“UK agriculture is on the brink of new and exciting opportunities to cut costs – and the answer lies in the soil,” was the message to farmers attending “Soil – the Hidden Resource”. “If improving farm profits is the goal, a re-think on how we manage our soils has to be agriculture’s new priority. “We all know the problems caused by compaction and erosion, but the decline in the level of organic matter in soil is a serious concern to our farming systems. It’s reducing soil quality as well as the nutrients available for plant growth – and increasing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
“But while soil is undoubtedly farming’s most valuable hidden resource, for decades we’ve been staring in the face of another. We’ve been dealing with it primarily as a waste product – and that resource is slurry.”
Liz Russell told the conference there was an overwhelming amount of data – both from official research and on-farm trials undertaken by EnviroSystems – that continued to show how the treatment of slurry with an inoculant not only enhanced its ability to retain nutrients but also enabled fertiliser use to be cut by up to 70%. The need to increase levels of organic phosphorus in soil is also part of on-going research by EnviroSystems which is assessing the effect of SlurryBugs on organic phosphorus. “One of the UK’s highest yielding dairy farms has been treating slurry with SlurryBugs and has cut its fertiliser use from 100 tonnes a year down to 28 tonnes a year.
Other on-farm trial- -work in North Wales has shown treated slurry has the potential to save £9.30 an acre on fertiliser costs.” But Liz Russell said agricultural systems were also being alerted to the critical role played by carbon in soil and its influence in retaining nutrients as well as increasing the soil’s output potential. “EnviroSystems is involved in a three-year research project with Lancaster University and our first results have shown that treated slurry tested after five weeks of treatment with SlurryBugs achieved a 300% increase in carbon retention compared with untreated slurry which had a 19% reduction in its levels of carbon. “The same trial is highlighting how treated slurry can cut emissions of greenhouse gases.
After five weeks the gas emissions from treated slurry had been reduced by 67% compared with untreated slurry that actually showed an increase in emissions of 37%. “DEFRA has suggested that 50% of all ammonia emitted from cattle farming in UK comes from slurry storage and spreading but results from Lancaster University show that slurry treated with the inoculant SlurryBugs contained 56.8% of organic nitrogen compared with untreated slurry at just 43%.”
SLURRY TREATMENT SAVING FERTILISER COSTS ON SOMERSET FARM
Frome, Somerset milk producer Dave Norris has certainly grasped an opportunity to reduce the cost of his bought-in fertiliser – and reckons he’s now using five tonnes less since he started treating his slurry with SlurryBugs. He milks just over 100 Holstein-Friesian cows at Summerfield Farm with a herd average of almost 8000 litres at 4.3% butterfat and 3.5% protein. The herd calves mainly in the autumn and is managed on a conventional system of summer grazing and a silage and concentrate diet in the winter.
“We rely heavily on grass and the aim is to produce our milk as efficiently but as economically as possible. Keeping on top of costs is very important,” says Dave. The farm has been treating its slurry with SlurryBugs for the last four years – initially to combat the smell while spreading on land close to the nearby village. But since using SlurryBugs there has been a significant reduction in fertiliser use because of the treatment’s ability to increase the nutrient value of the slurry. “We started cutting back on the nitrogen we used and relied on the slurry to provide it. Over the last two years I’ve cut back on fertiliser by 1cwt an acre and have lost nothing in terms of grass yield and yet I’ve saved five tonnes of fertiliser in total.” This summer, following a third cut of silage and an application of 2000 gallons of slurry an acre, fields had shown remarkable re-growth. “I know it has been a good summer for grass but third-cut silage fields had eight inches of grass on them within a week and half cutting,” says Dave. And in totting up the saved costs there’s been less fuel used. “We used to have to stir the slurry for two days before we started treating it with the inoculant – now it takes about three-quarters of a day a day so there’s one and a quarter days of diesel to be saved.” And Dave Norris reckons he can make even more savings on his fertiliser costs. “I think next year will see me rely on just the slurry for the grazing ground in the spring and put 1.5cwt of straight nitrogen on the silage ground.” Kim Lockyer, south west regional sales manager for EnviroSystems – manufacturers of SlurryBugs – says Dave Norris is one of a growing numbers of dairy farmers who are using slurry to save costs. “The nutrient value of slurry has been one of farming’s biggest untapped resources for too long. Now farmers are realising just what a difference it can make to fertiliser costs when it’s given half a chance.”
Speak to a member of the EnviroSystems advisory team today on 01772 860085 who’ll be happy to assist with your slurry treatment plans.
ENVIROBED KEEPS COWS CLEAN AND KEEPS MASTITIS AT BAY
Richard Hughes, who farms with his family in Shropshire, saw a big improvement in mastitis rates in his 135-cow herd after switching to EnviroBed for his cow cubicles. Dairy Co’s mastitis control plan at a time when the herd’s rolling average cell count was 290,000 and hitting a peak of 380,000. The herd was getting 216 cases of mastitis per year per 100 cows. As part of the changes advocated to reduce the incidence of mastitis, the decision was taken to switch from sawdust to EnviroBed as the cubicle bedding to create greatly improved absorbency. Six months after the bedding change had been introduced the cell count average was down to 180,000 with just 18 mastitis cases per 100 cows. Commented Richard: “We’ d tried all sorts of different beddings but EnviroBed’s remarkable absorbency meant cows were cleaner and cell counts were lower. And because of its high dry matter – around 95% – it last a lot longer on the beds.”
To place your order for EnviroBed please call EnviroSystems on 01772 860085. Order online here