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Ayrshire Soil & Nutrient Network: Final meeting – event summary

28 February 2020

This was the final meeting of the Ayrshire Soil & Nutrient Network and we returned back to where we started – at our host farm Dormieston.

The focus for the event was on ‘Establishing and managing a spring grass ley’, although the weather on the day was very far from spring-like!

Our key speakers during the event included:

  • Dr Bill Crooks – a Soil Specialist with SAC Consulting
  • William Fleming – Germinal UK
  • Lorna Galloway, SAC Consulting

The meeting began with Dr Bill Crooks giving a demonstration of a visual evaluation of soil (VES) where he commented on compaction, structure, organic matter content and worm counts as well as some methods to reduce compaction, particularly from overwintering sheep on lowland grazing grounds.

SAC Consulting’s Lorna Galloway and Germinal UK’s William Fleming then led a group discussion on winter grazing strategies as well as the cost benefits of a spring grass reseed.  There were a number of SRUC Agricultural Students in attendance who got involved at this point.  Finally, after lunch, Bill returned to lead a discussion about the ins and outs of digestate as a farm manure and soil conditioner.  While it is becoming more common in Ayrshire only one of the group was actively taking digestate.

The key messages to take from this event are:

  • Maintaining a good farm waste management plan and regularly soil sampling cannot only be a practice undertaken by top-performing farms, but it also has to become routine for all farm businesses as a matter of best practice.
  • Liming is still hugely important and prilled lime has now become an effective alternative to conventional bagged lime, due to cost reductions.
  • Set stocking wintering sheep is an ineffective way of maintaining grass in good condition and will cost you yields come spring.
  • In many cases, a milk yield increase and the associated income will cover the cost of a reseed.

A number of handouts were available to take away from the event.  These and a selection of other relevant documents can be downloaded using the links below.

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