The period for slurry spreading opens on Friday 13 January for the counties in zone A and Monday 16 for zone B. Spreading opens for the counties in zone C and Northern Ireland on 1 February.

Slurry has become an increasingly valuable source of nutrients on-farm and farmers will want to make the best use of it to kickstart grass growth this spring.

When it comes to spreading slurry in early spring, outlined are five things to keep in mind.

1 Safety

Regardless of the time of year, always keep safety in mind.

In early spring, there may be greater urgency to get slurry out, taking the pressure off tanks while weather and ground conditions allow.

Rushing to get the job done can lead to corners being cut and accidents occurring. Slurry gases are toxic and can kill, as can a slurry tanker in the wrong hands.

When mixing storage tanks, the first 10 minutes is when gases are at their most lethal. As it is not always possible to mix on a day with a breeze, remove cattle above the tank and exit the shed as soon as you engage the PTO.

Never leave tank openings uncovered when leaving the yard to empty the tanker or head off to tend to other jobs. Keep children and pets well away from slurry mixing and filling points.

When filling the tanker, PTO shafts should be properly covered and stop the drive before switching the vacuum pump from fill to spread.

Finally, make sure the tractor can handle the weight of a full tanker and brake safely under load safely. A front weight block may help with weight ballast.

2 Not all slurry has the same fertiliser value

Don’t assume all slurry produced on-farm has the same fertiliser value. Slurry produced by dry cows on a silage-only diet will be low in nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potash (K).

Where possible, target this slurry to fields at index 2 or above for P and K. Also, as it is low in K, it may be better targeted to grazing paddocks, as the risk of tetany will be reduced.

In contrast, slurry from cattle on a high concentrate diet has a high NPK content and should be targeted to fields that are at index 1 or below for P and K.

As this slurry has a high potash value, avoid spreading on paddocks that will be grazed in early spring by lactating cows, as there will be an increased risk of tetany.

3 Target swards with low covers

Target swards with low grass covers, as these paddocks will be grazed late in the first rotation. This gives more time for slurry to be washed off grass and into the soil, improving grass utilisation.

4 Don’t be in a rush to spread slurry if conditions aren’t ideal

If tanks are full, the pressure will be on to get slurry out once the ban is lifted. But if soil temperatures are low and conditions marginal, just put out enough slurry to free up tank space.

In cold conditions, there will be little in the way of a growth response. It will be more beneficial to hold slurry back until soil temperatures rise, stimulating greater grass growth.

5 Making use of LESS kit

Slurry applied using low emissions slurry spreading (LESS) equipment will increase the amount of N getting to the crop, reducing losses to waterways and the atmosphere.

While it won’t be practical for every farm, most contractors will have such equipment and can cover a lot of ground in one day.

When factoring in the savings on diesel and time at a stage when many farmers are busy calving, it is an option that can work out to be more economical than spreading yourself.

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