The farmyard is the focal point for most farms. It is the location for storing fodder, handling and housing of livestock, storing chemicals and toxic substances and maintenance and storage of machinery. It is the most frequently used location on the farm.
Farmers need to ensure that the farmyard is managed carefully to prevent and minimise nutrient, sediment, pesticide and toxic substance losses to waters.
Wastes associated with the feeding and housing of livestock; slurry and silage effluent etc. must have adequate collection and storage facilities. Pesticides, chemicals and oils also must be stored in a safe manner to ensure any accidental spills or leaks are contained and prevented from impacting waters.
Everyday use will generate debris and spoil/muck from tractor tyres and livestock and this will soil the surfaces of the yard. Rainfall may mobilise and wash off the debris into the local drainage network as soiled water.
A poorly managed yard may result in direct losses from the issues described above to waters. These are known as ‘point sources’ of pollution. These need to be identified at farm level and action taken to prevent and minimise these losses.
Good Management Tips for Farmyards:
Farm yards are the centre of most of farming activity, managing the yard area well will help to minimise losses of pollutants. Below are some useful tips and advice on how best manage your yard.
- Minimise Soiled Water
- Housing of Livestock
- Silage pits, Bale Silage and Effluent Storage
- Pesticides and toxic substances
Minimise Soiled Water
Take steps to keep the volume of soiled or dirty water leaving your farmyard area to a minimum. Soiled water can transport nutrients, sediment, chemicals etc. from your yard to waters.
What is soiled water?
Soiled water includes water from concreted areas, hard standing areas, holding areas for livestock, and other farmyard areas where such water is contaminated by contact with any of the following:
- Livestock faeces, urine or waste silage
- Chemical fertilisers
- Washings such as vegetable washings, milking parlour washings or washings from mushroom houses
- Water used in washing farm equipment.
Simple management techniques can help minimise the volume of soiled water generated on your farm yard.
Reduce the soiled area of your yard by:
- Regularly cleaning dirty areas
- Restricting farm ‘traffic’ to certain parts of the yard as much as possible
- Have yard surfaces that are easy to clean
Reduce the volume of clean water flowing across the yard areas by:
- Diverting clean water from shed roofs away from the yard areas
- Having gutters and downpipes in good working order and pipe rainwater directly to drains
- Having good controls for yard surface water. Rainfall from clean areas of the yard should not flow into dirty areas of the yard.
Where soiled water/dairy washings are generated on a farm it is important that:
- Adequate collection and controls are in place to prevent point source losses to waters
- Soiled waters/dairy are directed to adequate storage facilities
- Soiled waters/dairy washings are land spread in accordance with best practice
Housing of Livestock
Livestock (cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, etc.) housed over the winter should be kept in facilities that are fit for purpose. Farmers should ensure that these housing facilities are designed and used in a manner that minimises impact on water quality. Following some important guidelines on management of these facilities:
Slatted sheds and slurry tanks
- Slatted sheds are designed to house a certain number of livestock, do not exceed this number for both slurry storage and animal welfare reasons
- Ensure the capacity of slurry tanks at a minimum is sufficient to store slurry and meets the slurry storage requirements for your county
- Ideally, there should be a buffer of 2 to 4 weeks additional slurry storage to reduce the need to empty tanks in poor weather and ground conditions
- Ensure that all water troughs are working correctly – no leaks
- Prevent water from entering the tanks from
- Roof water
- Ingress from yard or adjoining land
- Check for leaks in slurry storage facilities including lined lagoons
- For slurry storage requirements for your county see below;
Loose housing and farm yard manure (FYM) storage
- Loose (straw bedded) sheds are designed to house a certain number of livestock, do not exceed this number for both FYM storage and animal welfare reasons
- Ensure that appropriate controls are in place to collect runoff from pens
- Always use sufficient straw (or other bedding) in pens
- Ensure the capacity of farm yard manure stores are sufficient to store farm yard manure and meets the minimum FYM storage requirements for your county
- Ensure there is adequate collection and storage facilities for seepage from the FYM store
- Minimise water ingress from rainfall and clean water areas
Silage pits, Silage Bales and Effluent Storage
Farms keeping livestock over the winter period store silage in pits or as bales as fodder to feed over the winter period. This can generate silage effluent and it is necessary to collect and store this carefully. It is a highly pollutant liquid and can cause serious water quality problems. Round bales of silage can also generate silage effluent if the dry matter content is low. This effluent also needs to be collected and stored.
- Silage pits are designed to store a certain tonnage of grass. Do not exceed the capacity of the pit
- Ensure there are adequate effluent channels and these are kept clear of blockages
- Ensure the silage cover overlaps the effluent channels or kerb to prevent rain water from mixing with the silage effluent
- Ensure concrete floors and walls are in good condition – no cracks or disintegration
- Check that the effluent tank has enough capacity to store effluent generated
- Check that concrete aprons are in good condition and that clean water can be diverted safely away
- Round bales of silage need to be stored on concrete to collect any effluent that may be generated
- High dry matter content bales of silage (haylage) that do not generate silage effluent can be stored on hardcore material
- Stacking round bales of silage should be avoided as it can generate seepage of silage effluent
Pesticides and toxic substances
Store and dispose all chemicals carefully on farms. They are both a farm safety risk and a risk to water quality. Other toxic substances such as oil, diesel, sheep dip, animal medicines and waste batteries can be harmful to waters, humans and animals.
To ensure pesticides and toxic substances are stored, used and disposed of in a safe manner. Follow these guidelines: Further information is available on the Sustainable Use Directive (SUD) for pesticides
Farm chemical store:
- Store all pesticides and chemicals etc. in a secure and lockable location
- The location should be well ventilated, insulated, fireproof and bunded
- Powders should be stored above liquids to reduce waste if a spillage occurs
- Appropriate warning signs should be visible
Farm diesel and oils:
- Diesel tanks and oils should be stored and located in a bunded structure
- All waste from pesticides, medicines, batteries, oils etc. must be disposed of correctly using a professional waste contractor
Sheep dip and footbaths
- Dipping tanks and footbaths should not be located near drains, streams, wells etc.
- Dipping tanks and footbaths should be leak proof
- Drip pens should be provided and liquid collected and stored safely
- Dipping tanks and footbaths should be emptied immediately after use
- Used sheep dip should be mixed 1:3 parts with slurry or water with the mix land spread by a slurry tanker at a maximum rate of 5,000 L/HA which equates to 534 gals/acre.
- Prevent sheep access to drains, streams, etc. for 24 hours
- Dispose of sheep dip and footbath containers safely.
Disclaimer: All farms are unique and require careful assessment to ensure the correct measures are implemented. Please contact your local ASSAP Advisor for your individual enquiries.