Spreading slurry – in the right places, at the right time and in the right amounts – can save a lot of money. And it’s sustainable
I no longer view slurry as a waste but a valuable resource. For me, slurry is one way I can farm sustainably, from an economic and environmental perspective.
Slurry went out on around half of the farm on January 22, applied with an umbilical system by my contractor. I have my own trailing shoe but used the contractor to save time and to save my roadways, gaps etc, by not travelling with tankers at that time of the year.
The contractor was asked to spread 2,000gal/ac on grass covers <700 DM/ha.
I also use the maps from my nutrient management plan to see which are low in phosphorous and potassium and tried to target those.
I could have spread more slurry on that date but I didn’t as it would have meant going into wetter land. I know the nutrient value of the slurry and know it would be more beneficial to hold off until growing conditions were better and the risk of nutrient losses was lower.
There is no point in throwing out slurry for the sake of it. Luckily, I have the extra slurry capacity now, which gave me the comfort to hold off spreading.
At current fertiliser prices, Teagasc say 1,000gal of slurry is worth €50 in terms of nutrients. As part of the Signpost Programme, slurry analysis on my farm showed a nutrient content of 6 units of nitrogen, 5 units of P and 40 units of K per 1000gal.
The analysis highlighted the high K in my slurry — this is a big asset for silage ground. When planning chemical fertiliser for silage I will tailor the type to allow for the nutrients already applied in slurry.
The silage ground is getting slurry this week. I’m spreading it with my trailing shoe. It’s slower than with a dribble bar and you need more horsepower, particularly on hilly ground, but it was well worth the investment.
LESS technology gives me more days available for spreading as I can go in on heavier covers and spread that valuable resource the stock have produced over the winter.
Chemical fertiliser is also going out this week. I’ll spread 20 units of N/ac on any ground that hasn’t got slurry. Soil temperatures have consistently been 7˚C for the last few days and I’ll be keeping an eye on the local weather forecast to ensure I get a good response and don’t risk losses.
The N is going out as protected urea which is in the yard. I had no difficulty getting it — it’s to be got. If you ask enough questions and you’ll get it. It might not be available on the day you want to spread but if you plan ahead it will be there.
I am using it as I trust the science — I’ve used it for a few years and it works just as well as any other fertiliser. I’ve bought enough for spring and summer applications this year.
Shay Ryan farms at New Ross, Co Wexford. Advisors: Kay O’Connell and Sandra Hayes