Farmers in Zone A and B have begun the slurry spreading campaign, with the drier and more settled conditions leading to improved soil trafficability.

The early housing in autumn 2023 due to poor weather at the time has put extreme pressure on slurry storage this year, with many farmers glad of the reprieve that lowering tanks has given them.

The Zone A closed period for slurry spreading ended on 13 January, with Zone B farmers allowed to spread from 16 January onwards.

Those farmers in Zone C (Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal) must wait until 1 February before commencing spreading. The above dates are also relevant for the spreading of farmyard manure.

Water buffer zones

Farmers should be conscious that for the two weeks after the closed period finishes that buffer zones increase with regard to surface water (drains and streams).

For the two weeks after the opening date and the two weeks prior to the closed period, the buffer zone increases from 5m to 10m.

A buffer zone is a no-spread area used to protect water by taking up excess nutrients before they can reach the water.

For lake shorelines, the buffer zone is 20m all year, while water courses where the slope towards them is 10° or more hold a 10m buffer zone all throughout the opened period.

Conditions for spreading

Even within the closed period, farmers must comply with the Department rules surrounding the spreading of nutrients. Slurry, chemical or organic manures or soiled water must not be spread when:

  • Land is waterlogged.
  • Land is flooded or it is likely to flood.
  • Land is frozen or covered with snow.
  • Heavy rain is forecast within 48 hours (check forecasts from Met Éireann).
  • The ground slopes steeply and there is a risk of water pollution.