Jim cashes in on slurry

THIS winter’s high feed costs are making milk producers look at every opportunity to make savings on their farm inputs – but Stranraer dairy farmer Jim Fisher is confident he’ll once again be ordering less fertiliser for next spring because he’s squeezing every bit of nitrogen he can from his slurry this winter.

He milks 130 cows as part of a mixed farming business at Mark Farm, Dunragit, extending to 500 acres of light, sandy land. The herd is fed a total mixed ration based on grass and maize silage and is averaging 8500 litres.

“Everyone is looking to save costs wherever they can and fertiliser is something we really felt we could tackle if we could get more nitrogen from our slurry,” said Jim, whose herd produces around 250,000 gallons of slurry a year.

“Slurry has a value and we wanted to try and make the best possible use of it. Adding value to the slurry is what this is really about,” he added.

For the last three years Jim has added the slurry inoculant SlurryBugs to his storage tanks.

“We have underground slurry tanks and we add the powder manually once a year. We never completely empty the tanks so there are always some bugs left in there to carry on the work.

“When the contractor came to spread the slurry he made a point of telling me we were the only farm he went to where the slurry had no smell and that’s because there’s no ammonia being given off as a gas from the slurry and all the nitrogen it contains is being retained.

“No crust forms on the slurry, and the fact that there is no smell is a bonus, but the real benefit is the value of the nitrogen left in the slurry which means we don’t have to apply as much from the bag.”

This spring saw first cut silage ground receive 2500 gallons of slurry an acre and 70 units of N.

Liz Russell of Envirosystems says this is a winter when dairy farmers are on a mission to save costs.

“Every dairy farm has thousands of gallons of slurry that has the potential to make huge savings on their fertiliser bills for the modest cost involved in capturing the nitrogen that is simply escaping into the atmosphere. It’s like watching money go up in smoke.

“Jim Fisher has seen what can be achieved by one simple addition of Slurrybugs to his slurry tanks. Storage and disposal of slurry is a headache to most dairy farmers but slurry isn’t just a waste product. It’s like cash in the bank if we give it a chance to save on those big costs of bought-in nitrogen,” says Liz Russell.

Liz Russell, who has just returned from speaking at the Agricultural Biotechnology International Conference in New Zealand, will be giving a seminar on how dairy farmers can capture the true nutrient value of slurry at AgriScot on 21 November.