The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine launched an online calculator to help farmers get a handle on their farm’s nitrates position before banding is introduced next year.

With five months to go before banding is introduced, the Department of Agriculture has developed a new online tool to help farmers prepare for the measure.

Up to now, each dairy cow was treated the same in terms of nitrogen excretion rates, with those rates moving from 85kg/cow/year to 89kg/cow/year in recent years.

Now, each farm will have a different nitrogen excretion rate based on the amount of milk the herd produces.

The new measure categorises dairy cows into one of three bands based on average milk yield per cow:

  • Band 1: cows producing less than 4,500kg milk annually will be assigned organic nitrogen at 80kg N/ha/year.
  • Band 2: cows producing between 4,500kg and 6,500kg milk annually will be assigned organic nitrogen at 92kg N/ha/year.
  • Band 3: cows producing over 6,500kg milk annually will be assigned organic nitrogen at 106kg N/ha/year.
  • Critically, what band each herd is in is based on the average milk yield of the previous three years.

    Average yield

    For 2023, what band each herd will be in will be based on the average number of cows and the average milk yield supplied per cow on average over the years 2020, 2021 and 2022.

    It is not yet clear what criteria the Department of Agriculture will use for calculating average cow numbers - it could be total cow numbers as per the AIMS data or average milking cow numbers as per ICBF Herdplus data.

    The problem with the AIMS data is that it doesn’t differentiate a milking cow from a cull cow and the problem with the Herdplus data is that not every dairy farmer is signed up to Herdplus, with only 30% of dairy farmers signed up in 2020.