Managing soil health and nutrient use efficiency is essential at farm-level to ensure optimum grass quantity and quality for our grass-based milk production system.
Our milk suppliers adopt a five-step approach to ensure optimum soil fertility:
|Soil pH & LIME||
|Target Index 3 for P and K||
|Slurry and manures|
Nutrient Management leads to improved soil fertility in Millstreet
Michael Thornton farms with his family near Millstreet in Co. Cork. Improving soil fertility has been a strong focus for the farm over the past 2 years with fertiliser, slurry applications and grazing’s recorded on Pasture Base. Michael soil tests the farm every year and gets a full nutrient management plan with colour coded maps based on the soil test results.
In addition, the farm has seen a very positive response from spreading lime over the last 3 years. Lime is applied in the spring with 40 tonnes spread in 2017. Michael notes that grass growth has turned around on paddocks with previously low PH.
The colour coded maps are particularly useful in spring and allow Michael to target fertiliser & slurry on low index P & K soils. Michael recommends “ the colour coded maps to any dairy farmer as they are a brilliant tool in facilitating the allocation of required nutrients to individual paddocks”
More efficient use of fertiliser and slurry on the farm has resulted in steady progress with overall soil fertility increasing by over 15% in a two year period and 90% of the farm is now at optimum level for PH. 39% of the farm is currently optimum for K- Michael’s target is to double this by 2019. This will be achieved by targeting 3000 gallons of slurry on Index 1 & 2 K soils followed by a bag of 0.0.50 per acre at the back end of the year.
This focus on soil fertility has resulted in more grass grown on the farm and has allowed Michael to increase cow numbers without having to import any extra feed.
Michaels ambition is to run a more sustainable dairy enterprise through a continued focus on soil fertility and being more efficient with nutrient management on the farm while reducing his demand for outside feed. This will be achieved in the next couple of years by growing more grass.