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Climate Actions for March/April

  • Get livestock out to grass when conditions allow
  • Ensure adequate fertilizer is applied for grazing
  • Complete a winter feed budget for next winter
  • Spread fertilizer and close silage ground based on silage budget
  • Prioritise organic manures on grassland for silage
  • Select paddocks for clover incorporation

Food and Fodder Security for Dairy Farmers

Information for dairy farmers is available here Food and Fodder Security


Climate Actions for February

Use protected urea, its cheaper than CAN or standard urea and delivers 13% higher yield than straight urea
Three Reasons to use Protected Urea in 2022

Get your slurry analysed for nutrient contentKnowing the quality of your slurry can help make decisions on application, ensuring its use is optimised and not wasted. Use a hydrometer to estimate the nutrient content of your slurry. Check out this video which explains the process. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPi_KxpjSv8

Alternatively, send a sample to a laboratory for analysis. The procedure for taking a slurry sample:

  • Your own health and safety is the first most important aspect. Be aware of safety guidelines around PTO guards and slurry gases.
  • January/February i.e. the first time slurry is being spreading after the winter is the best time to test slurry
  • The slurry must be well agitated so that all crust and water are completely mixed before taking the sample
  • Suck up a load of slurry from the slurry pit using the slurry tanker
  • Get the slurry sample from the fill point of the slurry tanker
  • Place 0.5 litres of slurry into a sealed screw-capped container provided
  • Keep the sample cool and post to the lab the day you take the sample
  • A number of slurry tanks should be tested if both covered and uncovered slurry tanks are in the farmyard

Spread slurry close to when grass growth is taking off using LESS equipment. Save good quality slurry for silage ground which has the biggest demand. View more information on Organic Manure (PDF)

Continue to spread lime through February to save up to 80 kg N / ha. View more information on Advice on Liming (PDF)

Grazing animals feed themselves and spread their slurry.

Feeding your animals, avoiding poaching, and grazing out paddocks are three golden rules for spring grazing and should be considered in that order. Every day at grass is worth €2.70 per dairy cow and €2/LU for drystock farms. Not to mention saving on the amount of fodder required to make for next winter. Here are some tips to ensure you earn more money this spring through early grazing.

The Grass – Let stock out to graze on the right grass covers. This means lighter covers first, not the heavier ones. Ideally let animals graze covers 600-800 Kg DM/ha (7cm) for the first few weeks (between 1 and 2 fists high of grass as guide if not familiar with measurements).

The Paddock – When deciding which paddocks to graze first, choose ones closer to the yard, drier (walk to check conditions underfoot), sheltered, and square in shape. Avoid soft paddocks (unless good ground conditions).

The Infrastructure – Ensure the paddocks you choose to begin grazing have multiple access points ideally from a hard-surfaced roadway. Be prepared to strip-graze and back-fence to avoid poaching and utilise grass. Be mindful of access to water also.

The Animal – Early grazing usually means ground conditions are tender in places. To reduce the risk of damaging soil and swards let out younger/lighter animals to graze first. They can adapt to grazing quickly and graze through area at a much lower risk. On-off grazing may be a good option for farms carrying heavier livestock.

The Farmer – Most important influence on getting out grazing early is the farmer and their mind-set. Being flexible is the name of the game here. Cattle can go in and out and to achieve early grazing this is likely to happen at some point. Being open to this and ready for it is key!

Get your nutrient management plan completed, it will be particularly important in 2022

Work with your advisor to develop a Nutrient Management Plan for your farm.  Your advisor will use NMP Online and together they will give you the best advice. NMP online produces a fertiliser plan for your farm including a liming plan, where to apply your slurry/FYM and what fields to target with specific fertiliser based on soil test results.

The steps to creating a nutrient management plan for your farm:

Step one: is taking our soil sample – the cost of a soil sample can be on a 4ha field will last 4 years and this is €1.23/ha or 50cent/acre and yet we don’t mind spending  €50 on a bag of urea (if Urea is costed at €1,000/tonne).

Step two: is getting these soil samples into NMP Online with the help of our advisor.

