Leitrim isn’t known for early turnout but regardless of turnout date farmers in the northwest are having to deal with increased fertiliser costs this spring, along with other rising input costs like diesel and meal.

About 25 farmers attended the walk last Wednesday.

Slurry and fertiliser were the hot topics of conversation.

Long winters and tough ground conditions mean a lower proportion of slurry is spread in springtime in parts of the northwest.

This means the full nitrogen potential of that slurry isn’t being realised when spreading is postponed to summer months.

The nitrogen lost is the equivalent of four units per 1,000 gallons. On a three-bay double shed that’s the equivalent of about €800 lost by spreading in summer months as opposed to springtime.

Teagasc adviser Shane Kilrane told farmers: “Nobody ever likes change but trying to get out with slurry on silage fields early is well worth it.

A total of 2,000 gallons of slurry is worth almost €80 at today’s prices

“Some 3,000 gallons of slurry/acre will supply a lot of the P and K required for a silage crop so you will just have to top it up with nitrogen after.

“A total of 2,000 gallons of slurry is worth almost €80 at today’s prices, so it needs to be looked at like a fertiliser and not waste that we just have to get rid of.”

All farmers should now be looking at low emission slurry spreading (LESS) techniques to spread slurry this spring.

He added: “There are a lot of advantages to spreading slurry via LESS methods. Better N recovery, less ammonia losses to the atmosphere, no odours, you can apply the slurry to heavier covers and you have a quicker grazing turnaround.

Silage fertiliser

The northwest is later country in terms of grass growth and fertiliser probably doesn’t really start to go out on a lot of farms until the end of March.

There is a remarkable relaxed attitude to fertiliser prices and fertiliser supplies.

Speaking to farmers, some say they will spend their annual budget on fertiliser regardless of the price.

That means if there was €5,000 spent last year, the same will be spent this year even if that will only buy less than half of what was spread last year.

Many have silage left over and will cut back on fertiliser purchases.

Others just don’t seem panicked at the likelihood of not getting fertiliser and will instead cut back on stock if they have to. This year’s silage fertiliser is very important.

Teagasc adviser Tom Coll outlined the fertiliser requirements for first- and second-cut silage. Table 1 outlines the requirements.

Coll also outlined the importance of having the correct soil fertility in order to maximise fertiliser efficiency.

“In a situation where pH is below optimum, coupled with a low P and K index, fertiliser efficiency could be as low as 35%. That means if you have purchased protected urea at €1,000/t, you are losing €650 of that through poor soil fertility.

Lime is one of the cheapest fertilisers you can spread somewhere between €24/t to €26/t delivered and spread in this part of the country

“By correcting pH alone we can increase this by 18% up to over 50%. Lime is one of the cheapest fertilisers you can spread somewhere between €24/t to €26/t delivered and spread in this part of the country. It’s a no brainer in a year like this.”

There was also a discussion around using protected urea over CAN. Teagasc has been pushing farmers to opt for protected urea this year and Coll outlined why. “It’s a lot cheaper than CAN when you compare the two on a nitrogen content basis”.

Gerard Mulligan said he was planning to get out with the first fertiliser as soon as ground conditions allowed.

“We will focus our first application on a piece of reseeded ground and we’ll go with 23 units/acre of urea once we feel the ground can carry us. We have ewes on the point of lambing and we need that early bite for them”

Table 2 outlines the comparison between protected urea and CAN.