Using pig manure as a cheaper fertiliser alternative
With the high price of fertiliser this Spring, Gerard McCutcheon, Teagasc Pig Development Officer and Mark Plunkett, Teagasc Specialist are on this week’s episode of the Beef Edge podcast with an insight into using pig manure as a cheap alternative and the do's and don’ts around importing slurry.
Gerard highlights that each 1000 gallons is currently worth €48 (double what it is usually worth!) which is a total fertiliser value of over €23 million. 1000 gallons of pig slurry is equivalent to a bag of 19-7-20 so there is great scope when we look at the fertiliser costs and inputs on beef farms.
At this stage there are around 280 to 300 farms keeping pigs commercially around the country with the majority in counties Cavan and Cork, so there are opportunities for farmers to make contact with neighbouring pig farms.
Before this happens Gerard advises that the beef farmer needs to do the calculation of how much slurry they would be able to take in. This is based on the organic Nitrogen from the previous year but some is based on the chemical fertiliser to be used in the current year. Gerard highlights the importance of doing the calculation now at the start of the year and speaking to your advisor.
Mark highlights how LESS (Low Emission Slurry Spreading) technology delivers the slurry in narrow bands, thus reducing its surface area and reducing Nitrogen (N) loss and improving the recovery of N from slurry. It also allows a very even distribution of nutrients across the spread width, which ensures the targeted delivery of nutrients to where they will be maximised especially the N.
It also reduces odours and smells at time of application and it allows application into higher grass covers and faster return of grazing animals to grazing fields. Plus, it allows the application of slurry at times when soil conditions are better thus reducing the risk of soil compaction.
Switching from splashplate to LESS and timing from summer to spring application can increase N recovery by 6 units/ 1,000gals. Mark describes how pig slurry has a very well balanced nutrient profile with 19-7-20 in terms of available N P & K.
Pig slurry is a very good fertiliser for grazing fields at ~ 1,500 gals/ac or on silage fields apply 3,000 gal/ac which will supply 70% of the crops’ N requirements, all the crops P requirements and ~ 80% of the crops’ K requirements.
Mark advises to leave 3 months between lime and slurry application or alternatively apply the slurry first and then apply the lime in 10 days’ time to reduce the risk of N losses.
For more advice on using pig slurry, read an article on Using pig slurry to save money makes more sense than ever here