Meat & Livestock News

Sustainability Measures Boost Agricultural Productivity in Co. Leitrim

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In the arid landscapes of Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim, farmer John O’Connell is witnessing the tangible benefits of integrating sustainability practices on his farm.

As a participant in the Teagasc Signpost Programme, John has introduced a series of measures aimed at reducing emissions, enhancing productivity, and ultimately, increasing profitability.

  • Soil pH Optimisation: About 7-8 years ago, John began addressing the soil pH levels on his farm. From an initial pH of 5.7, he has successfully raised it to an optimal 6.3. Regular soil sampling every 2-3 years has been instrumental in identifying areas in need of liming. This adjustment has significantly improved both grass yield and quality.
  • Soil Nutrient Enhancement: John is actively working to optimise the phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) levels in his soil. He has witnessed an improvement in soil indices, moving from 1-2 for P and K to index 3 and even some 4s. The use of fertilisers like 18:6:12 and 10:10:20 has been pivotal in this enhancement. “Over the last 9-10 years, my grass yields have surged from 7-8 tonnes to 13-14 tonnes DM/ha,” John remarked.
  • Protected Urea Usage: Since 2018, protected urea has been John’s primary nitrogen source. It offers flexibility and is more cost-effective than CAN or unprotected urea.
  • Efficient Slurry Management: John has refined his slurry application methods, with 50% applied using the LESS equipment in 2022. He adopts a ‘little and often’ approach, applying smaller quantities more frequently, which maximises nutrient value and allows for quicker grazing post-application.
  • Chemical Nitrogen Reduction: Between 2021 and 2022, John reduced his chemical nitrogen usage by 21%, without compromising grass growth.
  • Grassland Management: With improved grazing infrastructure and consistent grass measuring, John has elevated the quality and yield of his grass, leading to reduced feed costs and better animal performance.
  • Health Initiatives: John has introduced a comprehensive health plan, focusing on lameness prevention, strategic dosing based on faecal egg sampling, and a tailored vaccination programme for his flock.
  • Breeding Enhancements: John utilises the EuroStar index for ram selection, aiming to reduce days to slaughter. He also mates ewe lambs on his farm, increasing their productivity lifespan.
  • Clover Integration: John incorporates clover early into his swards, ensuring optimal pH levels and reduced chemical nitrogen applications.