The “reasonable excuse” clause written into the Nutrients Action Programme does allow, in some very limited circumstances, farmers to lower their slurry tanks during the closed period for spreading manures. The main risk for farmers is the potential that it could trigger a visit from NI Environment Agency (NIEA) inspectors, who will check for evidence of water pollution, that there was no alternative and that the farm has sufficient slurry storage capacity in normal circumstances. For cattle and sheep farms, there must be 22 weeks storage available and it is on this issue that some farmers can get caught out.

The closed period in NI runs from midnight on 15 October to midnight 31 January, which equates to a period of just over 15 weeks.

So, in practice, 22 weeks of storage capacity means a farmer who has all tanks emptied at 1 October, should have enough storage capacity to get through to early March.

Given the prevalence of TB across NI, it is not difficult to see how a farm could easily end up on the wrong side of this storage requirement.


But there are also those now arguing for ever greater slurry storage capacity on farms and for government to be incentivising that by way of capital grant schemes.

Making the case at a Yara conference at CAFRE Greenmount last Thursday, ADAS soil scientist John Williams said that if we want to minimise the risk of phosphorus (P) run-off to water bodies, slurry should only be spread when land is dry.

He said that in the spring, fields might be able to carry machinery, but are tender and easily re-wet when it rains, so there is a high risk of P losses. His preference is that slurry is spread after each silage cut.

In effect, that would mean farmers having enough capacity to store slurry over the entire housing period, so it would require a significant capital outlay from farmers and government.

Read more

Better to cut carbon than cull livestock, says Brown

Considerable easing on lead times for slurry tankers with LESS attachments