New nitrates rules will come into play from 1 January 2021. Some of the measures were initially signed into law under SI no. 605 of 2017 while further amendments were recently signed into law under SI No. 529 of 2020.
Compliance with the new measures is typically determined by stocking rate but there are some rules which apply to all farmers irrespective of stocking rate. One such measure is the requirement for all farmers to ensure direct runoff from farm roadways is diverted away from waters from 1 January 2021.
This includes watercourses, rivers, streams, drains etc. For many farms and in particular dairy farms it has meant carrying out remedial works on roads to change the camber or fall to ensure runoff is diverted away from waters.
Another important rule coming into effect on 1 January concerns certain watercourses being required to have fences installed at a distance of at least 1.5m from the top of the bank or water’s edge along with discontinuing access from grazing bovines to watercourses for drinking purposes.
The stocking rate calculation is taken before slurry exports are accounted for
It will still be permissible to move livestock where necessary across a watercourse on occasion to an isolated parcel of land, provided both sides of the watercourse are fenced and once animals cross the watercourse they are prevented drinking access.
This rule is determined by stocking rate and farmers with a grassland stocking rate equalling or exceeding 170kg organic nitrogen per hectare must abide by the rule. The stocking rate calculation is taken before slurry exports are accounted for.
The Department has released answers to frequently asked questions to address farmer concerns. A selection of these are listed here.
What is the definition of a watercourse for the purpose of the implementation of the new measures?
Watercourses identified on the 1:5000 scale OSI map will be those used for the implementation of this measure. Maps of these watercourses are available at www.osi.ie online store/professional products/land and property/place map/customise. https: store.osi.ie/index.php/osi-place-map.html (Scale OSi 1:5,000). All continuous blue lines as identified need to be fenced in 2021.
What is the minimum requirement – permanent post and wire fencing or temporary stake and electric fence?
Either is acceptable as long as it ensures bovines are excluded from the watercourse.
Are watercourses on land rented by way of a one-year (conacre) agreement required to be fenced?
Lands by way of one-year agreements do not have to be permanently fenced but do need to be temporarily fenced when being grazed by bovines.
Does tillage land and grassland cut for hay/silage have to comply with this measure?
This action is only applicable to parcels where bovines have access to watercourses associated with that parcel at any time during the calendar year.
If an existing fence is less than the required 1.5m, does it need to be replaced?
All fences must be at least 1.5m from the watercourse.
If a natural boundary such as a hedgerow or stone wall exists along the watercourse, is there a requirement to erect a fence?
If a watercourse is already stock-proofed with a hedgerow or stone wall to a distance of 1.5m from the edge of the watercourse, then there is no requirement for an additional fence.
Where a farmer has no other access to lands across a river, can access be allowed across the watercourse?
It will be permissible to move livestock across a watercourse to an isolated land parcel where necessary, provided both sides of the access point are fenced to prevent bovine access up or down stream.
For 2021, is it based on the predicted 2021 grass land stocking rate or the actual previous year’s stocking rate?
It is based on the previous year’s grassland stocking rate, – 2020 stocking rate in 2021.