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Stranraer Soil & Nutrient Network: Final Meeting – Event Summary

1 October 2019

The third and final meeting of the Stranraer Soil & Nutrient Network was held on 24 September 2019

The evening started with a summary of the work undertaken at Balwherrie Farm during the project’s lime trials.  There were fourteen plots marked on the farm.  They were each soil sampled during April 2018 ahead of a liming treatment during May 2018; each plot received a different treatment, except for two control plots that received no treatment.  The plots were then soil sampled again during May 2019.

The results concluded that Ground Lime produced the greatest response in pH, showing an average rise in pH score of 0.4 from an application of 4.94t/ha (2t/acre) application.  When applied at a rate of 2.47 t/ha (1t/acre), the original pH status was maintained year on year, and the control plots that received no lime treatment showed a decline in pH by 0.4 at the end of the trial.  Califert applications did not show a response in ph however there was a yield response in 2018 cuts of silage.

The importance of taking a regular slurry sample was also discussed, with reference to the phosphate content of the host farm slurry being lower than had been budgeted for and consequently soil Phosphorus levels were low.  There was also a significant drop in Potassium levels during the year from class M+ to L.   This is partially due to an additional silage cut being harvested in 2018.  This strengthened the importance of regular soil sampling and having indicator fields which are sampled more frequently.

Matthew Everett from Origin Fertilisers gave a very informative presentation to the group about how Brexit is affecting the fertiliser trade and the factors to consider when purchasing fertiliser, e.g. composition, the inclusion of filler, currency fluctuation which will affect price and delivery timelines.

Alistair McClelland from Academy Vets was our third speaker for the evening and led a discussion about soil-borne diseases/bacteria and parasites, and how crop rotation can be used to minimise the impact of some of these.  He advised farmers to use older livestock and mixed grazing management with sheep and cattle to ‘hoover’ up worms after younger stock or to alternate stock classes.  Rotating silage fields is also a useful way to create ‘clean grazing’.

Alison Clark from SAC Consulting’s Stranraer office closed the evening by discussing the trends in 2019 silage analyses and how we can manage livestock diets using this information to reduce costs this winter.  With increased levels of ME this year there will be an opportunity to reduce purchased concentrate costs and potentially save up to £40 per head on suckled calves feed costs.  Alison reinforced the importance of regularly sampling silage and measuring the quantity you have because cows will eat more this year than the very dry silage made in 2018.

Key Messages

  • Use sampling to aid decision making and do it regularly to monitor changes
  • Plan your fertiliser needs early and look at bespoke grades based on soil samples
  • Take stock of your silage – there is an opportunity to save money on purchased feed with higher quality silage this year

Copies of the presentation files from the event are available to download here.

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Related Downloads
Technical Note (TN656): Soils Information, Texture and Liming
This technical note offers information on soil, including classification, texture, PLANET Scotland and lime recommendations.
Topics: Soils
Technical Note (TN714): Liming Materials and Recommendations
This technical note examines soil pH, choosing liming materials and lime recommendations for different soils.
Technical Note (TN726): Fertiliser Recommendations for Grassland Scotland
Limitations to grass production are temperature, moisture, soil pH, soil drainage and structure, and nitrogen (N). This technical note shows how to calculate the optimal amount of N that should be applied.
Practical Guide: Soil sampling I – How to take a soil sample
This practical guide details what is required to take a soil sample for analysis that is representative of the area sampled.
Topics: Climate Change, Soils and Water Management
Practical Guide: Soil sampling II – Benefits to your business
This practical guide details how soil sampling can benefit businesses by increasing productivity and create efficiencies on fertiliser inputs through better nutrient planning.
Topics: Climate Change, Soils and Water Management
Practical Guide: Silage Testing: Interpreting the Results
This practical guide looks at helping to maximise performance of housed cattle by improving the use of silages.
Topics: Climate Change

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