Farmer Focus: I’m valuing my slurry at £10/cu m this time

We’ve applied our pig slurry to some of our wheat. While it is not the most exciting job on the farm, I have enjoyed our first spring season of spreading our own and contracting for others.  

There are just two more jobs, totalling about 4,500cu m, left to complete.

The most satisfying aspects for me are seeing the impact organic materials (slurry and digestate) have on a growing crop, and how the crop recovers from the application itself.

See also: How acidification of slurry can help reduce ammonia levels

About the author

Jack Bosworth
Livestock Farmer Focus writer Essex pig farmer Jack Bosworth farms 263ha of arable and a 540-sow farrow-to-finish operation in partnership with his family. About 60% of pigs are finished at home and 150 are sent to a farm in Norfolk to finish on a bed and breakfast contract.
Read more articles by Jack Bosworth

The main reservation I had regarding spreading slurry ourselves was dribble bar width. Our contractors used a 24m dribble bar, but we couldn’t justify that, so went with 12m.

The results have turned out well. The fields recovered within a week. You would have to look very hard to spot where I’d travelled.

I put this down to application timing, growth stage, ground conditions, low tyre pressures, good tyre tread, temperature, and operator attention to detail.

Bringing the operation in-house has meant we can use more slurry. This is because we aren’t obsessed with contractors doing the job as quickly as possible and keeping them near the farm or on big fields with higher application rates.

It’s important following the fertiliser prices hike that we get as much slurry onto the land as we can.  

This year we have put slurry over double the area of ground we would have done when paying a contractor, leaving only about 15ha of winter wheat at Spains Hall that hasn’t had slurry this year.

Times remain incredibly tough for all pig farmers, but one silver lining is that we buy less fertiliser.

With that in mind, I would urge anyone who is giving/selling slurry away to nearby farmers and/or doing straw for muck arrangements to scrutinise the deal.

While there is a higher cost to the application process of slurry than there is to applying fertiliser, don’t let that be the reason you give slurry away.

My current value for our pig slurry at 3% dry matter would be £10/cu m based on the plant-available NPK nutrient values.

The cost of getting a contractor to apply the slurry should, in my eyes, be between £1.50 and £2.50/cu m, but distances, application rates and field size and amount dictate whether it’s more or less than this.