Farmers Receive Good News on Nitrates

NORTHERN IRELAND - Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Hillsborough is part of a consortium working to reduce nitrogen from pig production, and its data has been included by the EU Commission in the revised Nitrates Action Programme for 2011–2014.
calendar icon 3 August 2011
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A new guidance booklet for the Nitrates Action Programme 2011-2014 will be published shortly. Within it, pig farmers will notice that the figures for nitrogen excretion in manure from sows and pigs is lower than the previous action programme (2006). In practice, this means that less land is required to spread pig slurry. This change has come as a result of work conducted at AFBI, Hillsborough through the research consortium of AFBI, Devenish Nutrition Ltd, John Thompson and Sons Ltd and Preferred Capital Management (PCM), with additional funding from DARD. CAFRE Greenmount pig technologists were also involved in ensuring translation of the research findings into the revised values.

A key focus of the work of the research consortium is the reduction of nitrogen from pig production. As such, a trial was conducted at AFBI Hillsborough which examined the effect of various levels of crude protein and lysine in the diets of finishing pigs on their production performance and nitrogen excretion. The work found that pig performance was more affected by lysine level than by crude protein level. When pigs were offered diets containing 9g per kg lysine, their average daily gain and feed conversion ratio between 40 and 100 kg was better (860g per day and 2.41, respectively) than when they were offered diets containing 8g per kg (840g per day and 2.49, respectively).

A second important objective of the study was to compare the nitrogen excretion values from pigs in this work with the values specified in the 2006 Nitrates Action Programme, which had been based on 2006 DEFRA values. Nitrogen excretion from the finishing pig was determined using measured values of nitrogen in urine and faeces, the average daily gain of the pigs and took account of the nitrogen lost as ammonia gas. Nitrogen excretion from weaner pigs also had to be factored in and the values in the DEFRA Nitrates Action Programme (2008) were used.

The combination of these values equated to each pig excreting 2.39kg of nitrogen between weaning and 100kg. This compares favourably to the 2006 figure of 3.41kg As before, pig producers still need to calculate land requirements for spreading slurry specific for their own enterprise but on average, the difference in these figures means that for a birth-to-bacon unit, approximately 1.0 acre is now required per sow compared with approximately 1.25 acres. Since these results were based on robust scientific studies, DARD and DOE made a case for these lower values to the EU Commission.

Following detailed scientific scrutiny, the EU Commission accepted these lowered values, which are now included in the revised Nitrates Action Programme for 2011–2014.

In summary, there is still the requirement for individual producers to calculate land requirements specific to their enterprise but overall, the land required to spread pig slurry has been reduced by approximately 20 per cent due to the robust science conducted by the research consortium.

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