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Slurry treatment saving on fertiliser costs on Frome dairy farm

David-NorrisCutting the cost of inputs has never been more important to dairy farmers’ margins and making more of the farm’s resources undoubtedly has a major role to play in that. Frome 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 an inoculant.
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 – both grazed and as silage – and have a straightforward winter system based on silage topped up with concentrates in the parlour. The aim is to produce our milk as efficiently but as economically as possible. Keeping on top of costs is very important,” says Dave.

Although now using sexed semen, Dave Norris has always prided himself on the longevity of his cows. “I want cows to last for eight lactations or even more. If I was only getting four lactations from my cows I wouldn’t be too happy.”

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 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.”