Ireland’s fifth Nitrates Action Programme was approved recently by the European Commission with an overview published last week by the Irish Government, which can be found online by scanning the QR code, right, or tapping it, if viewing on e-paper.
Given the high levels of discussion during the consultation phase, it is not surprising that there are many questions being raised as farmers slowly start to see more reports on the changes and digest what effect it will have on their system of production.
Below is a flavour of some of the questions received over the last week.
What was the final outcome of changes regarding the management and storage of soiled water and are these changes limited to farmers availing of a nitrates derogation?
The proposals surrounding the management of soiled water have changed significantly and will now be introduced on a phased basis over the next three years.
Regarding the spreading of soiled water, the prohibited periods for applying soiled water and the applicable dates are as follows:
All holdings producing soiled water must have a minimum of three weeks’ soiled water storage capacity in place by 1 December 2023 and four weeks’ soiled water storage capacity in place by 1 December 2024.
There is an extended allowance again for winter/liquid milk producers where four weeks’ storage needs to be in place by 1 December 2025.
Will the introduction of new nitrogen and phosphorus excretion levels for dairy cows influence the volume of slurry storage required?
It is important to first note that the new excretion levels detailed in Table 1 do not come in to effect until 1 January 2023. For 2022, the organic nitrogen excretion rate is 89kg N/ha with the P level unchanged. The changes in the excretion levels have had no effect as yet on the winter slurry storage requirements which for dairy cows are listed at 0.33m3 per week. For those investing in slurry storage facilities and at the higher excretion levels, it would be prudent to plan for extra capacity being required in the future.
I am stocked at 120kg organic nitrogen/ha and take advantage of outwintering to reduce slurry storage requirements. Is it true that I will no longer be able to avail of this allowance even though I outwinter suckler cows?
Yes, the current allowance whereby farmers stocked at less than 140kg organic N/ha can reduce their storage capacity will change from 1 January 2025. From this date, the allowance will only be available to farmers stocked at less than 100kg N/ha.
Farmers stocked above this level will be required to have storage capacity in place regardless of if it is utilised or not.
To what level has the required slurry storage period been extended?
The slurry storage period has not been extended per se and remains at 16 to 22 weeks across the different zones. The prohibited period for applying slurry has been brought forward, which could require farmers that normally house cattle earlier to have greater capacity. The new rules are as follows:
The overview also states that scientific criteria will be established whereby farmers who satisfy such criteria may be permitted to spread slurry up to 15 October. The criteria will be published by 1 September 2022.