Now is the time to calculate nitrogen loading!
January 19, 2022
As we are now well into January, now is the time to look at your nitrogen loading which is a measure of stocking rate. The CAFRE N Loading Calculator, which is available at DAERA Online Services can be used to calculate your farm’s nitrogen (N) Loading. Check that either you are under 170KgN/ha after you export your slurry (slurry export figures for 2021 have to submitted by 31st January 2022) or if you are under derogation, to start to gather all the figures to complete your submission on or before the 1st March 2022. If changes are likely to occur in livestock numbers, the amount of slurry exported or the land available to you for the coming year you should evaluate your options. One option may be worth considering is applying for a Nutrient Action Programme Derogation which would allow you to increase your nitrogen loading up to 250kgN/ha limit. Consequently there are additional rules to ensure that the higher stocking rate does not pose a greater risk to the environment. Applications have to be made by 1St March 2022.
It is hard to predict what the weather is going to be for 2022 but even at this stage we can see that fertiliser has hugely increased in price with no short term predictions of any change. Once again now is also a good time to complete a nutrient management plan at DAERA Online Services as it is even more important to make use of the slurry produced on the farm. With the move from splash plate to low emissions spreading for contractors from last February and the becoming compulsory on 1st February 2022 for those with 200 or more Livestock units, this will help to make better use of the nutrients in the slurry. Soil sampling prior to the application of slurry or fertiliser is essential and the Nutrient Management calculator is particular useful in completing these calculations.
Under the Nutrient Action Programme it is worth noting that from 1 January 2022 supplementary livestock drinking points must be a minimum of 10m from any watercourse where there could be a significant risk of pollution occurring from their use. You may wish to consider applying for fencing of watercourses under the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) when it opens in 2022, however a minimum distance of the fence from the top of the bank would be at least 2m.
Other options that you may want to consider under the EFS is to include hedge and tree planting or other environmental options to improve water quality, biodiversity and the climate.