Anna Truesdale, CAFRE dairy development adviser in the North Down area, recently delivered a Business Development Group (BDG) meeting which focused on increasing the efficiency of nitrogen (N) usage on dairy farms.
Host farmer Richard Brown with Anna Truesdale, CAFRE dairy development adviser, at a recent group meeting discussing options for efficiency of N usage.
Significant increase in chemical fertiliser prices has forced dairy producers to look carefully at their N usage efficiency and overall N strategy on farm. On all dairy farms grass production is highly dependent on the supply of plant available N. The development group felt a discussion was needed on nitrogen usage.
Discussion focused on the key sources of N and how these can be managed in terms of application rates and timing of application to help minimise the cost implications of increased chemical fertiliser prices.
At the group event, Anna highlighted that “given the current cost of chemical N, the cost of milk production in particular forage costs could be increased by 1.5ppl – 2.0ppl on a typical 150 cow dairy farm”.
During the BDG meeting Anna directed the discussion around key focus areas:
- Improving overall farm soil fertility. Is now the time to improve soil fertility and what improvements are realistic in the short term?
- How can dairy farms increase utilisation of farm slurry and farm yard manure in early spring to offset purchased chemical fertiliser?
- Have legumes a potential role to play on dairy farms? Can white and red clover, and other multi species grass varieties help the situation?
The outcome from the group discussion was to develop a fertilisation strategy for the host farmer Richard Brown, a 200 cow dairy farmer, based close to the small village of Millisle in the Newtownards peninsula.
The BDG scheme is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development.
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