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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Department warn max stocking rate for derogation farmers could drop

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has warned that the maximum stocking rate for derogation farmers could fall.

Currently, under the Nitrates Regulations, farmers can farm at a stocking rate of up to 170kg organic manure nitrogen per hectare, subject to meeting some “additional conditions”.

As it stands, the nitrates derogation allows farmers to farm to a higher stocking rate of 250kg organic manure nitrogen per hectare subject to “stricter” environmental conditions.

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

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.

In a previous article, That’s Farming looked at what derogation farming means, which you can read via this link.

The current derogation runs to the end of 2025, with a review of water quality data due to take place next year.

However, according to a statement from the DAFM, depending on the review’s outcome, the maximum stocking rate for derogation farms in certain areas may reduce to 220kg organic manure nitrogen per hectare from 2024.

Breaching the limits

In a publication entitled Nitrates Regulations – How to Avoid Breaching the Limits, it outlines how farmers can face penalty deductions from EU-funded scheme payments if they breach conditions.

It has warned that farmers should ensure their enterprise does not breach the regulations for a second year in any three-year cycle.

Furthermore, it states that the loss of payments for a repeated breach will increase “sustainability”, as will the risk of an on-farm inspection.

If farmers exceed the agreed 170/250kg N/ha/year livestock manure limit, the DAFM advises them to do the following:

  • Rent additional land;
  • Export FYM/slurry;
  • Reduce livestock numbers.
Regulation’s purpose:

The department states that the regulations’ purpose is to provide a “basic” set of measures to ensure the protection of waters.

This includes protecting drinking water sources against pollution caused by nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural sources.

Moreover, there is a “primary” emphasis on managing livestock manures and other fertilisers.

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