage, with chemical fertiliser prohibited.

You should submit a nutrient management plan (NMP) or fertiliser plan to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to accompany your application for derogation entry.

This plan should include crop rotations, the proposed application of manure and other chemical fertilisers.

A farm map, farmyard sketch and soil analysis results must also be submitted to the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, should there be any changes from previous years.

You must submit fertiliser accounts for the previous year online. This documentation should accompany all other required documentation outlined above.

Soil testing

Construct an NMP on the basis of soil sampling results conducted after 15th September 15th, 2018. As part of derogation, farmers should participate in the P Build-up programme. Moreover, this involves attaching P Build-up training by an approved FAS advisor.

Soil analysis will be conducted every four years. This single analysis should include a minimum of five hectares of land.

New applicants to derogation, who have not conducted any soil analysis should assume P Index 4 for 2022.

For 2023, submit soil sample results to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine before March 31st, 2023. The same condition applies to newly owned, rented or leased land.

Grassland management

As a condition of derogation, farmers should record the quantity of annual grass production through appropriate software technology.

New entrants should complete a grassland management training course and will be required to set up an appropriate software technology, as accepted by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

For grass measuring, farmers have two options:

  • Attend two training workshops – this involves training on utilising the software technology to measure grass, as well as grass measuring. These farmers must also take two grass measurements in that year.
  • Record 20 grass measurements on the appropriate grass measuring software.

The farm must adopt a liming programme. This programme will be over a four year period. It will entail 25% of lime spread in the first year, with the balance requirements being spread over the next three years.

Conduct ploughing between 1st March and May 31st. Ploughing should be followed by a crop with a high nitrogen demand, no later than three weeks after ploughing grass.

Moreover, when you are reseeding swards, incorporation of clover is required on derogation farms. This includes at least 1.5kg/ha of naked clover seed, or otherwise at least 2.5kg/ha of pelleted clover.

Slurry spreading

A farm will spread at least 50% of slurry prior to June 15th, 2022. Regardless, all slurry must be applied using LESS equipment.

dYou must not spread livestock manure in the autumn before grass cultivation. The holding should obtain sufficient storage for all livestock manure produced during the closed period.

The movement of organic manure exported from the holding should be submitted to the Nitrates Division, DAFM, by 31st October each year. You can do this using the online system.

Protecting biodiversity

Derogation farmers should also consider local ecology, as well as biodiversity and conservation.

As part of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, farmers in derogation must commit to at least one measure from this plan.

  • Maintain hedgerows through a minimum of a three-year cycle. For example, cut hedges in rotation, to ensure flowering of some hedgerows takes place on the farm;
  • Maintain at least one Blackthorn/Whitethorn tree within a hedgerow.
Farm payments

Failure to ensure compliance, resulting in a cross-compliance breach, will be subjected to a Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) financial penalty. It is possible to withdraw from derogation unless an instance has occurred that you have been notified of an inspection.

To conclude, a number of steps are required from farmers, should they wish to farm at a higher stocking rate.

The steps required by derogation farmers are proposed to benefit combat against climate change, slurry spreading emissions, as well as a protective measure for biodiversity.

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