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CAFRE Dairy Open Days

January 19, 2018

Land is the most limiting and expensive resource on dairy farms. But in many cases, soils are not optimal for lime status and nutrient status particularly phosphorus potash and sulphur.  Soil analysis is carried out at Greenmount on 3-year cycle basis. Lime is applied to correct soil pH as soon as practicable either between silage cuts or after grazing.

Stephen Gilkinson and Assistant Farm Manager Jim Fulton discussing plans for slurry spreading in 2018 ahead of the CAFRE Dairy Open Days

Table 1. Mean soil analysis results according to field use at Greenmount

Soil pHP IndexK Index
Arable fields6.151.763.08
Grazing fields6.092.312.91
Silage fields6.172.502.73

Recent soil analysis from farms in Business Development Groups indicates that 46% of soils sampled were low or very low in lime status, 32% were low or very low in phosphate and 45% were low or very low in potash. The potash status of the farm soils used mainly for silage had a K index of only 1.1.  There is therefore a lot of potential to improve soil fertility and hence grass yields on farms across N. Ireland.

Slurry application to silage swards

The majority of cattle slurry produced by the dairy herd at Greenmount is spread on swards used for silage making using trailing shoe or band spreading techniques. Prior to first cut, approximately 39 m3/ha (3,500 gallons per acre) is spread in February or March depending on weather and ground conditions. A further 28 m3/ha (2,500 gallons per acre) is spread after each cut. The consistency of soil analysis across silage and grazing swards is a good indication that soil nutrient needs are being met.

The slurry utilisation and forage production presentation at the CAFRE Dairy Centre Open Days will focus on the value of slurry and the distance it is feasible to transport prior to spreading. Livestock manure loading and P balance on the campus farm will also be discussed.


Approximately 50% of the nitrogen in a typical dairy cow slurry is in the form of ammonia. The ammonia is readily lost to the air from the surfaces of livestock buildings, from slurry storage and during slurry spreading. The slurry management systems employed at Greenmount Campus has been designed to reduce the loss of ammonia N from slurry and increase the slurry nitrogen available to grow grass.

Flooring systems within the milking and dry cow sheds and the heifer rearing accommodation have been installed to Dutch designs to reduce ammonia emissions and provide good gripping surfaces for the cattle. The majority of slurry is stored in covered above ground stores to reduce ammonia loss and the accumulation of rainfall. Finally, the slurry is applied by trailing shoe or band spreading systems to reduce ammonia loss during the field spreading operations.

Dairy Open Days

Performance of the herd against the KPIs will be discussed at the CAFRE Dairy Open Days on 24th and 25th January 2018. Tours will start from 10.30am every 20 minutes each day and the tours will last for two hours. The last tour will start at 1.30pm. A light lunch will be available after the tour.

There will be six stops on the tour of the Greenmount Dairy Farm which will focus on:

  1. Benchmarking Dairy Herd Performance
  2. Replacement Heifer rearing
  3. Slurry utilisation and forage production
  4. Dry cow management
  5. Cow and calf management at calving
  6. Feed efficiency and current herd diets

Further details are available through the Dairy Open Day App which can be downloaded from: