Management Notes for February 2018

Date published: 01 February 2018

Management Notes are prepared by staff from the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE). CAFRE is a college within the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Using a trailing shoe will almost double the efficiency of N


Prepared by: Christopher Breen

Effective use of slurry

This is the last opportunity to carry out soil analysis before any spring slurry application. Knowing the soil nutrient status for phosphorous (P) and potash (K) as a result of soil testing means slurry can be targeted to fields that have tested low.

The optimum index of 2 for P and 2- for K will maximise crop yield from the most economic use of inputs. Further applications of P or K to soils with above optimum indices are not cost effective. In addition applications of phosphate above the recommended rates in most cases will be in breach of the Nitrates Action Programme Regulations.  

To get the best response, apply slurry when grass is growing. As a general principle spread slurry on land used for silage, avoiding heavy applications. An application of 33 cubic metres per hectare (3000 gallons/acre) of cow slurry will supply enough P and K for a crop of first cut silage assuming optimal soil indices.

A splash plate application of 33 cubic metres per hectare of cow slurry in February/ early March provides the same nitrogen (N) for grass growth as 1.75 small bags (50 kg) of 27% N. Using a trailing shoe will almost double the efficiency of N.

Use the online CAFRE Crop Nutrient Recommendation Calculator to calculate how much residual N to apply for first cut silage, taking into account your timing and method of slurry application.

Making an investment in milking equipment?

Before any decisions are made it is worth asking some questions about the current and future requirements of your herd. Making a large investment in a new set-up may be the only way forward where existing equipment is outdated, but extending an existing parlour or upgrading the system are also worth considering.

Are you spending longer than two hours in the parlour? It is estimated two hours is the maximum time anyone should be milking in terms of maintaining a good level of efficiency. Significant reductions in milking time can be gained by alterations to cow flow. Backing gates, drafting gates and wider exits all help. Look at your milking routine, can it be changed to increase efficiency? Consider introducing new technology to create an improved working environment that should be faster and easier to operate.

Nitrates Action Programme Derogation

Does herd expansion or loss of conacre mean you can no longer farm under the 170kg N per hectare from livestock manure limit of the Nitrates Action Programme? If you think you may be over the 170kg limit in 2018 an option available to grassland farms is to apply for a Nitrates Derogation. This enables farms to operate up to a higher limit of 250 kg N per hectare subject to certain conditions and additional nutrient management measures. The 2018 Derogation application process will use an online system. Applications should be made through the DAERA website and will only require information on the planned stocking rate for the year ahead (2018) and not details from previous years. The deadline for application is 1 March 2018.

If you have to apply for a Derogation there are a few extra records to keep and some restrictions on land management compared with operating under the 170kg N per hectare limit. The main differences are:

  • An annual fertiliser plan (held on farm for inspection) has to be prepared by 1 March giving details of planned livestock numbers, cropping programme and fertiliser/slurry use for 2018.
  • At least 80% of the area farmed must be in grassland.
  • The business must not exceed a phosphorous balance of 10kg per hectare for the year.
  • All land must be soil sampled every four years.

You will be notified immediately if your application has been successful.


Prepared by: Nigel Gould


Prepare for lambing

repare for lambingTake note of what you will require for the lambing season. Around half of lamb losses occur in the first 48 hours after birth, with about 30% occurring between scanning and lambing. Being prepared will minimise losses. Have supplies ready and lambing pens set up in advance to reduce the workload and stress during the busy period. Allow one lambing pen for every eight to ten ewes. Lambing pens should be a minimum of 1.8 by 1.2 metres. Keep group bedded pens clean, allowing 1.4 square metres of space per in-lamb ewe and 2.2 square metres per ewe with lambs at foot. If bedding straw supplies are limited, consider other materials such as shavings and woodchip. Restricting bedding in the first few days is false economy if it leads to an increased incidence of navel ill or watery mouth in lambs. Necessary supplies include iodine solution, lubricant, gloves, lambing aids, stomach tube and powdered colostrum. A lamb warming box is also a useful piece of equipment to reverse hypothermia in newborn lambs. It warms and dries the lamb by circulating warm air. Monitor temperature inside the box and aim for around 38.5oC. In addition consult your vet on the use of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories in newborn lambs under stress.


