Monday, November 29, 2021
HomeFarmweek NewsConserving nitrogen reserves by making the most of winter slurry

Conserving nitrogen reserves by making the most of winter slurry

NOW that cattle are being housed and the tanks have been emptied, it is the perfect time to start thinking about treating slurry, especially after such a great autumn.

As nitrogen prices have reached record highs this year and are predicted to follow through to spring time next year, treating slurry is a key area where farmers can conserve nitrogen which is already on the farm.

Farmers need to save as much energy and nitrogen as possible that is already existing on farm and this can be done with the right tools for the right job. Biome Connect’s product EM Slurry consists of a two-pronged approach to slurry treatment using microbial products, Actiferm and a slurry conditioner N-Hance. N-Hance is a product that protects the living microbes within Actiferm and conditions the slurry to create an environment where the microbes can go to work.

Actiferm is a liquid complex mix of fungi, yeasts, phototrophic bacteria and lactic acid bacteria. It allows for fermentation to replace the rotting decomposition usually seen in stored slurry, dairy washing, foot bath solution and antibiotics. These products are all designed to actually kill microbes, both bad and good. However, by using N-Hance these products are nullified leaving an improved environment.

Mal Hughes of Biome Connect answers the key questions:

How far ahead does slurry need to be treated before spreading?

For optimum benefit of the EM Slurry treatment, the slurry needs to be treated at least six weeks before the slurry goes out to the land. But this is not best practice, now is the perfect time to start with your slurry treatment. When tanks are empty and the cattle are coming back into housing, the treatment should start as soon as possible, this way the microbes will multiply through the tank over the winter reducing harmful odours and retaining nitrogen all winter long.

Does slurry lose nitrogen during storage or is its greatest loss at spreading and can this be mitigated by injecting the slurry into the ground?

Slurry will lose nitrogen and energy through the winter. The rotting environment often found in untreated slurry results in the breakdown of valuable organic matter to carbon dioxide and methane, as well as the loss of nitrogen gases, all of which are potent greenhouse gases. The rotting process also produces noxious compounds that may disrupt beneficial life in the soil.

Through the fermentation of slurry the farmer is producing a far superior product so that, when combined with low emission spreading techniques such as dribble bar or trailing shoe, the farm business can make significant cost and environmental savings.

EM Slurry has been independently tested and shows 12 per cent more total nitrogen and 15 per cent more ammonium, gases that would have been lost to the atmosphere without treatment. With the need to retain nitrogen on farm and then cutting back on the amount of synthetic fertiliser required, these are figures that are definitely worth talking about.

Is there a difference in the consistency of treated slurry compared to untreated slurry?

There is a huge range of benefits from treating slurry with EM Slurry including:

n Improved nitrogen retention;

n Reduced smell;

n Reduced crusting;

n Reduced labour and cost of stirring time prior to emptying the store;

n More homogenous slurry makes for easier pumping and more even spreading;

n Improved soil organic matter and soil condition;

n Improved microbial quality of the soil for optimum uptake of plant nutrients.

All these benefits makes this product a very worthwhile investment, that will be paid for by the nitrogen retention alone.

The price of nitrogen fertiliser is very high at present and likely to remain so for next spring. How does treating slurry help reduce nitrogen purchases without losing out on grass yields?

The main benefit from using EM Slurry is how, through microbial action, the microbes can take the nutrients within the slurry and make them plant available.

Also another great achievement is the farmer’s ability to take all these beneficial microbes and multiply these out through the whole tank fermenting the slurry. The farmer then introduces these beneficial microbes down through to the soil structures to cycle nutrients in a more efficient way.

Is there a slurry analysis service which would help farmers know how much nitrogen they are getting from the farm’s slurry?

Slurry can be analysed to reveal the specific nutrient content. When this is combined with a soil test, this gives a more accurate reading of what treatments the farm will need and the right amount of slurry and fertiliser needed, which in turn will lead to more cost and environmental savings.

If nitrogen fertiliser use can be reduced by better use of slurry, does this help the environment?

At Biome Connect we promote a circular approach to the farming system, to save as much energy on farm as possible. With a full range of products designed to do this there are huge cost savings that can be made on farm.

These cost saving will also lead to environment saving, for example, by using our slurry additive EM Slurry this will lead to fertiliser reductions but also when using our silage additive EM Silage this will lead to better energy conversion from your silage and in turn the farm can reduce the amount of energy that will have to be bought in. When calculating the true impact of these savings the environmental footprint of the farming system can be reduced without impacting on profitability.

Are there any other ways of saving nitrogen within the farming system?

Vulkamin cubicle bedding powder is another great way of reducing nitrogen costs on farm. Vulkamin bedding powder will bind ammonia to itself rather than releasing it. Some lime based products can actually release 280kg of nitrogen for every ton of lime used. Vulkamin is a very mild product that is easy on the farmers’ hands but also the cows’ udders. This will encourage the cow to lie down, in turn saving energy and producing more milk.

Vulkamin is full of micro and macro nutrients. These will make their way into the tank and then out onto the land improving soil performance and playing its part within the circular farming system

Another great way of reducing costs and saving nitrogen on farm is the use of Actiferm. Actiferm is used on dry bedding areas and will save on bedding cost.

When bedding on straw for example, by introducing Actiferm to your bedding this will break down the structure of the straw and increase its surface area making it last longer.

Actiferm will also reduce ammonia loss (nitrogen) along with other harmful greenhouse gases. Acitferm is a blend of 80 different beneficial microbes that will improve the overall living environment within the livestock house. By introducing these beneficial microbes they will out-compete bad microbes through competitive exclusion this will reduce the disease pressure within the housing and again reducing cost.

The price of granular fertiliser is a real concern for farmers at the moment and now is a good time to look at other alternatives.

Biome Connect supply Efficie-N-28T, a liquid foliar fertiliser. With trials done in Northern Ireland it has shown that E-28 can build a better plant for better grass quality with better digestibility. In this way, Efficie-N-28T promotes both cost and environmental savings.

All of these practices are very achievable with great benefits. They also help farmers build a more resilient and robust farming system with profitability and sustainability at its heart.

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