Trevor Boland won an IFA (Irish Farmers Association) competition under the Smart Farming Programme and he used the prize to pay for a NMP (Nutrient Management Plan) for his suckler beef farm. Under the NMP he developed a 5 year program of liming and fertilizer use to improve fertility of the soils and enhance output on the farm as well as environmental sustainability. The key objectives under the 5 year plan were; to grow more grass, correct soil pH, utilize slurry and FYM better, extend the grazing period and shorten the winter period, and reduce the carbon footprint on the farm.
The main benefits were; increasing the volume of grass production from 10tt DM/ha to 15t DM/ha, extending the grazing period and shortening the winter period, increasing the stocking rate from 1.5LU/ha to 2.2LU/ha over 5 years, increasing profitability, and reducing the work load.
Main bottlenecks were poor profitability on the beef farm which prevented investment.
Success factors were the progress made on improving fertility, growing more grass, and improving profitability.
- With a clear NMP, it is possible to improve fertility on most farms in Ireland
- Measurement is the key; soil testing and grass measurement.
- On-going monitoring and updating of the NMP is essential. Access to technology is also vital like the Teagasc on line NMP, the Bord Bia Carbon Navigator and ICBF data.
- Socio- economic resilience: Improved grass production led to increased stocking rate and increased output and profitability.
- Animal health and welfare: Improved utilization of grass with animals outdoors for longer periods led to improved heard health.
- Production efficiency and meat quality: Increased grass production led to increased efficiency and beef production.
- Environmental sustainability: Improvement in environmental sustainability from increased grass production on the farm, improved stocking rate and reduced carbon footprint.