A dairy farmer who incurred a 5% penalty after his organic nitrogen level exceeded the 250kg/ha allowance had the penalty overturned following a successful appeal to the Agricultural Appeals Office.

The farmer incurred the penalty after failing to comply where participants in the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) are obliged to ensure that the total amount of organic nitrogen (N) from livestock does not exceed an amount containing 170kg N/ha per year, or 250kg N/ha per year in the case where an application for a nitrate derogation has been approved.

The farmer held a nitrates derogation for 2015. Initial Department records calculated that the total amount of organic nitrogen from livestock was 259kg N/ha, which exceeded the permitted level of 250kg N/ha. As a result a 5% penalty was applied.


The farmer appealed the decision on the basis of a salmonella outbreak which occurred on his farm some years back. The farmer submitted that a vaccine is used each year to prevent salmonella, but because of the previous salmonella outbreak there have been ongoing fertility problems with their cows.

The farmer also stated that the fertility issue meant a lot more cows had to be carried with the result there are a higher number of dry cows in the herd annually.

As a result a 5% penalty was applied.

The farmer sought that the nitrates calculations allow for a lower organic nitrogen of 65kg/year for rather than the 85kg of nitrogen allocated for milking cows. The appeals officer requested the data and details for the milk supplied on the holding and the number of cows held for 2015.

The officer subsequently found sufficient reason to query the calculations with the Department and the figures were revised for the holding, with the reclassification of 16 cows from dairy to dry cows for the purposes of the nitrates calculation.

The outcome of the revised calculation was a total farm organic nitrogen level of 240kg/ha, meaning that the 250kg N/ha/year threshold was not breached.

The appeal was allowed.

The case is highlighted in the annual report of the Agriculture Appeals Office for 2017 released this week.

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