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Nitrates and Derogation

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

Derogation 2024

6 key changes to nitrates regulations for 2023

These changes follow an interim review of the programme in 2021, which indicated that chemical nitrogen use had increased by ~30,000-40,000t on the previous review completed in 2017, the national dairy herd climbed by 12% over this period – with an increased concentration of cows in the south and east – and 47% of rivers had unsatisfactory levels of river nitrate and 29% of rivers had unsatisfactory levels of phosphorous (P). Read about the 6 key changes to nitrates regulations for 2023

Get further information:-

Environment Newsletter - December 2022

Nitrates Newsletter - October 2022

Derogation 2022

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 6,900 derogation applicants in 2022 there are several changes that affect you as outlined in the mandatory derogation requirements for 2022 below. You will need to discuss the changes with your Agri-Advisor and put a plan in place to meet these requirements in 2022 and beyond. By not meeting these new rules you may well not be eligible for derogation. Click on the measures below to find out more:

  1. Liming Programme
  2. Low Emission Slurry Spreading
  3. Reduction in Crude Protein % to dairy cows of meals at grass
  4. Attendance at compulsory environmental training course
  5. Grassland Management
  6. Inclusion of Clover in Grass Seed Mixtures
  7. Exclusion of commonage
  8. Improve Farm Biodiversity
Introduction to Derogation

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

Mandatory Derogation Requirements for 2022(pdf)
Water Protection Measures 2021 (pdf)

DAFM Documents (all pdfs)

Nitrates Information Leaflet DAFM September 2022 
DAFM Derogation Terms and Conditions 2022
DAFM Nitrates Banding calculator 2022 
DAFM Training requirements for Derogation applicants 2022

8 Major Derogation Changes Introduced in 2020

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

Measure 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 more here and view video below

2020 Derogation - Lime Requirements

All derogation farmers must now adopt a farm scale liming programme based on a current Nutrient Management Plan and associated soil analysis results. James Moyles, Teagasc Dairy Advisor, Tullamore tells us more.

Measure 2 - Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS)

2022 : Applies to all slurry spread and 50% slurry has to be spread by 1st June each year. 

  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.

More information is available here and in the video below. 

2020 Derogation - Low Emission Slurry Spreading

Low emission slurry spreading techniques, such as trailing shoe or dribble bar or umbilical system with a dribble bar place the slurry in bands or lines on the ground, rather than across the entire surface as with the conventional splashplate method. James Moyles, Teagasc Tullamore tells us more

Measure 3 - Reduction in Crude Protein % to dairy cows of meals at grass

Livestock with 100% grass diet from 1st April - 30th September 
2022: Max of 15% Crude Protein Rations

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

For more information read more here and view video below

Derogation 2020 - Crude Protein in Rations

All Nitrate Derogation farmers should now be aware that there are reduced levels of crude protein permissible in concentrates fed to grazing livestock from 1st April to the 15th September, 2020. James Moyles, Teagasc Tullamore tells us more.

Measure 4 - Attendance at compulsory environmental training course

All new derogation applicants must have completed all elements of a training programme in nutrient use efficiency, the protection of waters and grassland management by the end of 2022. If applicants record, through the appropriate software technology, the grass produced annually on the farm, the grassland management training is not required.

  1. Completion of the required training courses is mandatory
  2. Proof of attendance will be required.
  3. See DAFM Circular on 'Training Requirements for New and Existing Nitrates Derogation Applicants 2022' (pdf) for details on course requirements and completion dates for new and existing derogation applicants in 2022

Three day training course

A 3 day training course requirement is a key part of training for new derogation applicants. This training, to improve knowledge transfer, must be completed by the end of 2022.

Science and regulations keep moving on. For farmers who get left behind this will be costly, in terms extra cross compliance penalties because of not knowing the new regulations or for example not being aware of the extra N available when using LESS to spread slurry, thus being able to spread less N for the same yield.

The training courses are squarely aimed at improving awareness of regulations around nitrates and improving nutrient use efficiency, which is better for the farmers pocket and the environment.

The Requirements

3 days training is the requirement for farmers who are new derogation applicants in 2022. This training must be completed by the end of 2022. In general these courses are run in the autumn over 2 or 3 weeks as this is a quieter time of the year for farmer. Contact your derogation advisor for local course details, as all these courses have to be registered with the Department of Agriculture. Below gives an insight into what will be covered in each of the 3 days

Nutrient Use Efficiency and P Build-up Training - 1 day

    • Increasing nutrient use efficiency by getting the most from fertiliser and slurry

Farming Sustainably Under Derogation Training - 1 day

    • Reducing the impact of emissions, water and biodiversity

Grassland Management - 1 day

    • Sustainable grassland management practices to improve nutrient use efficiency OR b. Record through appropriate software technology, the grass produced annually on the farm.

Existing Nitrates Derogation Applicants

In order for those Nitrates Derogation applicants who applied in 2020 and/or 2021 to be eligible to apply in 2022 the training as outlined above must be completed.

Those farmers who recorded at least 20 grass measurements in 2021 must continue to record at least 20 grass measurements in 2022 with a minimum of one week between each measurement.

Note; the requirement per month in 2021 was February (1), March (2), April to September (14), October (2) and November (1). In 2022 a minimum of 17 measures between March and September and a minimum of 3 measures recorded between October and November will also comply with the requirement.

