Better slurry management driving on farm performance!
Agriton UK spoke to the Farmers Guardian last week about how good slurry management can help reduce on farm emissions and increase profits. The following article appeared in the Farmers Guardian on the 25th September.
Proactive slurry management can be an effective method in helping the agricultural industry reach its net zero emissions target by 2040.
Here, Andrew Sincock, commercial director at Agriton UK, offers dairy farmers practical ways to reduce their emission contribution by tailoring on-farm slurry management practices, and harnessing the work of slurry microbes.
Mr Sincock highlights the role of early slurry management in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and how simply using an alternative bedding powder can produce less harmful emissions.
“When discussing slurry management, most people talk about the storage of slurry and don’t realise that a lot of emissions can be released within cubicles,” he says.
“Many farmers will use lime as a bedding powder to help prevent mastitis. However, the reaction between the ammonium in slurry and the lime can lead to the release of large volumes of carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
“There is evidence to suggest that 1000kg of lime can react with ammonium in the slurry to release up to 440kg of carbon dioxide, and 280kg of nitrogen, in the form of ammonia,” he adds.
“Farmers need to have an understanding of the significance of these numbers, and the considerable environmental impact of such products which have been commonplace on farms for years. Having access to products that do not produce such harmful emission levels will be key as we aim to reach the 2040 net carbon emissions goal.”
Mr Sincock explains that an example of such a product is Vulkamin, a natural antiseptic that can be used as a direct replacement for lime as a bedding powder.
Made from finely ground rock silicate, of volcanic origin, it does not react with slurry to cause any harmful emissions because of its negatively charged surface and unique structure that can bind positive elements like ammonium, and acts quickly to raise the pH of the cubical environment killing harmful pathogens and bacteria. .
“Not only is this a practical way of reducing emissions, it can also be effective in preventing mastitis and other common diseases, meaning no sacrifices have to be made in terms of animal health for the benefit of the environment,” adds Mr Sincock.
Combined with early slurry management, the addition of a slurry inoculant to cubicles, slurry or farmyard manure can help reduce on-farm emissions.
“When you add effective micro-organisms (EM), which contain a mixture of bacteria, yeast, fungi, actinomycetes and phototrophic bacteria to slurry, they work synergistically to break down and ferment organic matter,” says Mr Sincock.
“Compared to the natural rotting process, which many will be familiar with, fermentation helps retain key nutrients within the slurry and decreases the release of harmful emissions such as ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane.”
Mr Sincock explains that for the microbes to work effectively any chemicals from parlour washings or foot dips for example, and naturally occurring salts in the slurry should be removed. “A weekly application of a product that can nullify these chemicals is recommended, and then a slurry inoculant, such as Actiferm, should be added to cubicles or slurry stores every three months for the best results.
“The nutrient rich slurry can then be spread as an alternative to artificial fertilisers. This not only has the potential to increase yields, but it is also non-toxic to both plant matter and animals,” he says.
Prioritising the management of stored slurry is also key to dealing with emissions contributions on-farm. “Many people will be familiar with slurry pits being a big emission source on-farm but are not confident in how to manage this effectively.
“Maintaining an anaerobic environment within slurry pits is key as too much oxygen can speed up the rotting process leading to a greater release of emissions. Therefore, keeping the slurry store airtight with a floating cover is key,” Mr Sincock says.
“Some people will cover the store as this can be effective in trapping emissions. However, you then create the problem of what to do with emissions and often it can be costly and time consuming to solve this.
“Acid is also sometimes used to treat slurry and can be effective in reducing the production of emissions, but it can corrode and damage buildings and stores making them unsafe.
“All dairy farmers will be storing slurry but recognising the environmental and commercial benefits of storing slurry effectively is imperative if they are going to reduce their total emissions outputs.
“By adopting a more consciously sustainable slurry management plan, individual farmers can significantly reduce their carbon and emission outputs, while also reaping further benefits through gaining a nutrient rich alternative to artificial fertilisers. Achieving net zero emissions in agriculture by 2040 could be a real possibility with practical management steps such as adapting your slurry management plan,” he says.
For more information, or to discus anything mentioned above, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us today!