• Farm-gate nitrogen balances on intensive dairy farms in the south west of Ireland

      Treacy, Mark; Humphreys, James; McNamara, Kevin; Browne, R.; Watson, C. J.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; European Union; Dairy Levy Research Trust (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2008)
      Nitrogen management and farm-gate N balances were evaluated on 21 intensive dairy farms in the south west of Ireland for each of four years (2003 to 2006). The mean annual stocking density was equivalent to 202 kg/ha (s.d. 29.6) of N excreted by livestock on the farm. The mean annual farm-gate N surplus (imports – exports) declined between 2003 and 2006 (277 to 232 kg/ha, s.e. 6.8; P < 0.001) due to a decline in annual N imports (fertilizer, feed and imported manures; 335 to 288 kg/ha, s.e. 6.9; P < 0.001). Overall annual fertilizer N use on the farms decreased during the study period (266 to 223 kg/ha, s.e. 6.5; P < 0.001) mainly due to lower inputs for the first application in spring and for the production of first-cut silage. These decreases were partly offset by applying more slurry in spring for early grazing and for first-cut silage. The introduction of white clover resulted in lower N imports on four farms. Export of N from farms was unaffected by reductions in N imports. The mean efficiency of N use tended to increase over time (0.18 in 2003 to 0.20 in 2006). The large variation in quantities of fertilizer N applied on farms with similar stocking densities suggests potential for further improvements in the efficiency of N use. In terms of fertilizer N use, complying with S.I. No. 378 of 2006 did not require major changes in the N management practiceson 19 of the farms.