Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

A combination of organic and commercial fertilisers

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

In addition to the high levels of organic manure, the Magans alternate standard rates of nitrogen and compounds such as 18:6:12 on the milking platform once a month during the season. This fertility regime results in more than 300kg/ha of nitrogen, but they are staying within the nitrates directive limit of 250kg/ha by diluting the milking platform average with much lower rates on the replacement-rearing out-farms.

"It does mean that our grass output is about one third lower on the heifer-rearing blocks, at about 12tDM/ha. But our main focus is maximising milk output from grass, so that's how we structure the system. And even with the drop in output on some of the land, we still have a high stocking rate of 2.85 livestock units (LU) per hectare," says Magan.

The Magans actually export slurry off the farm to stay within nitrates rules, despite buying in plenty of artificial nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potasium (K).

"It's not always practical to get slurry out on ground. The weather may mean ground is too soft, and I don't want to sour grass for the cows either. Grass must be palatable every time she goes to the paddock," he says.

"Our main focus is on the P's and K's, because we still have 10pc of the paddocks that are at Index 1 for one of those elements. So every second round of fertiliser is a compound.

"The other issue is soil pH - that's the key to unlocking all the nutrients in the soil. Even though our grassland is spot-on at pH6.3, we still spread about 2t/ha of lime every other year after the last grazing."

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