Nitrates changes will cause difficulties for some pig units
Farmers have been living with the nitrates regulations (SI 101 of 2009 -- EC Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) for the past four years. The main issues facing pig farmers when the legislation was introduced were the provision of manure storage capacity on the farm and ensuring that farmers were not afraid to use the fertiliser that pigs produce.
A few factors helped ease the initial burden of the legislation. Pig producers made substantial capital investment in additional manure storage facilities, grant-aided under the Farm Waste Management Scheme.
Secondly, the rising cost of chemical fertiliser encouraged more grassland and tillage farmers to source part of their fertiliser needs from neighbouring pig farms. At a peak,1,000ga of pig manure was worth €35 based on its nutrient value. It is currently worth €27/1,000ga.
Thirdly, the transitional provisions of the legislation allowed holdings to apply phosphorus in pig manure in excess of the quantities prescribed in the legislation, subject to certain conditions -- the application of pig manure to land was restricted only by the 170kg/ha organic nitrogen limit whether from livestock on the farm or from pig manure.
These transitional provisions are due to expire on January 1 next year. This may restrict the amount of pig manure that can be applied to a set area of land.
Calculations by the Teagasc Pig Development Unit estimate that the reduction in volume is likely to be around 35pc. As a result, the area of land required for the application of a given quantity of pig manure will be increased by about 54pc. This will vary significantly from farm to farm. The inevitable consequence of the reduced application rate per hectare is a significant increase in the distance pig manure will have to be transported, and in transport costs.
For individual pig units, the reduction in the quantity that each customer farm can import can be determined by using a Teagasc spreadsheet specifically designed to establish how much pig manure each farm can import both during the existing transitional arrangements and beyond this year.