There have been 39 new measures or regulations introduced to as part of the Nitrates Action Programme since 2018.

The following points summarise some of the key changes for 2024.

  • 1. In 2024, some derogation farms will have an upper limit to be stocked at 220kg organic nitrogen per hectare (N/ha), reduced from 250kg N/ha. This is based off a map released by the Department of Agriculture. If a parcel of land is divided with some areas in 250 and some in 220, it will all be considered at 250kg N/ha. Add up all the area in each coloured parcel and multiply by 220kg and 250kg respectively.
  • 2. Table 1 shows current regulations for closed periods for the application of nutrients – the main changes for 2024 being a change in soiled water storage from 1 to 31 December.
  • 3. From 1 December 2024, all milk producers must have a minimum of 31 days soiled water storage capacity on the holding except for winter/liquid milk producers.

    Liquid milk producers will be allowed to spread throughout this period until 2025, where storage will be required for the month of December.

  • 4. Each dairy herd will be assigned to one of the three band’s each year, based on the herd’s average annual milk yield per cow (Table 2). The band will be selected based off ICBF data in the previous year’s milk supply. For example, a farm that produced 5,500kg/cow in 2023 will be in the middle band (92kg N) for 2024.
  • 5. On farms with a stocking rate of 130 kg N/ha or above, a maximum crude protein content of 15% is permitted in concentrate feedstuff fed to dairy cows, and other bovines, aged two years old and over, between 15 April and 30 September.
  • 6. Soil testing is compulsory on farms stocked above 130kg N/ha. Soil tests are now required for all tillage land. In the absence of a soil test in either of these cases, a soil phosphorous (P) Index of 4 is assumed.
  • 7. Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) for farms above a stocking rate of 130 kg N/ha is required. LESS must be used for all applications of pig slurry and must also be used when applying livestock manure to arable land.
  • 8. In the absence of facilities for the storage of any effluent, silage bales can only be stored a maximum of two bales high and at least 20m from any watercourse.
  • 9. Working out how much storage capacity is required:

    Number of livestock during storage period x volume of slurry (m3) per week, multiplied by weeks’ storage required, equals total volume required m3 (see Table 3). Example: 100 cows x 0.33m3 x 16 weeks (zone A) = 528m3 storage requirement.

  • Policy not yet agreed

  • Calf excretion rates: The current rules for calf excretion rates are that calves less than one year of age produce 24kg N/year, which is 2kg N/month. Teagasc says a newborn calf doesn’t produce 2kg N in their first month of age, but produces more than 2kg N/month at 12 months. The suggestion would see calves assigned 1kg N for the first three months rather than 6kg N.
  • Excretion rates with low protein: Teagasc research has shown excretion rates from dairy cows on farms where low crude protein concentrate is used, cows are excreting less N. Where low protein concentrates are used, excretion rate per cow would be reduced from 92kg to 88kg in the middle band, and 106kg to 101kg in the top band.
  • Fertiliser rates: The limit of chemical fertiliser has also not been agreed. The proposal is a 5-10% cut to maximum chemical N allowance, from 225kg N/ha to between 214kg and 200kg N/ha. The final figure won’t be known until April.
  • Slurry production per week: Teagasc is currently analysing slurry tanks on pilot farms, and is going to revise the 0.33m3/cow per week figure. This could possibly see an upward change by 20% to 30%, depending on the review due to be published next spring.