Beef Plan’s environmental committee shares its thoughts on tightening the window for slurry spreading. This is a proposed measure in Ireland’s latest draft Nitrates Action Programme.
The further tightening of the window for spreading slurry proposed in Ireland’s fifth Nitrates Action Plan is unnecessary.
It deprives farmers of the added benefit of availing of the nutrients this precious fertiliser provides at a time of year when grass is still growing and readily absorbs the nutrients slurry provides to grow grass with a very low risk of run-off.
Spreading slurry from September 15th to October 15th is critical on many farms. It enables farms to carry out extended grazing, an important mitigation factor against climate change.
Extended grazing is only possible if grass gets nutrients early and later in the year. These are the periods that allow for the most efficient use of grass, which is grazing.
It is a poor decision that will worsen our climate change situation and add extra costs for farmers.
The complete ban on spreading soiled water from November 15th to January 15th, while well-intended, the practicalities of this decision could very well serve to increase nitrate leaching rather than reduce it.
It is well publicised that one of the side effects of climate change is the increased frequency of extreme weather events such as exceptionally heavy rainfall and flooding.
It will not be a question if these events occur, but when these events occur. When faced with such a situation on farms, the practicalities give farmers two choices.
- A: Spread the unexpected run-off on land when conditions are suitable;
- B: Do nothing and let this run-off directly into streams.
This new measure will tie farmers’ hands from managing the unprecedented situation that inflicts the least damage on water quality.
Flooded and overflowing slurry tanks also create animal welfare problems. These new measures will prevent farmers from solving these problems so that animals do not suffer.
Farmers have never been happy with the imposition of calendar farming. It impacts their pockets and limits their ability to protect the environment.
The unpredictable weather we get on this unique island presents difficulties and opportunities.
Irish Water’s problems in managing wastewater and preventing pollution have been well publicised.
Their lack of funding has been blamed on the abolition of water charges brought about by the water protests.
This has meant that direct discharges of raw sewage into streams during normal periods and periods of heavy rainfall are still common occurrences up and down the country.
The tightening of calendar farming for farmers, on the one hand by imposing impractical solutions on farmers as regards the management of animal waste compared to the ‘hands-off’ approach afforded to Irish Water as regards managing human waste, is not a consistent approach when dealing with water quality in our rivers.
Beef Plan accepts that the growing trend towards factory and super farms has had a negative impact on water quality.
Maximum stocking rates/ha
We would like to see the government direct a more targeted approach specifically at these factory and super farms rather than the blanket approach that is currently being proposed to decrease slurry spreading windows through more restrictive calendar farming.
Instead of this blanket approach that unnecessarily further restricts small family farms, Beef Plan would advocate reducing maximum stocking rates/hectare for these huge operations as a more targeted and effective solution.
Weather forecasting has become more reliable in recent years. Recently, schools were closed as a result of extreme weather forecasts.
Instead of more restricted calendar farming, Beef Plan would prefer to see a move towards farming based on weather forecasts. This approach would be more beneficial to family farm incomes and water quality.
Beef Plan requests these news proposals to be dropped before unnecessary suffering is inflicted on animals and more harm is done to our environment and family farm income.