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Farm fertiliser savings of £125 per cow!

At Paul Cashmore’s Rowley Park Farm near Rugely, Staffordshire, about £10,000 a year— or £125 a cow—is being saved through the planned use of slurry. Mr Cashmore is also one of his contractor’s most valued customers because the slurry pipeline up to a kilometre long and tanker’s trailing shoe hoses hardly ever block up.

The farm’s 57.5 all-grass hectares (142 acres) support 80 cows plus followers. Production is 8,000 litres a cow at 4.6% butterfat and 3.6% protein. Winter forage is multi-cut big bale grass silage. Weather permitting, cows graze February to October. Bagged fertiliser use is zero, hence the cost savings. Maximum concentrate use is 1,800kg per cow.

The herd was established in 2015 with Holstein Friesians. Since then, Paul follows a Procross programme to breed a three-way hybrid using Holstein, Montbeliarde and Swedish Red genetics. He says this is for strong health traits, big appetites for forage, good feet and low maintenance.

The cornerstone of Rowley Park’s slurry-based grassland productivity is dosing the lagoon weekly with microbiological slurry inoculant. From time to time, Paul sends a sample to EnviroSystems for analysis, enabling accurate applications of Nitrogen, phosphate and potash.

Getting ready for spreading, he says the lagoon only ever needs stirring for a couple of hours at most. Before using slurry bugs, this would take a day or more. Paul also reports that, apart from begins, there is little or no smell.

The likely explanation, according to Liz Russell, involves the inoculant’s bugs using Nitrogen and probably Sulphur too in the slurry as nutrients, capturing them as bacterial biomass that releases Nitrogen gradually into the soil.

“The chemistry of untreated slurry’s unique odour includes ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and skatole, a compound of Carbon, Hydrogen and Nitrogen,” she explains. “Although measuring airborne levels during stirring and any dairy farm’s residents, employees and neighbours can smell and raw slurry.”