Step three: is the key – looking at the NMP Online to get the best return on investment from slurry and bag fertiliser.

Some farmers will have fields that need very little investment. Others will have fields that with the help of soil sample results, we now know exactly what to invest in and where. We know that using slurry again this year in the fields closest to the yard isn’t going to be the best use of this valuable organic fertiliser. But where is the best use of our slurry? Slurry used in the lower index P & K fields is estimated to be worth €53/1,000 gallons based on current fertiliser prices.

Working with NMP Online and your advisor will tell you this and more. Your soil samples combined with your crop demand will deliver advice that allows you to target the fields that need investment. Like any investment, you need a plan. Your nutrient management plan will set out your soil fertility plan.


Starting with lime it will tell you how much and where.  This plan will spread lime across 4 year and allow you to spread the cost of the investment. Lime on a lower stocked farm will have a 4:1 return on investment. This is higher on more intensive farms.

Figure one is an example of a K map which you could also have for your farm. Without even looking at K values, you can see that the fields closest to the farmyard on the left, have received more slurry than the fields that are further from the yard. Convenience can save time, but it will cost in terms of output in the long run. 

Carbon Footprint Dairy

Carbon Footprint Dairy (PDF)

View Video: Carbon footprint and suitable actions to reduce emissions on a dairy farm - YouTube 

Know Your Number

As farmers, you are being asked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from your farming system to control global warming. But where do you start? Many dairy and beef farmers have a carbon emissions figure available to them but many are not aware of this information.

After each Bord Bia audit, all certified dairy and beef farmers receive a Farmer Feedback Report from Bord Bia with their farm’s carbon footprint as well as an assessment of farm productivity, nutrient management, grassland, animal feeding and farm safety.

The carbon footprint refers to how much greenhouse gases (GHG) are emitted from an activity such as the production of milk or meat or driving a car or taking a flight. The emissions of all GHG gases are expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2 Eq). In farming, the production of every kg of milk or meat or grain has a carbon footprint.

How is the carbon footprint calculated?

There are four sources of data required to complete an accurate calculation of a farms carbon footprint, using the Teagasc model.

  1. Animal Identification and Movements Database (AIM) – DAFM – Beef and Dairy
  2. Daily Live Weight Gain - Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) – Beef Only
  3. Milk Production Data – Dairy Processors - Dairy Only
  4. Sustainability Survey – Scheme Members – Beef and Dairy. The sustainability survey is the only data source required for the carbon footprint calculation that is collected directly from the farmer. 

How does the information provided in the Sustainability Survey relate to the carbon footprint?

  1. Turnout and housing influences the calculation of manure storage emissions, grazing and digestion related emissions.
  2. Manure management calculates the emissions from the application and storage of manure on the farm.
  3. Concentrate feeding rates calculates the emissions associated with the production of concentrate feed fed to animals.
  4. Fertilizer application data are required to track the emissions from the production of fertilizers and minerals and the emissions related to the application of fertilizer to the land.

It is important to note that inaccuracies in the data provided via the sustainability survey can result in an inaccurate carbon footprint and grass-fed result, and farmer feedback report.

When do you get the Farmer Feedback Report?

The feedback report is posted to the farmer within one week of certification of the Bord Bia audit. It can also be accessed from the audit portal website, farm.bordbia.ie using your herd number and pin (which you can reset if you have forgotten it).

Where do you find the carbon footprint on the report?

The carbon footprint is displayed on the first page of the report. The example above is for a dairy farm – the carbon footprint for this farm is 1.10 kg CO2 / kg FPCM which is 3% lower than it was in 2018 and compares well to the national average for herds of 125-150 cows which have a carbon footprint of 1.15. The carbon footprint for beef farms is presented in a similar format but expressed as kg CO2 / kg live weight.

How do you know what is contributing to your carbon footprint?

On page three, a graph displays the percentage share of carbon emissions on your farm under the following headings and farm activities: animal digestion; manure; fertiliser; forage/feed production; other (e.g. transport, fuel, etc.).

