Slurry storage is single biggest investment issue facing dairy farmers, conference told

The whole dairy industry must work together if farmers are to meet the economic and environmental challenges posed by impending new nitrate rules, this year’s Dairy UK conference heard.

In a straw poll, almost two-thirds of delegates highlighted the need to ensure farms had sufficient manure and slurry storage capacity as the key issue facing the industry.

DEFRA estimates that the revised Nitrates Action Programme, expected to be published before the government’s summer recess, could cost the farming industry £35m-115m, depending on which rules are adopted. But it is dairy farmers that are likely to be hit hardest, as the extra slurry storage requirement alone is predicted to cost £18m-40m to implement.

A full assessment of the cost to the industry would be carried out before the final regulations were issued, Maureen Novak from DEFRA said. “The government’s response to the consultation is likely by July, perhaps sooner, and draft regulations are expected this September.”

Some new rules would have a “period of grace” before their implementation and many mitigation measures could be eligible for funding through regional development agencies (RDAs), she said.

“These environmental issues are not going to go away and farmers need to recognise this and take responsibility now,” Tricia Henton, director of environment protection at the Environment Agency said. “Working together is the best way to address these complex issues and, hopefully, the dairy roadmap [launched last month] at least raises awareness of this.”

Dairy UK’s Ed Komorowski, who chaired the industry taskforce that created the roadmap, said its aims were ambitious, but he was confident producers could pull together and deliver its targets without resorting to destocking. “There is a fear that the solution would be fewer cows, but we certainly don’t want that to be the case.”

For those without 22 weeks’ worth of slurry storage and considering building a new slurry store (see table), Ian Powell, director of The Dairy Group, said all options should be explored carefully. Reducing the volume entering stores through parlour washings or roof/yard run-off were simple ways of improving existing capacity, he said.

To help farmers assess and plan slurry storage requirements, a new CD-ROM-based tool will soon be available, he said. Slurry Wizard is one part of DairyCo’s free Dairy Wizard planning tool and should be available within the next few weeks, the sector company’s Chris Coxon said. “These are serious issues that need planning for and thinking about now.”

DEFRA’s NVZ consultation document can be found on the DEFRA website.

New slurry store cost comparison


Cost (£/m3)

Cost (£ a cow)*

Clay-lined lagoon

5 75


HDPE-lined lagoon



Steel tower



Concrete store



Slurry bag



*Cost based on 15m3 per cow for 22 weeks

Source: The Dairy Group