Farmers – protect water sources when spreading slurry

Date published: 01 February 2018

The slurry spreading closed period came to an end at midnight on 31 January 2018.

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Slurries and manures are a valuable source of nutrients to promote plant growth and if used optimally, reduce the need for artificial fertilisers.

However, given the prolonged spell of wet weather, which has left some fields saturated, it is more important than ever for farmers to take account of the potential water pollution risks from spreading slurry in sub-optimal ground conditions.

It is therefore timely to remind farmers of their responsibilities under the Nitrates Action Programme Regulations to ensure that they protect water resources when spreading slurry or manures. Farmers should note that:

  • slurry must not be spread when the soil is waterlogged, flooded (or likely to flood), if heavy rain is forecast within 48 hours, where land is steeply sloping with a significant risk of water pollution occurring or when land is frozen or snow covered 
  • slurry must not be spread within 10m of a watercourse, 20m of a lake and 50m of a borehole, spring or well
  • slurry must be spread using inverted splash plates, trailing shoe, trailing hose, soil injection or soil incorporation methods, sludgigators must not be used under any circumstances
  • single applications of slurry are limited to 50m3 per hectare with a minimum of three weeks between applications

If a farmer has taken all reasonable steps but is left with no option but to spread slurry in less than favourable circumstances they should do so responsibly:

  • spreading only the minimum necessary
  • spreading on low risk fields
  • increasing the separation distance to watercourses

If farmers are thinking of spreading slurry on sub-optimal ground following the closed period, they should seek advice from their Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) advisor or local farming organisation.

Northern Ireland Environment Agency staff continue to be sensitive to the predicament which some farmers find themselves in as a result of the recent weather and ground conditions. Where a farm inspection is being undertaken inspectors will always examine the site and review any evidence provided by the farmer to confirm that slurry had been spread in a responsible manner to minimise the risk of pollution.

Download further guidance on the current Nitrates Action Programme Regulations


Notes to editors: 

  1. The Farm Safety Partnership’s ongoing ‘Stop and Think SAFE’ farm safety campaign focuses on the four main causes of death and injury on our farms – slurry, animals, falls and equipment (SAFE). Farmers should always follow the advice from the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) when working with slurry. Find out more on the HSENI website.
  2. Follow DAERA on Twitter or on Facebook.
  3. All media enquiries to DAERA Press Office or tel: 028 9052 4619.


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