Big benefits from slurry treatment

Closer links between environmental management and future farm support payments mean animal manure management remains a priority for livestock farmers. Slurry storage and management has recently become less of a headache for Michael Cornish, who runs a herd of 95 Holsteins with his wife Lisa and his father Royston near Bradworthy. The all year round calving herd averages 8200 litres and typically grazes from early April to mid-October as conditions allow on the heavy land.

The farm also carries around 80 followers and a few beef cattle. In the winter, the cows are  housed in cubicles, bedded with sawdust on mats and fed a diet based on grass silage. Slurry storage is an 180,000 gallon above ground store, meaning slurry has to be spread regularly on the farm which falls outside NVZ regulations. In the summer Michael uses his own 2000 gallon tanker to spread on silage ground, some of which is three miles away. In the winter, when he can’t travel, his contractor uses an umbilical system with a splash plate, applying slurry to the 50 acre grazing block.

“Time was a real problem,” Michael comments. “After milking, feeding and scrapin there is only a limited window to get out and spread slurry. As the slurry would have separated out, I had to agitate the tank for three hours on the first day and then for an hour on every day we planned to spread. This reduced the loads I could shift per day.”

With the interval between silage cuts getting shorter, he needs to get slurry on quickly after each cut to reduce the risk of contamination of the subsequent cut. Slurry needs to be fully incorporated into the soil prior to grass being cut as any residues will compromise the fermentation of grass in the clamp. Following a discussion with Glen Johns from Harpers Feeds in the summer of 2016, Michael agreed to see if Biotal SlurriNprove would make a difference.

“SlurriNprove is a biological treatment containing  specific blend of enzymes and bacteria which can improve the handling characteristics and nutritive value of slurry,” explains Biotal’s Steve Symons.

“The enzymes and bacteria help break down some of the fibre fraction of the slurry, reducing sedimentation of solids and lowering the production of ammonia meaning more nutrients are retained in the slurry.”

More loads per day SlurriNprove is quickly and easily added to the slurry. Michael just mixes a sachet in a bucket of clean water every month before pouring into the reception pit. It is then pumped into and mixed in the main tank.

“Using SlurriNprove I can spread around 20 more loads a week as I just have to agitate for an hour on the first day of spreading and then don’t need to re-agitate for two weeks.”

“This has made a huge difference to timeliness of spreading.”

Reduced sedimentation mean the slurry pumps and spreads more evenly which is a benefit to both Michael and the contractor. Importantly, it more rapidly disappears in the field.

“We have seen big improvements in growth on both grazing and cutting fields as the slurry is used more rapidly and it has a better nutrient content too.”

“The analysis is improved compared to untreated slurry so we can make savings on bagged fertiliser. While still applying 90 units of nitrogen on first cut, last year I used three bags of 27:5:5 with sulphur rather than four bags of 21:8:11, reducing the number of bags spread on first cut by 25%, saving time and costs.”

“Treating slurry has simplified slurry handling and management, saving time and improving the effectiveness of utilisation,”

Michael summarises.