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Nitrates Derogation

Ireland’s nitrates derogation allows farmers to farm at higher stocking rates, above 170 kg livestock manure nitrogen/ha up to 250 nitrogen/ha, (up to 3LU’s cows/ha across the entire land declared on BPS). This is subject to additional conditions designed to protect the environment. 

Introduction to Derogation

Envronment Specialist Tim Hyde provides an introduction to Nitrates Derogation for farmers.

Derogation 2020

Recent declines in water quality and increases in Green House Gas (GHG) and Ammonia Emissions will make it more difficult to secure future derogations.  

If you are one of the 6,400 derogation applicants in 2020 there are eight changes that affect you. You will need to discuss the changes with your Agri-Advisor and put a plan in place to meet these requirements in 2020 and beyond. By not meeting these new rules you may well not be eligible for derogation.


Measure Detail
1. Compulsory Liming Programme
  1. From 1st January 2020, a full scale farm liming program to be carried out on farm where identified by soil sample results on all lands farmed with the exception of conacre farmed on an 1 year basis.
  2. Lime applications must be recorded on the Annual Fertiliser Records with invoices retained for inspection.
  3. The quantity of lime spread since the date of soil samples will be taken into account.

For more information read: Farm Scale Liming Programme and view video below

2. Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) 2020: Applies to all slurry spread post 15th April 
2021 : Applies to all slurry spread post 12th January
  1. The volume of Slurry spread by LESS must be recorded on annual records
  2. Applicants are required to have evidence of own machinery or contractor receipts where hired in LESS machinery is being used.
3. Reduction in Crude Protein % to dairy cows of meals at grass Livestock with 100% grass diet from 1st April - 15th September 
2020: Max of 16% Crude Protein Rations
2021: Max of 15% Crude Protein Rations

The crude protein content is to be recorded on feed statements.


Attendance at compulsory environmental training course

All farmer applicants must attend an environmental training course.
  1. Course details and content to be specified by DAFM.
  2. Proof of attendance will be required.
  3. Courses must be completed before the 31st December 2021.
5. Grassland Management From 1st January 2020 two options :
  1. Applicants must complete a minimum of 20 grass measurements on PastureBase Ireland
  2. Attend a grassland management course : details to be finalised by DAFM & course to be completed by 31st December 2021
6. Inclusion of Clover in Grass Seed Mixtures From 1st January 2020, grass seed mixtures must contain a minimum of 1.5 kg per hectare of naked white or red clover seed in mixture or 2.5kg per hectare of pelleted clover seed.
7. Exclusion of commonage / rough grazing From 1st January 2020, lands that are declared as Commonage or Rough Grazing on the BPS application will be allocated a maximum of 170 kg organic N per Hectare with resultant reduced allowance of chemical fertiliser.
8. Improve Farm Biodiversity From 1st January 2020, applicants must choose one of the following:
  1. Leave at least one mature Whitethorn or Blackthorn tree in every 300m of hedgerow.
  2. Maintain hedges on at least a three year cycle to encourage hedgerow flowering and fruiting


8 Major Derogation Changes Introduced in 2020

Tim Hyde explains the 8 major changes introduced for derogation farmers in 2020.

Next Derogation Review

A full review of the derogation and Nitrates Action Plan will take place in 2021. Given agricultural impact on water quality it is likely that a wide range of options will be considered to help turn around this trend.  DAFM have indicated that the following could be under review for the next NAP 5/Derogation review

  • A recalculation of dairy cow excretion rates increase from 85 to reflect changes in genetics and feeding
  • Reduced chemical fertiliser allowances to reflect increases in N retention from the use of Low Emissions slurry
  • Additional requirements for farmers above 130 Kg NpH and those exporting organic manures to come below 170 Kg NpH
  • Protected nitrogen use could be mandatory to replace % overall chemical N usage and limits on the use of unprotected urea. (There is provision for this to be regulated in 2021)
  • Modified requirements for slurry storage time and facilities may be reviewed considering the number of slurry spreading extensions in the past
  • Stocking rate restrictions on the grazing platform
  • An extension of the LAWPRO/ASSAP initiative to work with farmers to reduce impact on water quality


It is very noticeable that many farms are taking on-going action on climate change, water quality, emissions and biodiversity. This will benefit their environmental footprints but more needs to be done by more farmers. Collectively, we must use all the tools available in order to deliver the improvements required. These measures can provide a win-win for biodiversity, nutrient use efficiency, GHGs, water quality and increased profitability and sustainability for the dairy industry.