How to make good use of nutrients on a farm

The weather controls all kinds of
farming operations we need to make sure that the nutrients we put onto the land
are on the land are not in the water course so we don’t want heavy rain to
be forcast within the next 48 hours if possible it is ideal if there’s a little
bit of dampness in the soil to melt the fertiliser or to make sure that the slurry
gets properly into the soil and get it into the plant that is the ideal
but we certainly do not want too much rain coming to wash it away water is a big issue on the farm particularly as we’ve had very wet summers and sometimes very wet winters over the last few years and we’re in a very steep
north-facing slope so the danger all the time is that we get erosion of soil and
then we get runoff of fertility or we get runoff of dung from the land into
water courses and out of the farm. Slurry is a valuable nutrient on farms
its a valuable fertiliser and we want to use that fertiliser wisely slurry is
thankfully a pollutant aswell not just as big a pollutant as silage effluent
but still potentially can cause a lot of problems. The slurry is stored in tanks
until the springtime or summertime and then it is taken out and spread on the land. This is part of the systems we’re putting in place on the farm to minimize diffuse
pollution this wavy coil here is coming out of a ditch which takes the runoff
from in front of the cattle sheds so it’s not cattle dung but it’s things
like the mud and the silage that we’re putting into the cattle you know there
is nutrients in there and we’re trying to make sure again that doesn’t go into
the farm ditches and leave the farm and also mess up the water courses so here
we’ve got a little wavy coil it comes out and into a little bank of willow
trees which is part of our agroforestry schemes on the farm
so the willows are doing a lot of useful work on the farm but the point is we’re
using this little bit of nutrients to feed the willows and to improve growth
on the willows and they’re essentially taking up the nutrients rather than letting
them go into into the groundwater so you can see from the flush of grass here
that there are some nutrients coming out of
that ditch which were making use of and the sheep that are lambing in this field
at the moment are having a good chomp on the grass as well so again it’s just
trying to keep all the fertility we’ve got on the farm staying where it is
rather than losing it into the water and disappearing from the farm. We want to try and use as much of our own manures as fertilisers as possible to avoid having to
buy in bagged nitrogen which costs money and also can use up valuable resources. Lots of things are important for us on the farm the most important one as an organic farm is keeping the fertility we have on the
farm and building fertility we can’t put nitrogen on the farm out of a bag so we
have to make our own fertility and keep the fertility we’ve got. We’re standing here in some willow trees, we’ve got 10 rows of willow trees across this field
and they provide nutrient cycling so they’ll take up nutrients from quite
deep in the ground and when they drop their leaves you’re getting those nutrients onto the fields where you want them. Fertilisers are spread to make the
grass grow better and we want to try and use fertilizers at a time of the year
whenever you get the most response so either with artifical fertilisers or
slurry you only try and put it on when there’s maybe a wee bit of dampness on
the ground and yet there’s not a big surge of
rain forcast so we use the weather forecast to try make sure that we
put these valuable resources on at a time when we’re getting full use of them
not waste them not have them washed down the river where they can cause
pollution and cause fish kill. Whenever we plant or reseed we would plant clovers, white clover in a grazing area because white clover can take nitrogen
out of the air so that means you can use last bag nitrogen also we have grown
a few crops of red clover which makes very good silage that’s very high in
protein which cuts down the amount of protein that has to be imported into the
country and cattle and sheep perform very well on red clover silage. The advantage of using clover in the sward is that the mineral balance is different
and cattle and sheep will grow better on a clover grass sward
than a pure grass sward there’s higher calcium and certain other
minerals and they do very well clover fixes its own nitrogen with
the little nodules on the roots which means you can get away with using far less
nitrogen and that is the big advantage of clover it has a slight
disadvantage of a seasonal growth pattern in other words doesn’t grow well
early in the spring and late in the year but it grows well at a time whenever
maybe the grass starts to eat off in the middle of the summer and it does provide
very nutritious and very high performance fuel for animals. What we’re
doing here in this paddock is we’ve sub divided it into four smaller paddocks
and as you can see we’ve used double fencing we’ve got pigs in one of the
paddocks at the moment and those rotate around in these four areas in different
seasons again to reduce the worm burden for the pigs but also as you can see
when they’re on there they chew up all the grass so we’ll be following the pigs
this spring with a root crop to use some of the nutrients from the pigs being in
the field and then we’ll put it back into grass and then eventually the
chickens will get on it and then the pigs will get on the last year grass and
chew it up and then we start again.

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