In this article, Kieran McCartan, CAFRE Agri-environment adviser, Omagh, discusses nitrogen loading.
As we are well into January, now is the time to look at your nitrogen loading, a measure of stocking rate.
You can use the CAFRE N Loading Calculator to calculate your farm’s nitrogen (N) loading.
Check that either you are under 170KgN/ha after you export your slurry (submit slurry export figures for 2021 by January 31st, 2022).
Or alternatively, if you are under derogation, start to gather all the figures to complete your submission on or before March 1st, 2022.
If changes are likely to occur in livestock numbers, the amount of slurry exported, or the land available to you for the coming year, you should evaluate your options.
Higher stocking rate
One option that may be worth considering is applying for a Nutrient Action Programme Derogation. This allows you to increase your nitrogen loading up to 250kg N/ha limit.
Consequently, additional rules ensure that the higher stocking rate does not pose a greater risk to the environment. You can apply by March 1st, 2022.
It is hard to predict what the weather will be for 2022.
However, even at this stage, we can see that fertiliser has hugely increased in price with no short term predictions of any change.
Once again, now is also a good time to complete a nutrient management plan. It is even more important to use the slurry you produce on your farm.
With the move from splash plate to low emissions spreading for contractors from last February and the becoming compulsory on February 1st, 2022 for those with 200 or more livestock units, this will help to make better use of the nutrients in the slurry.
Soil sampling before applying slurry or fertiliser is essential, and the Nutrient Management calculator is particularly useful in completing these calculations.
Under the Nutrient Action Programme, it is worth noting that from January 1st, 2022, supplementary livestock drinking points must be a minimum of 10m from any watercourse where there could be a significant risk of pollution occurring from their use.
You may wish to consider applying for fencing of watercourses under the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) when it opens in 2022.
However, a minimum distance of the fence from the top of the bank would be at least 2m.
Other options that you may want to consider under the EFS is to include:
- Hedge and tree planting;
- Other environmental options to improve water quality, biodiversity and the climate.