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Slurry woes hit farmers in northwest

Dairy and cattle farmers across the north and west of the country are coming under severe pressure as their slurry storage nears capacity.

While the end of the closed period for slurry spreading is in sight, for some of the worst affected counties, such as Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, unsuitable ground conditions are exacerbating the problem.

The open season for slurry spreading in Zone B counties (Clare, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo) began yesterday, but atrocious ground conditions, particularly on heavy soils, mean that many farms are not trafficable.

Alan Nolan, the Teagasc drystock adviser in Co Mayo, said some farmers were within two weeks of filling their maximum storage capacity but ground conditions on individual farms were nowhere near suitable for spreading.

"It was a very early winter for some farmers, with suckler cows in for nearly four months at this stage," said Mr Nolan.

"Some farmers were forced to house animals as early as the end of September or October."

He added that most pressure was on bigger and more heavily stocked farms and those farming heavy soils.

"The only option they have is to swap slurry from tank to tank if they have more than one tank," he added.

Farmers in Zone C (Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim and Monaghan) must wait until February 1 for the open season, but high winter rainfall means that even then some farmers will not be able to spread.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin has called for a derogation to allow Zone C farmers to begin slurry spreading immediately, where ground conditions and weather forecast are suitable.

"This is now an animal welfare issue with the risk of slurry coming up through the slats in some cases," said Mr Gilmartin. "We must take the worry out of slurry."

Gary Fisher, Teagasc adviser in Co Donegal, said he had received calls from farmers worried about their slurry capacity. The calls have been from both drystock and dairy farmers.

"Even though this region got a two-week extension from October 15 to October 31, it rained non-stop for those two weeks," he said.

It is a similar story for farmers in the northern part of Co Monaghan, according to Teagasc's Conal Murnaghan.

"It's been a phenomenally wet winter here in the north of the country, with up to 11 inches of rain above average," he said.

"There are farmers whose tanks are close to capacity but, because of the rain that has fallen, will not be able to get out on the land even when the season opens."

Mr Murnaghan added that more farmers than usual were concerned about their slurry storage capacity.

"It was a hit-and-miss summer for spreading slurry, followed by a bad autumn when cattle were housed early on tanks that hadn't been emptied," he said.

"Now, ground conditions are so bad we would need at least two dry weeks before farmers could go out with a tanker."

Farmers with lands in Zone A, which includes most of the south, midlands and east of the country, have been permitted to spread since last Friday.

Indo Farming