Advice for farmers in extreme weather conditions.
Latest advice - unusually wet weather in 2012-13
The closed period for spreading in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) ended on 15 January, however, it’s still an offence to spread while the ground is waterlogged, frozen or snow covered. Constant access to waterlogged land can lead to soil damage through compaction. Spreading on any waterlogged or frozen ground presents a continued risk of pollution. If you cause pollution you could be prosecuted, so it is important that you continue to follow our advice given below to reduce the risk of pollution.
Situation due to high rainfall
Land is generally saturated and many farmers are continuing to have problems getting onto their land. This is a particular problem for livestock farmers who have to manage the manures they produce.
We aim to continue to minimise environmental pollution, whatever the prevailing conditions. We want to avoid at all costs overflowing slurry storage facilities or large quantities of slurry being put on small areas of land as this is likely to cause major pollution incidents. Spreading slurry in autumn and early winter also wastes valuable nutrients, adds to diffuse pollution and could increase the chances of land being designated as a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) in future. Working on wet land also increases the risks of soil damage.
Reduce the risk of pollution - actions you can take
If you plan to spread slurry in the coming weeks, follow our advice on how to mitigate the risk of causing pollution:
NVZ closed periods have now ended, but it is still an offence to spread slurry in NVZs on land that is waterlogged, frozen or snow-covered, or when heavy rain is forecast. There is no easy solution if you do not have enough spare storage to last the winter. There are temporary measures you can take to reduce the storage problem which you could adopt in the long term for some cases. The list is not exhaustive and these measures will not be applicable to all farmers, as every farm is different.
Think about sharing resources, equipment or infrastructure within the industry. We encourage you to speak to your neighbours, or the local or national representative bodies for suggestions or help in brokering local solutions.
You can talk to your farm advisor, local Environment Agency contact, the Farming Advice Service or, where applicable, the Catchment Sensitive Farming team:
- Environment Agency - 03708 506 506
- Farming Advice Service - 0845 345 1302 - they will be running events on a range of issues including NVZ compliance and slurry storage over the coming months
Use temporary storage, such as re-using existing tanks or lagoons, or installing new tanks, slurry bags or lagoons:
Divert clean water (roof water or run-off from clean areas) away from stores, for example by clearing or fixing gutters, or covering existing storage facilities:
Where possible, also divert dirty water from your store:
Separate slurry to maximise storage capacity. This needs specialist plant. If you do not have or cannot obtain this equipment you could investigate sharing plant on other farms in your local area.
Move slurry to another holding for storage or for spreading on agricultural land. This must not compromise the storage capacity at the receiving farm, and spreading must follow our advice note. The NVZ spreading rules still apply, and CoGAP gives spreading advice for other areas. Given the potential disease risk it is also a sensible precaution to only apply it to arable ground.
Move slurry for treatment at Anaerobic Digestion plants. As there is only limited capacity at these plants this may only be open to those with existing contracts with AD plants. The process also does not dramatically reduce the volume of end product once treated.
Be aware that movement of slurry between farms can contribute to the spread of infectious diseases of animals. Slurry must not be moved off farms affected with suspected or confirmed outbreaks of notifiable diseases (for example, bovine TB) unless authorised by AHVLA. Even where no notifiable disease restrictions are in force, you must take appropriate biosecurity measures when disposing of slurry outside your own holding (considering risks of certain endemic diseases such as Johne’s Disease), or you should contact your private veterinary surgeon for advice.
Continued/long-term slurry management
Whilst the weather this year has been extreme we are likely to see similar events in coming years. Work to improve the security of slurry storage is needed, both by individuals and collectively. Government intends to work collaboratively with industry to review the SSAFO Regulations and the setting of closed periods in NVZs.