In the information and advice section, there are green and white-shaded bullet points, what do these colours indicate?

The advice is broken down into two levels of activity. The green leaf is related to actions specifically set out in the Teagasc Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC). These actions are provided to encourage farmers to engage with the Climate Action Plan and make farmers more informed on those types of actions. The white leaf relates to more general information.

Please contact your local Teagasc advisor to discuss the carbon footprint for your farm and the actions you might take.


Key Technologies to Reduce Emissions on Dairy Farms

Summary of the key technologies that a dairy farmer can adopt to reduce emissions on the farm

Use of protected urea

  • How it works
    Slows the rate at which urea is converted to ammonium, reducing nitrous oxide emissions

  • Impact at farm level
    Protected urea is slightly cheaper than CAN and grows similar grass yields to CAN

  • Benefit to the environment
    Protected urea has 71% lower nitrous oxide emissions than CAN. Reduces footprint & total emissions1,2 

    1 Reduces footprint = reduces the GHG emissions per kg of fat and protein corrected milk

    2 Total emissions = reduces total GHG emissions from the farm

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Replace all straight nitrogen (N) with protected urea

Improving EBI

  • How it works
    Better fertility, reducing GHG emissions from non-milk producing animals and improved efficiency.
  • Impact at farm level
    Every €10 change in herd EBI will increase profit by €20/cow.

  • Benefit to the environment
    For every €10 increase in EBI, GHG emissions decline by 1% per unit of product. Reduces footprint.

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Increase the EBI of your herd by €10 per year.

Grazing Management

  • How it works
    Animals grazing better quality forage produce less GHG (less silage in the diet).

  • Impact at farm level
    Every extra tonne of grass dry matter (DM) grown and utilised/ha is worth €173 to the farmer.

  • Benefit to the environment
    Every additional week at grass reduces total GHG emissions by 1%. Reducing pre-grazing covers from 2,000 kg DM/ha to 1,300 kg DM/ha reduces GHG emissions by 15% per day. Reduces footprint.

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Walk your farm weekly
    Measure grass
    Use PastureBase Ireland
    Improve infrastructure
    Avoid poaching

Improved animal health

  • How it works
    Increased animal performance, reduced replacement rate and reduced number of non-milking animals, reduced mortality

  • Impact at farm level
    Reducing health problems will improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase profitability

  • Benefit to the environment
    Improvements in health will reduce GHG emissions per unit of milk

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Use the EBI sub-index for health
    Implement a health plan/vaccination programme
    Implement good stock importing practices

Low Emissions Slurry Spreading Equipment

  • How it works
    Less nitrogen (N) volatilisation.
    Increases the N fertilizer value of slurry.
    Reduces the total chemical N inputs.

  • Impact at farm level 
    Retains an extra 3 units of N / 1,000 gallons of cattle slurry.
    Worth €3.30/cow.

  • Benefit to the environment
    Reduces ammonia emissions from slurry by up to 30% and nitrous oxide emissions through reduced chemical N use.  Reduces footprint & total emissions.

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Switch to using LESS equipment for all slurry spreading.

Reducing Chemical N Fertiliser Use

  • How it works
    Reduces nitrous oxide emissions.

  • Impact at farm level
    Reduction in farm profitability unless soil fertility is optimised, spread lime, use clover and LESS.

  • Benefit to the environment
    Reduce nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate losses to water.   Reduces footprint & total emissions.

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Get lime right first. Soil sample your farm, identify fields that need lime, P & k, make a plan.

Incorporating White Clover

  • How it works
    Nitrous oxide emission reduction is achieved from lower chemical N fertiliser use (up to 100 kg N/ha).

  • Impact at farm level
    Increased milk solids production 20-48 kg/cow per year.
    Increased net farm profit by €108-€305/ha

  • Benefit to the environment
    Can reduce nitrous oxide emissions by up to 40% due to reduced chemical N fertiliser use.  Reduces footprint & total emissions.

  • Actions Needed by Dairy Farmers
    Over a 5 year period aim to have white clover in at least 30% of your paddocks (at a minimum average annual sward clover content of 20%).