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Improving Nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) will save you money

So what exactly is NUE? NUE is a calculation, explains William Burchill, Teagasc that measures how efficiently nitrogen in slurry, feed & fertiliser converts to milk and meat. Nitrogen Use Efficiency will leave more money in your pocket as well as all of the environmental benefits that go with it.

The EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategies are seeking a reduction of up to 20% in fertiliser usage by 2030. Nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) for your farm is becoming of increasing importance in assessing the sustainability credentials of your farming operation. So what exactly is NUE? NUE is a calculation as explained in the video below by William Burchill, Teagasc Dairy Advisor in the Cork East region, quantifies how efficiently nitrogen that comes into a farm in the form of fertiliser, slurry or feed exits the farm in the form of milk or meat.

It is calculated as a percentage. Current National Farm Survey Sustainability reports put Irish dairy farms at 25% in terms of their ability to recover N from their N imports. That is, of the N imported onto a farm in the form of fertiliser and feed amongst other things, 25% of it is recovered in the form of milk sales or sales of cattle either live or to slaughter. This leaves room for improvement with an industry target of 35% being the figure set for farmers to achieve in the coming years.

Achieving this will indicate improved sustainability of our farming systems in three ways.

  1. Improved usage of N inputs (fertiliser, feed) will save farmers money on input costs (financial sustainability)
  2. It will benefit water quality as improved nitrogen usage will reduce the risk of nitrogen losses to water (environmental sustainability)
  3. Reduced fertiliser usage will also reduce ammonia emissions thus improving air quality (environmental sustainability)

There are also other ways that we can improve NUE eg.

  1. Use of Low emission slurry spreading (LESS) increases the amount of N recovered for slurry and allows for a reduction in applied fertiliser N
  2. Reducing the crude protein % of rations fed while grazing will reduce N losses from dung an urine without compromising animal performance
  3. Incorporating white clover into the grazing platform can offset chemical N inputs thus reducing chemical N costs whilst also increasing animal output meaning greater returns

For more information regarding the NUE% of your farm contact your local advisor.