The amount of grass on farms has made it more difficult to find suitable areas to spread any remaining slurry this autumn, but at the same time, given ground conditions have been good for much of the year, there is no excuse to be running up to the slurry deadline this October.

Since closed periods for spreading slurry were introduced in 2007, compliance by farmers has been extremely high.

In recent years, farmers and contractors have also been encouraged to move to dribble bar and trailing shoe technology as a means of reducing ammonia and ensuring better use of slurry nitrogen. The uptake by the industry has been remarkable, although it is a fact rarely acknowledged by those continually blaming our industry for every environmental ill.

Going forward, we must follow best practice around this issue. Slurry is a valuable nutrient that is becoming even more important as bagged fertiliser prices soar.

If your slurry storage is under so much pressure that you have to spread on 1 February, perhaps it might be prudent to keep fewer livestock.

Pipe systems have brought great flexibility, but sometimes land is just too wet for spreading. And perhaps some fields around yards do not need any slurry at all.

By following good practice, it means we have a strong argument that the rules do not need to change. But if the rules are pushed to the limit by a few, it has the potential to bring even tighter restrictions for everyone.

An insight into that can be seen in the draft nitrates action programme currently being debated in the Republic of Ireland. The proposals include a start date for the slurry closed period of 30 September in 2022 and moving to 15 September in 2023, and requiring all farms over 100 livestock units (medium sized farms upwards) to utilise low emission spreading equipment.

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