Those farmers who completed a grassland management training course in 2020/2021 will be required to get set up on appropriate software technology (as accepted by DAFM) in 2022. These farmers have two options for grass measuring in 2022 as follows:

  1. Record a minimum of 20 grass measurements on appropriate software technology (as accepted by DAFM) with a minimum of one week between each measure, Or
  2. Attend two workshops and take a minimum of 3 grass measurements in 2022 with a minimum of one week between each measurement.

One workshop must be on using the software technology to record and interpret grass measurements and one workshop must be on grass measuring.

Workshop A or Workshop B - as described below can be completed in any order. This is at the discretion of attendee based on experience/knowledge of each workshop content.

General workshop requirements

  • Delivery of the workshops can take place at any time of year but should take place prior to grass measuring.
  • A maximum participant group size will normally be under 30 or increased to a maximum of 50 in the case of online courses, other than in the case of practical breakout sessions where 125 is permitted with 30/breakout session.
  • A minimum of 2 hours should be allocated for each workshop with a total of 5 hours between the 2 workshops. Additional question and answer time should be allowed as required.
  • An applicant can nominate a person involved in the management of the farm business to attend the course on their behalf. Details of the nominated person must be submitted and preapproved to DAFM in advance of attending the course.
  • Trainers can apply for DAFM approval for any variation in course delivery model.
  • Training to farmers can only be provided under the guidance of a FAS advisor.
  • Relevant subject matter specialists (who may not be FAS accredited) can be included as part of the programme delivery team.

Workshop A

The objective for Workshop A is to ensure that all participants can record a grass cover for their farm and can access the resulting reports. The following key areas should be covered:

  • Overview of the session- the benefits of measuring grass - 10 mins
  • Setting up the farm profile - paddock profiles, stock numbers, intake - 30mins
  • How to record an individual paddock cover on the PBI system using laptop or App - 30mins
  • Generating and interpreting the grass wedge report using the software - 30 mins
  • Summary and clarifications - 20 mins

Attendance and completion of Workshop A will be verified by confirmation of attendance of the registered participants during the workshop. Follow up in-office consultations should be facilitated to assist clients who require additional support in setting up profiles/Apps and using the software. These will not qualify in lieu of participation in the on-line workshop.

Workshop B 

The objective for Workshop B is to provide participants with the practical skills necessary to complete a whole-farm grass measurement. This element will be conducted on-farm. A maximum of 30 participants per training group is permitted, however individual scheduled events can run multiple training groups concurrently on the day.

Four key areas will be addressed:

  • Demonstrating the physical measurement of grass - Estimating grass dry matter cover per hectare, calculating grass available per paddock, measuring residual covers, assessing grass quality
  • Introducing key grass measurement concepts - Average farm cover, rotation length, herd feed demand, grass wedge
  • Recording grass measurements using appropriate software - Entering grass measurements taken, recording paddocks grazed, marking paddocks for silage, generating a grass wedge
  • Discussing how to use grass measuring metrics for decision making on-farm -  Allocating grass, Removal of surplus silage, use of supplements, fertilizer application, reseeding

Duration will be a minimum of 2 hours. Attendance and completion of Workshop B will be verified by confirmation of attendance of the pre-registered participant at commencement of workshop

Verification by Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM)

DAFM to be notified at least one week in advance of the workshop for preapproval. A batch notification of a number of proposed courses can be included in one submission.

The following is required in the email of notification to grasstraining@agriculture.gov.ie;

  • Contact details of the FAS approved workshop organiser.
  • Location/online details, dates and times of the workshop.
  • Agenda and details to be retained by FAS advisor for Inspection. DAFM to receive confirmation of completion of training course following completion. The following is required in the email of confirmation to grasstraining@agriculture.gov.ie;
  • Contact details of the FAS approved workshop organiser.
  • Location/online details, dates and times of the workshop.
  • Attendance sheets to contain printed name and identifier (eg. Herd Number) of each participant

For any workshops that have already taken place the required details from these courses must be emailed to grasstraining@agriculture.gov.iE  

Approval applications, attendance sheets and queries must all be submitted to the relevant email address: grasstraining@agriculture.gov.ie

Measure 5 - Grassland Management

From 1st January 2022 two options :

  1. Applicants must complete a minimum of 20 grass measurements on PastureBase Ireland if they did 20 measures in 2022. 
  2. Attend two grass modules and 3 grass measures. Course to be completed by 31st December 2022

DAFM Training requirements for Derogation applicants 2022 (pdf)

View amendment under the Grassland Management Measure - January 2021 here 

Measure 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.

More information is available here

Measure 7 - Exclusion of commonage

From 1st January 2022, lands that are declared as Commonage on the BPS application will be allocated a maximum of 50 kg organic N per Hectare with no resultant reduced allowance of chemical fertiliser.

More information on Exclusion of commonage is available here 

Measure 8 - Improve Farm Biodiversity

From 1st January 2022, applicants must choose one of the following:

  1. Leave at least one mature Whitethorn or Blackthorn tree in every 300m of hedgerow.
  2. Hedgerows shall be maintained on a minimum 3-year cycle. i.e. cut in rotation rather than all at once as this will ensure some areas of hedgerows on your farm will always flower.

More information is available here.


Getting Hedgerows Fit For Birds And Bees

Teagasc countryside management specialist Catherine Keena explains why hedgerows are important for birds and bees and how to make sure the hedgerow is suitable for birds and bees.

Next Derogation Review

See DAFM website for more information on Nitrates and Derogation 


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.