Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics
Placeholder image

Changing requirements for highly stocked livestock farms and Nitrate Derogation farmers – the clock is ticking!

09 September 2020
Type Media Article

By Tom Murphy, B&T Dairy Adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare

The numbers of livestock farmers and in particular dairy farmers opting to apply for a Nitrates Derogation are growing annually. This trend will likely continue in the near future as the more commercialised livestock farms continue to become more specialised. In line with this trend is the evolution of Nitrates requirements to ensure that the environment and in particular water quality is protected for the common good. 

If you are one of the almost 6,500 farmers who applied for Nitrates Derogation in 2020, there are a number of additional requirements which you need to be aware of. Failure to comply with these new requirements, in addition to the existing conditions of the derogation, could result in penalties, or withdrawal of your derogation under cross compliance. Also, more stringent rules specifically in relation to direct protection of watercourses on highly stocked farms will come into effect from January 2021.

Many dairy farmers are taking on-going action to comply with Nitrates Derogation requirements, thereby playing their part in improving water quality. Some dairy farmers are currently either unaware of, or have not implemented yet, the new derogation requirements for 2020. The clock is definitely ticking, with limited time left to comply before the end of the year.”

There are eight changes which derogation farmers need to be aware of. The full details are available on the Teagasc website at www.teagasc.ie/derogation2020. Derogation farmers now need to familiarise themselves with the changes and to assess how they can best meet the requirements before the end of the year to ensure they are compliant with the derogation Terms and Conditions for 2020.

The changes implemented for 2020 are listed as follows:

  1. Farm’s liming requirement -   Minimum 25% this year or at least the amount as specified in your Nutrient Management Plan for 2020.
  2. All slurry on the holding must be spread using low emission slurry spreading (LESS) equipment (since 15th April).
  3. Concentrate rations fed to livestock at grass in the period 1st April to 15th September must have a maximum of 16% Crude Protein (CP) (2020) reducing to the lower limit of 15% CP in 2021.
  4. Farmers are required to attend a short training programme encompassing best practice in nutrient use efficiency and management, protection of water quality and grassland management.
  5. Clover seed must be included in all grass seed mixtures at a minimum rate of 1.5kg per hectare (0.6kg per acre pack) of naked (unpelleted) clover seed. The minimum limit if the clover seed is pelleted is 2.5kg/ha.
  6. Commonage or rough grazing cannot be included for the calculation of the organic Nitrogen stocking rate for the holding and the fertiliser allowances are reduced accordingly.
  7. Hedges must be managed to improve biodiversity by either leaving one mature whitethorn/ blackthorn tree within each hedgerow, or maintaining hedgerows on a minimum 3-year cycle.
  8. Farmers must record a minimum of 20 farm grass covers using Pasture Base Ireland (or other appropriate software) or attend a short training course (to be completed before the end of 2021).

In addition to these changes which were published earlier this year, from 1st January 2021 further requirements will need to be met on derogation farms, and some of these will also apply to non-derogation farms who are avoiding the derogation status by exporting slurry to lower stocked farms. These further requirements are in relation to bovine exclusion from waters, fencing waters, water trough location and farm roadways near water courses. The proposed changes are outline in the table below and further information in relation to this will be published by DAFM in due course. 

Bovine exclusion from Water  Courses (Jan 2021): Summary of Requirements

IssueAll farms>170 GSR (derogation & non-derogation)Applies to
Bovine Exclusion and Fencing of waters No Yes Surface waters and waters. Every river/stream/drain/dry drain
Water-trough (20m from waters/surface waters) No Yes Surface waters and waters. Every river/stream/drain/dry drain
Farm roads Yes Yes Surface waters and waters. Every river/stream/drain/dry drain
Crossing watercourses daily with cows No Yes Watercourses and further information to follow from DAFM

Derogation farmers may have completed some, or all, of the required actions for 2020 already. The key thing now is to familiarise yourself with the requirements. Contact your Teagasc Advisor or Private Consultant to discuss what requirements apply to your farm and how best you can meet them. Teagasc will offer training courses in late 2020 and throughout 2021.