Manure and nutrient management plans

Assessing and controlling the risks associated with livestock manures is essential to preventing harm to the environment and people.

Not controlling the risks involved from livestock manure could result in it being classed as a waste material and being regulated through an environmental permit.

Read more about when livestock manures and slurries may fall under waste regulations on our page Using livestock manures and slurry appropriately.

Manure management plans

Manure management plans are an important tool in controlling some of the risks of livestock manure and help ensure your manure is not classed as waste material.

A manure management plan details the end-to-end journey of manure and slurry from production to collection, storage and use.

How to produce a manure management plan

Understand how much manure and slurry your livestock and farming system will produce

The amount of manure can be calculated from stock numbers and from literature, the amount of slurry can also be calculated in this way but also minimised by using appropriate collection and storage methods that minimise rainwater mixing with manure.

Check you have enough storage

When you understand the amount of livestock manure you will produce you should ensure there is sufficient storage taking into account the fact that you can only spread the livestock manure during the appropriate season and weather conditions.

Understand how and where you are going to use the livestock manure   

It is essential to be certain that the manure and slurry can be used lawfully and without causing pollution. If you are going to use it on your land then you should develop a nutrient management plan (see below) and have a Field Risk Map. The map should identify how much land is suitable for spreading manures and inorganics, and areas where manures and inorganics should not be spread.

There are many reasons for land not being suitable for spreading, the rules in the Water Resources Control of Agricultural Pollution regulations should be followed to protect water courses, but in addition you should not spread close to areas that contain sensitive habitats.

Read our Ammonia assessments for developments that require a permit or planning permission pages for more help with making an assessment.

When sending to another farm, check it will be used legally

If you propose to send your livestock manure to another farm for spreading then you should ask for their nutrient management plan and be sure it can be used lawfully on their land. Not checking could put you in breach of waste legislation.

If you are sending your livestock manure for further treatment (such as anaerobic digestion) or for use as a fuel you need to make sure the receiving site has the correct permits. You will need to keep a record of this information for inspection.

Nutrient Management Plans

The nutrient management plan forms part of the overarching manure management plan and includes additional information on the nutrient content of the land and the nutrient requirements of the crops you intend to grow.

There are 4 fundamental steps to producing a nutrient management plan

Soil analysis

Before applying anything to land you must know what is in the soil through analysis.

Crop requirements

Depending on the crop you propose to grow and the projected yields, you will need a different set of nutrients. This information combined with soil analysis will help you understand what you need to apply to the land to maximise yield and minimise pollution.

Understand what your organic manure can provide

Your organic manure is a valuable resource but there is no typical type of organic manure and therefore analysis is required. Knowing what you have can help fill any deficit and prevent over-application which can reduce yield but also cause pollution.

Understand if you require non-organic sources of fertiliser

Organic sources of fertiliser are always the best option to take if they can be used in a non-polluting way. Inorganic sources should be used as a last resort and only to fill the 'gap' identified in your nutrient management plan.

Without a nutrient management plan your organic manure is likely to be considered a waste material as you cannot show its use will not result in harm to the environment.

Minimum testing frequencies

Slurry and manure should be tested every 3 years unless you make a significant change to the diet.

Soil analysis should be carried out once every 4 years, or in the event evidence emerges that local water bodies are becoming increasingly nutrient rich.

We recommend using the best practice guidance on spreading manures and slurries to crops (RB209) from the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board website

Evidence needs

If asked you will need to be able to show that a nutrient management plan has been done and the way you use organic manure is appropriate for the land it is being used on.

If you produce and use the organic manure on your farm then you will be responsible for keeping the evidence, if you export manure then you will also need to keep evidence that the person you export it to can use the organic manure without causing pollution.

If you are bringing organic manure on to your farm, then you will need to keep information to show the land where you propose to spread needs the nutrients for the proposed crop yield.

Read more about when livestock manures and slurries may fall under waste regulations on our page Using livestock manures and slurry appropriately.

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