Nitrates Regulation

The nitrates action programme has under gone a number of changes, with stronger measures introduced for the protection of water courses.

  • Slurry and chemical fertiliser closed periods

    This year, the closed period for slurry will start on the 1st October 2023, which is earlier than what it has been under the previous nitrates action programme. Changes have also accused for the closed period for chemical fertiliser ends 26th January, 29th January & 14th February for zones A, B and C respectively.

  • Slurry Spreading Methods

    Low emission slurry spreading (LESS) is becoming compulsory for an expanding number of farmers. This will ensure more efficient use and reduce losses from slurry and organic manures from 2023 it applies to all farmers with a grassland stocking rate of 150Kg N/na or above.

    It will be expanded an a phased basis: 

    • All farmers above 120kg N/na from 2024
    • All farmers above 100kg N/na from 2025

    From 2023 Less applies to all pig slurry and LESS for applicants to arable land or incorporation within 24 hours afterwards.


  • Soiled water storage and management

    This year there will be a three week closed period for soiled water which will expand to four weeks in 2024. Farmers who are involved in winter milk who have a contract with their processors are exempt from these changes until 2025 where they will then have to have that full closed period.

    Closed Periods

    2023 - 10th - 31st - December

    2024 - 1st - 31st December

    2025 - 1st - 31st December for winter milk


    Soiled water storage for dairy farmers

    2023 - three weeks

    2024 - four weeks

    2025 - four weeks storage in 2025 for winter milk

  • Nitrogen Banding for Dairy Cows

    Individual herds will be assigned to one of three bands each year. This will depend on the genetics of the cow and now she is managed as these factors influence excretion rate. 

    As milk yield increases - excretion rate increases

  • Bands

    Low band - 80kg  N / head / year

    Middle band - 92kg N / head / year

    high band - 106kg N / head / year

    The banding category for each herd will depend on the herds average milk yield. 

    Herds will be defaulted to the high band unless they submit information to prove otherwise. 


  • Soil Sampling

    Soil Sampling is becoming mandatory for an increasing number of farmers. From 2023 onwards all farmers with a grassland stocking rate above 130kg N/na must take soil samples for arable farmers - All sown arable land must be sampled. 

    Wher farmers do not take soil samples they must assume a phosphorus index of 4. This will cause problems in terms of chemical fertiliser use. 


  • Buffer Strips

    There are also increased requirements regarding buffer strips. 

    In tillage land a 6 meter buffer strips has been introduced for the protection of intersecting watercourses.

    The previous 2 meter buffer strip requirement for arable crops has been expanded to 3m. 

    The buffer strip requirement for applying chemical fertiliser adjacent to surface water also been increased to 3m for all land.