Dairy farmers could significantly boost grassyields by paying closer attention to detail when applying slurry this spring.
With the closed spreading period in NitrateVulnerable Zones now over, farmers will be keen to get on spreading manure assoon as they get a weather window, says Professor Brian Chambers, head of soilsand nutrients at ADAS. And by adopting a more scientific approach to manureuse, producers could dramatically improve both grass yields and quality.
The first thing to do is to get your slurryanalysed, so you know what level of nutrients it contains, says Prof Chambers.It only costs about 30 to do and given the price of fertiliser now, manureis a valuable resource. You wouldnt apply a bag of fertiliser without knowingwhats in it. Although the RB209 guidelines provide reasonable averages, everyfarms manure will be different; and matching nutrient application to soil andcrop requirements has a direct impact on both input costs and productivity.
Prof Chambers is convinced that most farmerscan improve profitability through better manure management, and will beexplaining how, with the aid of case study farms and the latest researchresults, at the Grassland & Muck Event in May. Spring applicationincreases nitrogen uptake compared to autumn application, particularly in wetseasons and on sandy soils, meaning better grass growth and less leaching, hesays.
But the method of application is similarly important.Rather than using a broadcast spreader, consider using a trailing shoe; itreduces nitrogen losses and has the major benefit of cleaner grass, meaningcattle can graze sooner after application.
Many of the farms that Prof Chambers workswith have invested in umbilical spreading systems, eliminating the need forheavy spreading equipment. Thats a significant advantage, given the difficultspreading conditions weve been having in recent seasons. Of course, changingequipment or infrastructure is expensive, so farmers should consider usingcontractors or sharing machinery with neighbours to reduce costs. They may alsolook at covering their slurry store to reduce rainwater inputs and nutrientlosses, and should always prevent clean water going into the slurry tank.
Visitors to the event will be able to see thefull range of muck application equipment, to find the best solution for theirfarm. The important thing to remember is that its absolutely in your owninterest to make every kilogram of manure nutrients count, says Prof Chambers.Most farmers know that spreading slurry will raise soil phosphate and potashindices, but recent research has shown that it also makes a valuable sulphurcontribution. A lot of high output grass farmers are not adding enough sulphur,particularly for second and third silage cuts; they put the yellowing grassdown to nitrogen deficiency, when in fact it is likely to be sulphur.
Prof Chambers will also be showing visitorsat the event how to use the updated MANNER-NPK software to compare differentmanure management techniques for maximum productivity. The software used toonly cover nitrogen management now it includes phosphate and potash, andgives everything a financial value. Ultimately, that is what better manuremanagement is all about improving the bottom line.
The Grassland & Muck event will be heldat Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire on 21st and 22nd May, 2014. Book ticketsbefore 18th May to benefit from an early bird discount. For more information orto book tickets, visit www.grasslandevent.co.uk.