FARMERS will be asked to review their slurry application methods to avoid significant nitrogen loss, at a coming event in Stranraer.

Hosted by AHDB, its expert, David Ball, told The Scottish Farmer: “Many farmers use splash plates and slurry tankers to blast their slurry over the field and that can result in up 80% nitrogen loss.

"But, there are a number of other more efficient methods, such as shallow injection and while they might require more capital investment, the benefit they bring can be far greater as very little nitrogen is subsequently lost.

“I would advise farmers to invest in equipment which will spread slurry effectively as the cost can often be supported by the savings in nitrogen. At the moment there are grants available for such things, as the government encourages farmers to reduce ammonia emissions – some of which come from nitrogen loss – so the investment could potentially be fairly small.”

The issue of ammonia emissions will also be tackled in more detail at the event, particularly the possibility of future regulation in this area which he believed were likely as government is committed to reducing emissions from agriculture.

He said: “Dairy farmers haven’t yet had regulations imposed on ammonia emissions, but we should still be trying to reduce them on farm.

"Firstly, in order to retain as much slurry nitrogen as possible to save on purchased fertiliser and, secondly, because new regulations could come into force in the future.

“At the event, we will be discussing how to do that reasonably simply, for example through improved application methods, covering slurry stores or maybe even ration changes.”

Mr Ball said he will also cover the current regulations, including SSAFO and NVZs, the latter being particularly relevant as 'Stranraer Lowlands' was added to the NVZ list in 2016.

Focusing on the four most important areas – livestock limits, organic manure field limits, N-max crop limits and closed periods – David will explain how AHDB Dairy’s Slurry Wizard tool can not only help farmers work out how many kilograms of nitrogen their livestock are producing per hectare (the limit is 170kg) but then how they can make changes to ensure they are NVZ compliant.

Mr Ball will also discuss the importance of slurry sampling and how to use muck and slurry more efficiently, urging growers not to think of them as simply waste materials but as an effective plant nutrient product with a financial value attached.

“All organic manures should be analysed to determine their nutrient content and then farmers can work out what it is worth in terms of N, P and K, as well as in financial terms.

"For example, if you have a tonne of FYM with 9.4kg of potash in it, how much can you reduce your fertiliser volume by? We should treat this stuff carefully and get everything we can out of it.”

Event details:

The meeting will be held on 14 December 14, at the McWilliam family's Colfin Farm, near Stranraer, and will focus on AHDB’s refreshed 'Nutrient Management Guide (previously known as RB209)' can help farmers exploit the financial potential of manure and slurry.

AHDB Dairy's Bryan Nicolson commented: “Our data tells us that muck is worth £9.20/tonne and a cubic metre of slurry has a value of £3.20 in NPK alone. These products have real financial value for the farm, but only if they are stored and used correctly.

“This event aims to make sure farmers have the tools they need to ensure they are getting the most out of their muck and slurry, for example through using AHDB’s Slurry Wizard which allows them to calculate their volume of slurry and storage capacity.”

Co-organiser, consultant Stuart Moir, of Moir Environmental, and David Ball, technical manager at AHDB Dairy, will both speak at the event, covering a range of topics including how to produce a nutrient management plan; techniques for cost-effective applications; compliance with regulations; and an update on local grants, projects and initiatives.

Lunch will be provided and attendees should book by calling 01904 771216 or e-mailing Dairy Pro Points are available for attending.