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Derogation Review Changes - Improving environmental outcomes

26 March 2020
Type Media Article

ENVIRONMENT: If you are one of the 7,000 derogation applicants in 2020 there are eight changes that affect you. You will need to discuss the changes with your Agri-Advisor and put a plan in place to meet these requirements in 2020 and beyond.

Ireland’s nitrates derogation allows you to farm at higher stocking rates, above 170 kg livestock manure nitrogen/ha up to 250 nitrogen/ha, (up to 3LU’s cows/ha across the entire land declared on BPS). This is subject to additional conditions designed to protect the environment.  However, 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 7,000 derogation applicants in 2020 then the following changes will affect you and you will need to discuss the changes with your Agri-Advisor and put a plan in place to meet these requirements in 2020 and beyond. By not meeting these new rules you may well not be eligible for derogation.


New Measures for all Derogation Applicants from 01/01/2020

1. Compulsory liming programme

Q: What are the requirements of the new liming programme?

A: From 2020 the liming programme must be implemented and based on a current Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) and associated soil analysis results. Lime must be applied based on soil test results and invoices will be required if inspected. Check what your NMP says you need for 2020 and apply to paddock during spring/summer and onto silage ground after silage has been cut for the year. Farms that must soil sample for derogation 2021 will need to leave 6 months between liming and sampling.

2. Low emission slurry spreading (LESS) equipment shall be used for any slurry applications; and all slurry remaining on the holding after the 15/4/2020 must be spread by LESS. All Slurry on the holding from the 12/1/2021 must be spread by LESS

Q: How will DAFM capture and record the volume of slurry spread by LESS?

A: : From 2020 DAFM will request the volume of slurry spread by LESS for 2019, 2020 and 2021 in m3 (1m3 = 220 gallons) on a yearly basis. It is anticipated that’s TAMS II grants may be available up until the 15/04/2021(One year after the mandatory introduction of LESS for farmers in Derogation

3. A reduction is required in the crude protein in concentrate feeds for grazing livestock

Q: What will be the level of Crude Protein in concentrate feeds to compliment grazing livestock at grass?

A: From 2020, livestock with a 100% Grass forage diet during the main grazing (1st April to 15th September) season will be required to follow the following;

  • A maximum of 16% CP between 1st April and 15th September in 2020
  • A maximum of 15% CP between 1st April and 15th September in 2021

Note: If higher levels of crude protein are required, this needs to be certified by the appropriate advisor

4. Farmers must attend a training programme in adopting best practice in nutrient use efficiency and management and the protection of water and this must be completed by farmers by the end of 2021.

Q: What mandatory environmental training has to be completed by farmers?

A: Farmers in Derogation must complete training and the course content must contain modules including but not limited to; Nutrient Management Planning, Water Quality, Gaseous Emissions and Biodiversity

5. New grass reseeding completed by derogation farmers must include clover.

Q: What will be inclusion rate of clover /ha?

A: From 2020,

  • A minimum of 1.5 kg/ha naked clover seed i.e. un-pelleted clover seed is required for all new grass reseeds
  • Either white (grazing) or red (cutting) or mixture of clovers can be used

Over sowing of grass seed mixtures with clover post weed control will be permitted.

6. Commonage/rough grazing will not be eligible for the derogation allowance of 250 kg livestock manure N/ha. 

Q: How will DAFM define Commonage/Rough grazing for the purpose of the Nitrates Derogation?

A. Stocking rate calculations will need to be done for these farms on a case by case basis as this change will affect approximately 350 derogation applicants with commonage

7. Implementation of measures from the All Island Pollinator Plan.

Q: What measure will farmers have to adopt from the All Island Pollinator Plan:

A: Farmers must adopt at least one measure from the following list of actions;

  1. Leave at least one mature Whitethorn/ Blackthorn tree within each hedgerow.
  2. Maintain hedgerows on a minimum 3-year cycle. Cutting annually stops the hedgerow flowering and fruiting.

Cut in rotation rather than all at once as this will ensure some areas of hedgerow on your farm will always flower

8. Derogation farmers must record through appropriate software technology the grass produced annually on the farm from 2020. If Derogation farmers haven’t the required skills to undertake this measure, derogation farmers must undertake training in grassland management which must be completed by the end of 2021.

Q: How many grass measurements are required?

  • A minimum 20 grass measurements per annum and inputted in the months below (falling plate meter or cut & weigh only) on the main grazing platform only.
  • The following measurements are required per month over the season as follows; 
    • February (1)
    • March (2)
    • April to Sept (14)
    • October (2)
    • November (1)

Next Derogation Review

A full review of the derogation and Nitrates Action Plan will take place in 2021. Given agricultural impact on water quality it is likely that a wide range of options will be considered to help turn around this trend.  DAFM have indicated that the following could be under review for the next NAP 5/Derogation review

  • A recalculation of dairy cow excretion rates increase from 85 to reflect changes in genetics and feeding
  • Reduced chemical fertiliser allowances to reflect increases in N retention from the use of Low Emissions slurry
  • Additional requirements for farmers above 130 Kg NpH and those exporting organic manures to come below 170 Kg NpH
  • Protected nitrogen use could be mandatory to replace % overall chemical N usage and limits on the use of unprotected urea. (There is provision for this to be regulated in 2021)
  • Modified requirements for slurry storage time and facilities may be reviewed considering the number of slurry spreading extensions in the past
  • Stocking rate restrictions on the grazing platform
  • An extension of the LAWPRO/ASSAP initiative to work with farmers to reduce impact on water quality


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.