Slurry grants: Funding and changes around the UK

Tighter muck and slurry spreading and storage requirements are now in place across the UK.

We take a look at the rules for each of the nations, what funding is available and other changes coming down the line. 

See also: New guidance for autumn muckspreading – the essentials


Seven years of lobbying from NFU Cymru ended last month with an “unworkable” blanket NVZ imposed by the Welsh government across the whole of Wales, despite Natural Resources Wales (NRW) suggesting land in the NVZ be increased from 2.3% to just 8% of farmland.

Rachel Lewis-Davies, NFU Cymru’s national environment and use adviser gives details.

What is required?

The changes are in three stages:

  • Phase one from 1 April 2021: Notice must be given to NRW for silage or slurry storage construction works. Closed periods for synthetic nitrogen and manure incorporation
  • Phase two from 1 January 2023: Nutrient management plans and risk maps must be produced. Import/export of manure from the farm to be documented and rules on placement of manure heaps followed. No more than 170kg/ha of nitrogen from manure can be applied each year, averaged across the holding, either directly deposited by the animal or by spreading. This means farmers may need to reduce livestock numbers. 
  • Phase three from 1 August 2024: New requirements on slurry storage capacity, five months of slurry storage will be required for any slurry produced by any livestock, other than pigs or poultry premises, which will require six months of storage. There will be closed periods for the spreading of slurry and other manures with high readily available nitrogen.  

How much financial support is there?

Welsh farmers still have the Farm Business Grant – a 40% grant for a list of equipment (rainwater harvesting, feeding areas, water run-off from yards and so on) worth £3,000-£12,000 from the Rural Development Programme. 

What to watch for

Funding announced last week (31 March) pledged £227m across areas including:

  • Nutrient Management Investment Scheme: window opens in July
  • Small grants – yard coverings: window opens in June


Defra’s Clean Air Strategy focuses on ammonia emissions and calls for precision application equipment, more stringent housing standards and slurry store covers.

The Farming Rules for Water bring more rules on slurry spreading. 

Relief followed the recent Defra announcement that autumn manure spreading has not been banned, says Neil Carter of SAC Consulting.

What is required?

Changes include:

  • Slurry must be applied with low-emission spreading equipment, effectively banning splash plates by 2025
  • Slurry/digestate store must covered by 2027 (this may be phased in earlier for bigger units)
  • Mandatory design standards for livestock housing are expected
  • Manure applications can only exceed index levels for phosphorus if there is a demonstrated “crop need” and risk of agricultural diffuse pollution is mitigated

How much financial support is there?

  • Support has been through two parts of the Farming Investment Fund (FIF) – the Farming Transformation Fund (FTF) and the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund (FETF)
  • Both are now closed for applications. The FTF was for larger investments and would grant £35,000-£500,000, while the FETF was for smaller grants
  • The first round of the FETF closed in January and had 5,624 eligible applications worth over £53.5m. A second round is due “later this year”
  • FTF is now only available for farms that passed stage one of the application process and are invited to join stage two

What to watch for

  • Items that have been funded include dribble bars, trailing shoes and mild slurry acidification
  • Defra suggests any future grants towards slurry storage will come under these schemes in the future
  • Only mild acidification is funded through FIF, but Defra’s recent statement (28 March) said slurry funding will come in autumn 2022
  • New closed periods for slurry spreading have been announced (see table)

See Defra guidance Applying the farming rules for water 

New closed periods for spreading high readily available nitrogen organic manures

Soil type


Tillage land

Sandy or shallow

1 September to end of February

1 August to end of February

All other soils

15 October to end of February

1 October to end of February

Northern Ireland

Farmers were forced into investing in slurry storage relatively early, in 2007, when the entire country essentially became an NVZ, but were given ample financial backing.

Funding was worth 60% support up to £51,000, says Aileen Lawson of Ulster Farmers Union. 

What is required?

Farmers must abide by rules in the Nitrate Action Programme, which is currently in its 2019-22 guise.

They include:

  • 22 weeks’ slurry storage capacity (26 weeks for pigs and poultry) with exceptions for straw-bedded animals. Dirty yards and water run-off are separate
  • Record-keeping of bought and traded organic manures and synthetic fertiliser and fertilisation plans
  • Limit of 170kgN/ha a year of livestock manure nitrogen, plus nitrogen and phosphate limits in chemical fertilisers for all crops
  • Closed spreading periods (31 October-31 January for organic manures and 15 September-31 January for chemical fertilisers)
  • Ban on splash plates on farms with more than 200 livestock units or more than 20,000kg of pig manure nitrogen production from 1 February 2022

How much financial support is there?

Support is available through the Farm Business Improvement Scheme tiers one and two. Both tiers are worth up to 40% of eligible costs. 

  • Tier 1 (£5,000-£30,000) funds equipment such as slurry applicators and tank covers
  • Tier 2 is for larger scale projects, such as new slurry stores and manure covers, from £30,000 to a maximum grant of £250,000 

What to watch for

  • Tier one closed for applications on 4 December 2020
  • Tier two opened on 10 January 2022 and will close at 4pm on 29 April for those who have completed the expression of interest form 
  • Contact 028 9052 4882 for tier two queries


Most rules on slurry – and silage – are now in one place, with the inclusion of the 2003 Silage Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil Scotland regulations into the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011.

Rebecca Audsley from SAC Consulting’s environment team guides us through Scottish rules. 

What is required?

Among the changes are:

  • Phase out of splash plates and switch over to low emissions slurry spreading.
  • A risk assessment for manure and slurry is now required for applications of organic fertilisers
  • Post-1991 stores must be compliant by 1 January 2024
  • Pre-1991 slurry stores must be compliant with a basic set of construction standards by 1 January 2026
  • As of 1 January 2022, all farms building new slurry storage units must have 22 weeks’ storage capacity for cattle
  • Slurry stores outside NVZs must have 22 weeks’ capacity from 1 January 2026

How much financial support is there?

There are two main routes to competitive grants:

  • Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS): extended until 2024. This is a competitive scheme with two funding levels. Level one is for lower value applications; Level two is for higher value projects.
  • The Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grant Scheme (SACGS) is being developed. This is expected to offer up to £20,000 for low-emissions slurry spreading equipment and slurry store covers 

What to watch for

  • New requirements to be met by 1 January 2023 precision spreading of digestate on farms with 100 cows or more and a consequent ban on splash-plate and rain-gun systems
  • By 1 January 2027 all slurry or digestate must be precision spread, regardless of farm size
  • The funding period for the AECS runs to the end of 2023
  • More information is needed on SACGS. There will be a six-week application window in spring 2022
  • For more information visit