Get in the zone ahead of slurry spreading season - See the slurry spreading dates across Ireland

Ground conditions should be favourable when the dates for slurry spreading open again from next week

Slurry spreading is set to begin in Zone A counties from this Sunday, 13 January
Slurry spreading is set to begin in Zone A counties from this Sunday, 13 January
Derek Casey

Derek Casey

Let me start by wishing all readers a happy and healthy 2019. We had unseasonably mild weather over Christmas and the New Year, which has really helped ground conditions come on.

Provided things don't take a sudden turn for worse, conditions for slurry spreading should be favourable as the dates open again from next week in "Zone A" counties (see table 1). The opening dates for counties in Zones B and C are also fast approaching - and just in the nick of time for many farmers as slatted units come close to capacity.

This time last year was quite a different story as a lot of land was heavily waterlogged, so even when the dates opened for spreading, in reality getting out and doing so was nigh-on impossible.

A similar conundrum occurred in autumn when closing dates loomed even though farmers had hundreds of thousands of gallons still to spread as a result of the awful spring weather of 2018. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and an extension was given which allowed farmers to make space in their tanks before winter.

The value of spring application

For years it was thought that the way to get most value from your slurry was to apply it in summertime. This led to farmers across the country putting out load after load of slurry immediately after first cut silage.

The latest research and advice from Teagasc is that spring application of slurry is far more beneficial to your grass than summer spreading - with the important caveat that spreading conditions have to be right.

The main reason for favouring spring application of slurry has to do with Nitrogen (N) recovery. At the moment in Ireland, the majority of slurry is applied to silage ground when utilisation of Ammonium N (the useful fertiliser fraction of slurry) is at its lowest due to higher average temperatures and higher evaporation rates. Farmers stand to make a significant saving by making the simple decision to spread more slurry in the springtime when Ammonium N uptake is more efficient.

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Reducing ammonia emissions are one of the motivating factors behind the development of new spreading concepts like the trailing shoe and injection systems - another of course being to make money for the machinery manufacturers who sell them. But you don't have to go and buy one of these systems just to be more compliant on this front. Even with a splash plate spreader, spreading in cooler and less windy conditions will greatly reduce your ammonia emissions.

Ground damage in spring

In order to comply with cross compliance and environmental regulations farmers cannot spread chemical fertilisers, livestock manure, soiled water or other organic fertilisers when land is waterlogged, frozen or covered with snow or when heavy rain is forecast within 48 hours. Soil compaction can happen at this time of year as fully loaded tanks are let loose into fields, although a very mild month of December looks like ensuring it will not happen this year. In some very wet years there will be trafficability problems in spring which mean spreading is not an option, but usually there will be a window of opportunity. Three cheaper ways of controlling compaction damage are as follows:

1) Only spread in dry conditions and when rain is not forecast;

2) Look at limiting tank capacities to reduce psi pressure exerted by tanker and tractor tyres onto ground;

3) Upgrade your tanker tyres to special low flotation types if it wasn't already factory fitted with them.

What should contractors be charging?

This will be a question for many farmers who hire in a contractor service to agitate and spread their slurry. Last spring, the Farm Contractors Association of Ireland (FCI) helpfully released a recommended list of guide prices that contractors should be charging for various jobs this year.

Whilst charge rates can vary, the list should give a fair idea as to what farmers can reasonably expect to pay a contractor for slurry spreading. As you can see from the list, slurry agitation is priced at €80/hour, whilst spreading slurry with a 2,500-gallon tanker is charged at €60/hour. These prices are based on a green diesel price of 70c/litre and note also that VAT (at 13.5pc) must be added.

Opening dates and zones

There are three different zones in the country and each zone has a different opening date. All counties except Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal and Leitrim (Zone C counties) are allowed to spread from 15 January. The four counties mentioned are not permitted to spread slurry until 31 January. As you can see from Table 1, counties in Zone A are allowed to spread slurry weather permitting from this Sunday, 13 January.

Indo Farming