A host of new nitrates rules for intensively stocked farms have come into play from today, Friday 1 January 2021.

New regulations that have already been introduced on 7,000 derogation farms are being extended to 5,000 farms that export slurry to remain compliant.

The below rules will apply to all farms that were stocked above 170kg N/ha in 2020 prior to slurry exports.

Crude protein

There will be a maximum crude protein (CP) limit placed on concentrate feeds.

Between 1 April and 15 September 2021, rations fed to bovine livestock greater than two years old will be limited to 15% CP.

If higher levels of crude protein are required, this needs to be justified and certified by the appropriate adviser, which includes the compounder, supplier of feed, nutritionist or agricultural adviser.

Farmers must keep records, including the quantities and types of concentrates fed to grazing livestock. These records must be retained on the farm for a period of five years.


Farms will also have to implement a liming programme. It must be based on a nutrient management plan or soil analysis results where available.

It will have to be for a period of four years, with a minimum 25% of lime spread in 2021.

Lands rented on a conacre basis will be excluded and those on high molybdenum soils should reduce the requirement by 5t/ha.


From the start of the slurry spreading window this year, derogation farmers will be required to spread all slurry using low emission slurry spreading (LESS) technology.

This requirement will be extended to farmers stocked above 170kg N/ha across the whole farm prior to exporting slurry from 15 April 2021.

The requirement will not apply to the farm that is importing the slurry.

Dairy cow excretion

The excretion rate figure for dairy cows has increased from 85kg N per annum to 89kg N per annum. This will apply to all farms, regardless of stocking rate.

The Department said: “Average milk yield has increased significantly since the regulations were originally introduced in 2006. Based on current scientific advice, the most accurate figure is 89kg.”

Some farmers many have to cut stock, apply for a derogation or export slurry to comply stocking rate limits.

The Department said farmers will have a full year to make the necessary changes.

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