How legumes, muck and slurry will assist cut back fertiliser bill

A rise in fertiliser costs of larger than 200% as a result of the end of 2020 has left many farmers asking whether or not or not they should seek for different methods to maximise output from their grassland.

In step with AHDB info alternate supervisor Sarah Hurford, a main step is a partial funds to calculate the have an effect on of not making use of their commonplace fertiliser payment.

The second step is to work out how so much further feed might have to be bought in if a lot much less forage is produced.

“For some farmers, purchasing for in that further feed won’t be low-cost and it might be extra value efficient to purchase fertiliser to safeguard yields,” says Ms Hurford.

See moreover: The proper method to get the right from pink clover in grassland

“That’s when selections have to be made about whether or not or not imported ammonium nitrate (AN) at £638/t is justifiable.

“Or, whether or not or not totally different selections have to be considered. It’s obligatory to understand how so much is justifiable throughout the short-term with out impacting the rest of the enterprise,” she says.

Use of legumes

Ms Hurford says farmers who’ve some fertiliser stock left over from last yr might presumably take a look at incorporating legumes into their pastures.

“There are many benefits from having decreased fertiliser functions if you may as well make up protein ranges from legumes. However, it should swimsuit the farm system,” she suggests.

Legumes used on grazing methods embrace white clover and sainfoin, and for silage, pink clover. Beans and peas are moreover environment friendly legumes when used as a break crop.

“Legumes help assemble nitrogen throughout the soil, staying spherical for one to 2 rising seasons. However, it’s not applicable for every farm, akin to upland gadgets,” she says.

Clover crop

© Tim Scrivener

Sarah Lea, a information with P+L Agri Consulting, says some farmers may be pleasantly shocked by the yields they’ll get hold of with out using the identical previous fertiliser amount on their grassland this spring.

Mrs Lea says: “Farmers are generally using fertiliser on the costs they’ve on a regular basis used, considerably than considering the crop’s requirement.

“If we take a look at pure farmers, they’re attaining grass progress costs of 12t/ha of dry matter (DM) [5t/acre DM], for example, with none artificial nitrogen. Subsequently, it is potential to do this off slurry and good grazing administration alone.”

She predicts: “Even when fertiliser prices do drop, there’ll seemingly be additional of a cope with larger manure administration with the long run legal guidelines to return again.”

On the end of ultimate yr, the federal authorities consulted on urea-based fertilisers.

Updated steering on the making use of of manures beneath the Farming Pointers for Water has been promised by early spring.

Soil, muck and slurry administration

Mrs Lea says farmers must be soil-testing their farm normally to see what nutritional vitamins are required on a field-by-field basis.

She moreover advises farmers to test their slurry and urges producers to not view it as an inconvenience.

Slurry is taken into account as liquid gold on pure farms, whereas commonplace farms sometimes merely blanket fields to empty outlets, Mrs Lea suggests.

As an alternative of this technique, she encourages farmers to determine the requirements of the sphere and deal with nutritional vitamins accordingly.

She moreover suggests farmers compost their farmyard manure (FYM) to make additional from it.

“A great deal of FYM might very properly be used additional successfully than merely ploughed into the underside,” she explains.

Manure may be turn into a helpful compost by gathering it in rows and turning it every 4 to six weeks. The FYM can then be ploughed once more in or scattered on the land throughout the autumn, Mrs Lea explains.

5 suggestions on making most likely essentially the most from grassland

  1. Generally measure grass progress and funds using a grazing instrument akin to Agrinet
  2. Apply nutritional vitamins normally all by way of the grazing season
  3. Aim for objective grazing entry covers of three,000kg/ha and exit covers of 1,500kg/ha
  4. Overseed when wished
  5. Soil test to find out any shortfalls

Case analysis: Brockton Grange, Shifnal, Shropshire

Farm particulars

  • Milking 270 Jersey cross Friesian cross Norwegian Reds
  • Cows yielding 5,700 litres, 74% of which is from forage
  • 164ha (405-acre) farm with 112ha (277-acre) grazing platform. Closing yr, 8ha (20 acres) of wholecrop was grown to battle a dandelion downside. This has since been reseeded with a pure ley
  • Milk outfitted to Omsco, with 80 litres/day supplying a milk merchandising machine
  • Grass progress in 2021 averaged 12t/ha (5t/acre) (measuring Jan-Dec)
  • One-third to a half of the farm’s soils examined yearly

Dairy farmer James Chatham of Brockton Grange, Shifnal, has been working an pure farm in partnership collectively together with his dad and mother for 22 years.

Earlier to this, the farm was run conventionally with cows milked year-round.

They switched to a spring block-calving system using Jersey, Friesian and Norwegian Purple crosses seven years previously.

Closing yr, Mr Chatham averaged 12t/ha dry matter (DM) (5t/acre DM) off his grassland, which he achieves by concentrating on nutrient use when and the place it is wished.

Grazing system

Mr Chatham paddock-grazes his cattle all through a 112ha (277-acre) grazing platform.

That’s break up up into 42 paddocks of about 2-3ha (5-7.5 acres) and grazed for 10 months. Agrinet is used to plan grazing, with weekly grass covers inputted from spring onwards.

The grazing dimension in each paddock will rely on covers, with break up fencing used to deal with the paddocks when wished.

The shortest grazing spherical averages about 25 days. When grass progress exceeds 80-100 DM/ha (32-40 DM/acre) a day, the paddocks are shut up for silage.

Cows are yielding 5,700 litres, with 4,200 litres produced from forage. Most paddocks are mown sooner than grazing to cease bloat owing to the amount of clover throughout the mix.

Slurry and dirty water

Contractors apply slurry or dirty water as quickly as a fortnight by way of the summer time season on freshly grazed paddocks.

An underground umbilical pipe system runs from the lagoon into the centre of the grazing platform, saving time.

It moreover lessens the hazard of compaction by reducing the number of wheelings on the paddocks.

“Slurry or dirty water are essential to our system; with out it, we wouldn’t get the amount of forage we would like,” says Mr Chatham.

“The umbilical system means we’ll now apply slurry to the overwhelming majority of paddocks with out numerous set-up,” he supplies.

Slurry bugs are added to the lagoon to cease a crust forming and improve the nitrogen value of the slurry.

Mr Chatham has moreover utilized liquid seaweed to the grassland to help the premise system and encourage progress.

Cows are housed all by way of the winter producing about 2,000t of muck, which is composted down yearly.


Farmyard manure (FYM) is positioned in rows after which turned with a loader every six weeks.

After six to 12 months, when the FYM has composted down, it is unfold on the grassland throughout the spring or autumn.

Full reseeds should not usually carried out now, with most paddocks overseeded every one in 4 years. The combo used to overseed incorporates as a lot as 5% clover and 1% chicory.

Mr Chatham has bought in pure rooster manure when the farm’s muck has been decreased, to maintain up nutritional vitamins.

He believes making use of nutritional vitamins normally all by way of the grazing season is paramount to attaining good forage yields.

“If we had the time and cash to buy our private tanker, we would apply slurry or dirty water weekly all by way of the grazing season,” he says. Slurry is very utilized using a dribble bar or trailing shoe.

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