January 2012 may seem far off, but farmers should be planning now to meet NVZ storage requirements, according to Will Philips, director of P and L Agriconsulting.
He says dairy farmers should be looking at what practical steps can be taken to reduce total slurry on farm, as under new regulations, dairy farmers must have enough slurry storage for five months between October and February.
But by being aware of NVZ rules and the definition of “dirty water”, “slurry” and “FYM”(farm yard manure), farmers may be able to comply without heavily investing.
“FYM and dirty water can be spread at any time, where as slurry cannot be applied to land during the ‘closed period’,” explains Mr Philips. “So by separating off dirty water, producers can reduce slurry volume and use it as a nutrient source.”
And by addressing the amount of water entering slurry storage, farmers can potentially reduce the volume of slurry on farm, says Louise Webb, south west regional co-ordinator for Catchment Sensitive Farming.
“Sometimes up to one-third of dirty water farmers are handling frequently is going into slurry storage unnecessarily.”
But, by managing cattle yards to prevent water running into slurry storage, producers can potentially reduce the volume of slurry on farm, says Mr Philips.
“Fixing gutters is one of the main things farmers can do to reduce excess water entering slurry.”
It may be possible to receive a grant from Catchment Sensitive Farming to put in new gutters and roof existing yards, Mrs Webb continues. “Whether roofing yards is relevant or cost effective will be site specific, but often covering the gap between buildings where cows are loafing can be beneficial.”
Separating solids from liquid can also be an effective way of reducing slurry volume, says Mrs Webb. “This is estimated to reduce slurry volumes by 10-20%.”
This is a good option for farmers, agrees Sian Davis, dairy adviser for the NFU. “It is important to look at how total slurry can be reduced in whatever way possible.”
Farmers should also consider changing to straw bedded loose housing, she says. “Manure from loose housing can be stored as FYM which can be spread throughout the year.”
And this does not necessarily mean converting the whole herd to loose yards. “By keeping certain groups, such as your heifers on loose yards you can reduce your total slurry in a practical way.”
Rainwater harvesting can also have dual benefit, potentially reducing slurry storage and water costs, Mr Philips continues.
“However, when farmers have their own water supply or are using a bore hole, return on investment must be considered carefully.”