Proposals set out in a DAERA consultation on a draft ammonia strategy will put costs onto farmers and will be “very challenging”, especially for small farms, the president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, David Brown has said.

Speaking to agricultural journalists on Monday, Brown said his organisation will have to consult via its committees before submitting a detailed formal response to the consultation.

However, he acknowledged that “certain parts of these proposals will be very unpalatable for some farms”.

Included within the proposals is a complete ban on slurry spreading using splash plates to apply from 2026, as well as a ban on the use of straight urea fertiliser. Farmers will also be encouraged to cover slurry stores, plant trees around farmyards and graze more of their cows.

However, it is the proposed ban on the use of splash plates that has drawn most initial criticism, especially from relatively lightly stocked farmers who rely on their own equipment to move reasonably small amounts of slurry each year.

Some also asked about the situation in the Republic of Ireland, where there has also been a drive towards the use of low-emission slurry spreading equipment (LESSE) on more intensively stocked farms, but as yet, no plans to stop all farmers from using splash plates.

From 1 January 2023 all farms in ROI that exceed150kg of manure Nitrogen (N) per hectare must use LESSE, which reduces to 130kg from 1 January 2024 and to farms that produce over 100kg manure N/ha from 1 January 2025. The vast majority of beef and sheep farms in NI are stocked at a level that produces less than 100kg manure N/ha.

The consultation on the draft NI ammonia strategy can be found on the DAERA website (, and closes to responses on 3 March 2023.

A series of six articles that explore the issue of ammonia, and how emissions can be reduced, are available to read on the AFBI website.

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