Colostrum quality is key to reducing losses of newborn lambs. Supplement silage with adequate amounts of a quality concentrate, according to silage analysis and scanned litter size. This needs to start six weeks pre-lambing. Newborn lambs require 50ml colostrum per kilogramme of body weight in the first four to six hours and 200-250ml per kilogramme bodyweight within the first 24 hours. The latter equates to around one litre for a typical twin lamb weighing 4.0-4.5kg. Colostrum provides a source of energy for newborn lambs and provides them with immunity against a range of diseases, for example watery mouth, navel ill, joint ill, pasteurellosis and clostridial diseases. To maximise immunity of lambs to clostridial diseases ewes should receive their annual booster vaccine three to four weeks pre-lambing. To be successful ewes need to have received an initial 2-shot programme in their first year.


Prepare for calving

In spring calving herds it is time to get supplies and facilities ready. Ideally allow one calving pen for every 15 cows. Pens should be a minimum of 3.6 by 3.6 metres. Disinfect pens thoroughly and use plenty of straw. Treat navels with a strong iodine solution and ensure calves receive adequate quantities of colostrum as soon as possible after birth (10% of bodyweight within the first six hours). If thawing frozen colostrum do so relatively slowly. Overheating will damage and destroy antibodies. Never defrost in the microwave!

Feed reserves

Continue to monitor how much silage you are feeding per week and check if you will have enough to see you through to turnout. If silage stocks are running low or are likely to run out before turnout consider your options. Is there an opportunity to sell stock? Do up a budget for store cattle. It may make more financial sense to sell stock at current market prices instead of purchasing variable quality silage at high cost. If selling stock isn’t an option and quality silage can’t be purchased at a reasonable price consider purchasing concentrates instead. Target additional concentrate towards priority stock such as growing and finishing cattle. In the case of finishing cattle ad-lib concentrates may be considered.

End of the closed period

From 1 February you are allowed to spread organic manures and chemical fertilisers but only when ground and weather conditions are suitable. Ideally target fields showing low P and K indices in soil analyses or fields that do not normally get slurry/manure. A number of light applications are more effective than large single applications of slurry.


Prepared by: Claire Anderson

Are you registered? 

All keepers of laying hens must register their birds with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), irrespective of the number of birds kept. This applies equally if you have just one bird in your garden or a flock of 32,000! 

Bird Register

All keepers of birds (except keepers of pet birds kept in the owners’ home) are required to register with DAERA under The Avian Influenza (Preventive Measures) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007. This states that all premises containing poultry must be registered with DAERA within 30 days of the birds arriving. This information is recorded onto a Bird Register for Northern Ireland. This is one of the measures which has been introduced to protect the poultry industry from Avian Influenza (Bird Flu).

 If you have not already done so, you should do so immediately. Contact the DAERA Helpline on 0300 200 7840 or your local DAERA Direct Office for a registration form (AIPM 4) or it can be downloaded at Return completed forms to Bird Registration Section, DAERA, Customer Services Branch Academy House, 121a Broughshane Street, Town Parks, Ballymena, BT43 6HY.

What information is needed?

  • Name, address and contact number of the person in day to day charge of the birds.
  • Address of the place where the birds are kept and the address of the owner if different.
  • Bird information, the species kept (hens, turkeys, ducks, pigeons etc.) and numbers.
  • Purpose of production and the husbandry system (free range, housed, enclosed pen etc.)

Why do we need this information?

It means you can be contacted quickly if there is an outbreak of disease. It also means you can be kept up to date with any restrictions on movements, protected zones that may be in force in your area or information on enforced housing orders etc. You will also receive useful information to help keep your birds disease free with good biosecurity and welfare guidance.

Registration required if you are selling eggs

EU Egg Marketing Regulations also require an egg producer with more than 50 hens, who sells their eggs at a local market to obtain a producer number for stamping on eggs. Therefore they must also register their premises with DAERA for selling eggs. The distinguishing number stamped on the egg enables it to be traced when necessary and also indicates the method of production. It is made up of:

  • A digit indicating the farming method - 0-organic, 1-free range, 2-barn and 3-cage.
  • The code of the Member State (UK).
  • A unique production site identification number preceded by 9 in Northern Ireland.

Also under EU Egg Marketing Regulations all laying hen establishments with 350 or more laying hens, regardless of where the eggs are sold, must be registered with DAERA and allocated a distinguishing producer number. If they are not registered, the eggs produced are not allowed to be marketed for human consumption.

The EU Regulation does not apply to establishments with fewer than 350 laying or breeding hens. However, separate EU Egg Marketing Regulations require all egg producers are given a distinguishing number if the eggs are graded and sold as Class A. This number must be stamped on the eggs. So a producer with fewer than 350 hens, who wishes to market the eggs as Class A must therefore also register their production site with DAERA to obtain a unique distinguishing number to stamp on eggs.

Text alert service

In October last year DAERA launched its new text alert service, to inform bird keepers of any disease outbreaks or other important disease information. The service allows bird keepers to take action to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity. If you are not already receiving alerts on the new text service, I would encourage you to sign up, by simply texting the word ‘BIRDS’ to 67300. The service is free and you can be removed at any time by texting ‘NOBIRDS’ to the same number.


Prepared by: Pamela Gardiner

MyNI – A new way for DAERA to engage with farmers

As part of a wider Civil Service project, DAERA is piloting a new way to engage with people and influence behaviour change among citizens across Northern Ireland. The aim is to improve individuals’ lives and improve Northern Ireland’s economy and environment. The project is called MyNI and is targeting dairy farmers as part of the pilot.  

MyNI is a ‘social web’ platform that will proactively make audiences aware of Government information and services they need and at a time that fits in with their lives. It works by using social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  It encourages feedback, wider discussions and contributions from other experts around particular topic areas.

How MyNI works

  • You will be alerted to engaging pieces of MyNI content on your social media sites, favourite websites and blogs. 
  • Click on that content and be taken straight to an article, video or other topic that has grabbed your attention. 
  • Read other people’s views, comments and reviews on the topic. 
  • Click on a ‘call-to-action’, such as downloading an appropriate App, for example ‘Margin over Concentrate’ App for farmers.

Expected benefits from the dairy farmers pilot

The benefit of the campaign is that farmers should be much better informed for developing more efficient and sustainable farming practices. This includes adopting environmental best practice on the farm, developing skills and opportunities and accessing online farm management and benchmarking tools.

To try it out visit the MyNI website

Follow us on Twitter - @MyNILife

Like us on Facebook 

Follow us on Instgram - @mynilife

Submission of manure export forms now online

A new online system for the submission of manure export forms for non-derogated farms has been introduced by NIEA. The online system makes it easier and quicker for farmers or their agents to submit these records, while at the same time reducing the risk of errors and hence potential penalties being applied to the Basic Payments. The online system for non-derogated farms can be found within DAERA Online Services, CAFRE Nutrient Calculators.

Under the new process farmers or their agents should prepare their manure export records for 2017 and submit these online by midnight 1 March 2018. Please note that the submission date has been extended from 31 January 2018 until midnight 1 March 2018 for this year only.

APHIS Online updates

Following the recent updates to the APHIS Online system, we have provided answers to some commonly asked questions from our users:

How do I print/download from the new APHIS system?

If you wish to use the download and print functions within the APHIS Online system you must allow pop-ups for the DAERA Online Services site  If you are unsure how to do this a quick search online for the specific internet browser you are using, for example Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Edge, Safari will explain what you need to do, alternatively contact the DAERA Online Services team.

Why does the APHIS mobile app no longer work?

All the APHIS functions are now available via your mobile browser. The old APHIS Mobile App no longer provides any additional function. Use your internet browser, for example Safari, Chrome, Edge on your smartphone or tablet. Go to our DAERA Online Services homepage, login as normal and choose APHIS Online.

For added convenience, you can create a shortcut icon on your home screen and access DAERA Online Services just like opening an App. View the video on our APHIS Online Support page which demonstrates how this can be done You will also find other videos on this page to help you complete tasks such as ‘bovine birth notifications’ and ‘bovine death notifications’ and using APHIS Online.

For further information about accessing the manure export forms or APHIS Online, contact the DAERA Online Services team:

Phone - 028 9442 6699
Email -
Text Easy to 67300
Website - DAERA online services

Notes to editors: 

  1. Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook.
  2. All media enquiries to DAERA Press Office or tel: 028 9052 4619.

Share this page

Back to top