The closed period for spreading slurry on farms in Zone A (counties Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny, Wexford, Laois, Offaly, Kildare, Dublin and Carlow) ends on Wednesday 13 January.

Spreading slurry before this date is prohibited and it remains prohibited for farms in Zones B and C until later in the month. Zone B opens on 16 January and Zone C opens on 1 February.

With slurry tanks filling up on most farms, there will be significant pressure to get slurry spread as soon as the deadline opens. The next question is where to go with slurry?

The way I see it, there are three priorities with slurry in early springtime. In no particular order these are; to avoid doing damage to fields whilst spreading, to avoid harming the environment from spreading slurry and to get a return in grass growth or saved chemical fertiliser from that slurry.

There has been very little rain over the last 10 days or so which has allowed fields to dry out somewhat. The forecast for the coming week is not dry but it’s not too wet either, particularly in Zone A, so conditions for slurry should not be too bad on most farms.

Big risk

There is a big risk of causing soil compaction at this time of year as soils are wet and applying big weight through the use of large slurry tankers can very easily cause compaction. The likes of umbilical pipe systems have an advantage over tankers in that there is much less weight applied to the soil.

In terms of environmental damage, making sure soils are not waterlogged and there is no heavy rain imminent after applying the slurry is the best way to ensure that the slurry stays where it is supposed to be and doesn’t find its way into watercourses.

For the first two weeks after the closed period ends, the buffer zone between the application area for slurry and surface water (all drains and watercourses) increases from the standard 5m to 10m.

Finally, to get the maximum value from the slurry you must reduce the amount of chemical fertiliser that is being applied. Farms that usually apply chemical nitrogen in early spring should not apply any nitrogen where slurry was spread.

A typical 1,000 gallons of slurry applied per acre in early spring contains between six and nine units of nitrogen for splash plate and low emission slurry spreading respectively.

Remember, all farmers in a nitrates derogation must apply slurry with low emission technology.