Slurry: There are just two weeks left to get all slurry spread before the closed period begins on 15 October.

Farmyard manure can continue to be spread up until 1 November.

There are currently no restrictions on when soiled water can be spread, provided conditions are suitable.

However, there is a proposal in the Nitrates Action Plan to change that from next year.

Despite the rain over recent days, ground conditions are remarkably good for the time of year, so the advice is to get slurry out as soon as possible.

For those using trailing shoes or dribble bar machines, that’s an easier decision to make, as slurry can be spread on covers of 1,100kg/ha or less without tainting the grass. Remember, all farmers in a nitrates derogation are supposed to be using low-emission slurry spreading methods. It’s trickier to find ground to spread when using a splash plate. Traditionally, farmers waited until paddocks were closed before they spread slurry on them. However, if conditions are suitable, it’s much better to spread slurry sooner rather than later. Any paddock with a cover less than 600kg/ha can be spread with a splash plate, but four to six weeks should be left before grazing again, which brings us to early November. The key thing is to make sure all tanks are completely empty before the start of the closed period to maximise winter storage.

Soil sampling: The Department of Agriculture has launched a new soil sampling pilot programme. While likely to be oversubscribed, dairy farmers should apply to this scheme as applications will be whittled down based on location and farm system. The scheme allows for the samples to be taken by a technician and analysed for pH, nutrients, soil carbon and E coli.

In terms of soil sampling, it’s still a bit early in the season to be taking samples just yet, given that at least three months should have elapsed since the last application of phosphorus and potash before the sample is taken. This means that fields spread with compound fertiliser or slurry in late August or early September should not be sampled until early December. Ideally, samples should be taken this side of Christmas in order to have results back in early January, which can then be used to work out a fertiliser plan for the year. Given the price of fertiliser, there has never been a better time to soil sample to know the status of fields in terms of pH, P and K. Where pH is low, spreading lime will give a fantastic return on investment. If spreading lime and slurry this autumn, spread slurry first, wait a week and then spread lime.

Closing: From next week on, the paddocks grazed by the cows are unlikely to be grazed again until 2022. What paddocks are closed and when will depend on average farm cover in early November. There is no point in being too prescriptive about it now, as average farm cover is a better measure and more important than closing date. However, farm as though those fields are closed, ie make sure there is a good clean-out with low residuals.

Allocating grass on a 12-hour basis is probably the best way to achieve this and given the change in weather, moving to a 12-hour break is probably wise now anyway.