A second dairy farmer has spoken out about the devastating impact a product sold as liquid fertiliser – but found to be contaminated with human and industrial waste – has had on his farm, causing him and his family 'five years of suffering'.

The farmer in question started using a product allegedly sold as ammonium sulphate liquid fertiliser in 2016, which he believed is to blame for the declining health of his dairy herd and subsequent loss of milk yields and earnings.

Chemical analysis carried out on silage, soil and grass samples on-farm flagged up multiple substances, including known carcinogens and toxins. He reported his findings and concerns regarding the liquid fertiliser to the agronomy company who supplied the product, but to no avail and has spent the last five years doing everything he can to keep 'my struggling business afloat'.

This means there are now two farmers from the same region in the North of England reporting similar experiences from using the same product. Both claim their farms were treated as a 'dumping ground for waste products.'

Read more - Dairy farm disaster linked to liquid fertiliser

Speaking anonymously with The SF, the second farmer to share his story explained how his dairy farm has been impacted over the past five years.

“We were told by the salesperson that this liquid fertiliser would help our grass to grow and improve our forage quality, which is what every farmer wants to hear. What we didn’t bargain for were all the extra chemicals thrown in and disguised in the product and the devastating impact it would then go on to have on our dairy herd," he told us.

“That winter, when the cattle began eating the silage, we noticed there was a huge volume of waste, the cattle stopped drinking water in the sheds and abscesses started appearing on their necks. Milk yields swiftly dropped and the silage appeared to be passing right through them – they didn’t seem able to digest it.”

His milk check dropped from £11,000 a month to £3400 due to a rapid decline in yields. He also noticed his cows were aborting more frequently and instead of culling around nine per year, he had to cull 28 cattle within six months.

“Something was seriously wrong and at first we blamed ourselves, thinking it was down to disease, so we had all the sheds cleaned out from top to bottom but the following winter when the cattle came back inside, they started to rapidly go downhill again.

“They were extremely bad tempered and it was dangerous going near them at calving when normally dairy cattle are so quiet. It became clear that they were seemingly addicted to the silage and were jumping over fences to get to it. I’ve never seen cattle so fired up,” he recalled.

“Our vet at the time didn’t take it seriously. He saw the problems we were having but told us we had staggers and to lick our wounds and move on. A few weeks went by and we couldn’t stand back and watch these cows fail so we rang the vet again and the boss said, ‘stop complaining and go find a new vet’.

"I later went into the practice to get some drugs for the cows and the secretary said, ‘you’re not with us anymore, go find someone else’.”

He told the SF that he reported his suspicions regarding the fertiliser to the agronomy company who had supplied the product, but to this date, they have still not been out to inspect his farm.

Chemical analysis was carried out on the silage, soil and grass, and shared with The SF and were similar to the results of the dairy farmer reported in last week's story. They were found to contain traces of substances commonly found in paint stripper, rubber tires, brake fluid, cosmetics, immuno-suppressants, chemotherapy drugs, and much more.

“The results from the samples were mind-blowing,” the farmer continued. “Our silage, grass, soil and water all contained multiple substances that include known carcinogens and toxins."

He told The SF that he reported the product to the authorities, including environmental bodies but claimed that it has been a constant uphill struggle to get anyone to take the situation seriously with everyone 'closing their doors' to him.

“Nobody wanted to touch this. It could have serious repercussions and people were clearly scared, but we are being left to struggle on our own to pick up the pieces,” he said.

“Our milk yields have been so low that we have had to make difficult decisions on the farm to allow us to afford feed for the cattle. We even sold half of our sheep flock to keep us afloat and have been trying our hardest to survive this. If my cows go, I will have to sell and then I have failed.”

In the last five years he made many management changes on the farm to try and get back on track. He stopped putting slurry on silage fields and found that the cattle were able to digest their silage again. Milk yields have been increasing, and culling rates getting back to normal.

“We have just had the best winter we have had for five years. Every year whatever happened with the fertiliser is gradually moving out of the land and with good management we hope to pull through the other side, but nothing will ever make up for the damage this has caused to my family.”

The SF spoke with an agronomist who had seen the analysis from the farm and he called for regulators to 'wake up' and address the situation. “I was brought in to look at samples last year and saw the results from both these farms and both had used the same product and experienced similar problems.

“The milk and water samples were particularly alarming and point to environmental contamination with industrial chemicals which pose serious risk to animal and human health, as well as soil and aquatic organisms.”

He advised the farmers against any sale of food or crops until the contamination had been eliminated.

Commenting on the product itself and concerns which have been raised around it being labelled as liquid fertiliser, he said: “Liquid fertiliser is a regulated product. Waste that is recovered to land is highly regulated under environmental permit regulations south of the Border.

"If this product has been through an end of waste process, then it is falling between the two sets of regulations," he said.

“This product seemingly has escaped waste regulations but it has been through an end of waste process so there must be documentation out there. Regulators need to sit up and take this seriously."

* The Scottish Farmer believes that the vast majority of liquid fertilisers are stable and suitable for use on farms. This is a strictly controlled area of business and so farmers should always receive a dedicated run-down of what they are buying. We hope to include a statement from over-arching industry body, AIC, on what you should expect from accredited products, in next week's issue.