Raymond Scott is a milk supplier to Lakeland Dairies and farms at Caughoo near Ballinagh, Co. Cavan. The Scott farm is one of three monitor farms across the Lakeland Dairies catchment area that embarked on a soil improvement programme in 2013.
To share the valuable information becoming available from these monitor farms, Lakeland Dairies recently hosted a well-attended workshop on the Scott farm. Alan Hurst, Technical manager with Lakeland Dairies Agribusiness kicked off proceedings by giving some background information on the farm and outlined the important role that growing and utilising more grass will play in maximising farm efficiencies and profitability going forward.
David Atherton from Thomson and Joseph, who was the guest speaker at the event, gave a very interesting and informative presentation detailing the importance of having the correct physical, chemical and biological properties present in soils when trying to maximise the productivity of grassland. The workshop included a number of digs in various fields to look at structure, smell and colour of the soils on the Scott farm. There was a lot of interaction and relevant questions from the farmers present which indicated a lot of interest in the topic of soil improvement.
According to David Atherton “the good news is that soils have huge reserves of nitrogen and phosphorus so we must do all we can to ensure these reserves are being released.” He showed farmers the type of detailed chemical analysis that is available from Thomson and Joseph and advised on how correct interpretation of this data can be used to determine the correct course of action for problematic ground. In particular, he highlighted the relevance of the Calcium: Magnesium ratio in the soil which is required to maintain soil structure.
In addition he discussed the importance of earthworm activity in the soil and the use of it as an indicator of the overall biological health of the soils. David talked about the benefits of treating slurry with a biological digesting agent such as “Digest It” which significantly reduces the ammonia level in the slurry and makes it kinder to earthworms and soil life, but also has the advantage of increasing the total nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium levels in the slurry.
He said that soil improvement is something that needs to be worked on continuously rather than assuming that a significant shift can be achieved in a short period of time.
Farmers present also had the opportunity to view a Mc Kenna soil aerator which was kindly demonstrated by Winston Bennett of Ballinagh.
Alan Hurst on behalf of Lakeland Dairies Agribusiness wrapped up proceedings by thanking the Scott family for hosting the event and David Atherton for his technical presentation. Alan also suggested that all interested farmers should talk to their Lakeland Dairies Feed representative to find out more about the soil improvement programme or any of the other components of the new Lakeland RumiSmart Sustain Programme for that matter.