January 2014 – Do you know the value of the slurry you produce?

It seems we still have the mischievous few who are hell bent on crippling our livestock industry in the name of animal welfare. As is so often the case, the minority is heard above the majority.

If an article appeared saying that farmers were looking after their animals in a welfare-friendly manner it wouldn’t make headlines, but say they’re treating their animals cruelly and that welfare needs to be improved and you shouldn’t eat their meat, then the public sit up and take notice.

We all know that those stories aren’t true, and if only those spreading the rumours would realise that no farmer would intentionally or unwittingly keep livestock in conditions under which they would not be comfortable or able to thrive. That would mean poor performance and that costs money; hurt the farmer’s pocket and you hurt him.

The sooner these stories are scotched, the better. We have some of the best welfare anywhere in the world and that’s a fact.

The kind of livestock enterprise you have will determine the value of the manure or slurry you produce, either for your own holding or to be sold – or as so often happens, given away to neighbours for no charge.

It’s difficult to put figures on it, but it can be worth about £150/ha, depending on the cost of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. I know on my own farm, where there’s been no manure since 1996, it’s worth about half a tonne/acre of wheat. And, of course, the cost advantage of using FYM or slurry doesn’t take into account the benefit to the soil structure.

What made me think about this was a very interesting analysis (see table) sent round by the firm that does my crop consultancy. The father is like me, ready for pensioning off, but his son is forward thinking and has spent a fair bit of time looking at the slurry produced by various types of livestock kept in various systems with differing feed regimes.

So with the start of another year, which we always embrace with great enthusiasm, just what are the prospects for our industry? Europe’s prices are going up and down like a yo-yo, and there are conflicting reports on wheat and soya prices. So, being ever cheerful, I’m sure things will be a lot better; pork prices will be high, wheat prices will be low, and everyone will smile. If only it were that simple!

Happy New Year.

> Yorkshire farmer Sam Walton is a former pig producer and the founding editor of Pig World

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