Slurry storage investment at Bryn Mawr Farm
The new NVZ regulations shouldn't be seen as a burden on your farm. Instead, investing in new slurry storage facilities should be viewed as an opportunity to implement cost savings and improve efficiency, as well as reducing winter workloads.
That is the experience of Kevin Jones of Bryn Mawr Farm in Flintshire, North Wales who has recently built a new slurry store to service his 270 cow dairy herd.
Kevin's farm isn't currently within an NVZ, but he has invested in a new slurry store nonetheless. “We are on the edge of an NVZ and will probably be included within it some time in the future,” he explains.
Andrew Connah (left) of AMC discusses the farm's loan requirements with Kevin Jones.
“It made sense for us to upgrade the farm's slurry store so that we are compliant in the future, but also so that the farm is easier to manage. Cow numbers have risen over recent years to the point that we only had enough storage capacity for three weeks' worth of slurry.
“We were constantly tankering slurry throughout the winter which was causing untold damage to the grassland. As well as creating extra work, spreading that amount of slurry at the wrong time of the year was making a mess of the gateways and local roads.”
Winter spreading via tanker also meant that the nearby fields were overloaded with manure. “That turned the grass sour and unpalatable and meant that we weren't benefiting from the manure's full nutrient content.”
Kevin therefore built a 3,400 cubic metre concrete-walled lagoon, which provides an additional five months' worth of storage capacity.
The planning stage
Planning permission for the lagoon was applied for in the first half of 2008. Prior to this, Kevin sought the advice of the Environment Agency which he consulted at an early stage to ensure that his plans met with their approval. Kevin also spoke to his ADAS consultant who helped to design and locate the slurry store.
The new slurry store at Bryn Mawr Farm can hold five months' worth of slurry and has resulted in reduced fertiliser usage and significant labour savings.
The ADAS report recommended that the store should provide a minimum volume of 2,800 cubic metres. But Kevin chose to build a larger store to accommodate the planned future herd expansion without out-growing the new facilities.
From seeking planning permission to completing the building works took more than 12 months, but the effort has been worth it. “Planning a project of this scale takes a lot of organising,” Kevin says. “It can be a lengthy and time-consuming process, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. Overall the farm is easier to manage during the winter with less time spent carting slurry.”
Reduced fertiliser costs
By using a team of contractors to spread the slurry to the correct fields during the spring, Kevin has already noted a significant reduction in fertiliser costs. “We have cut our annual fertiliser bill in two ways: not only are we using less fertiliser overall, we now only need to buy straight nitrogen instead of more expensive compound fertilisers.”
Funding from AMC
The new slurry store was funded via a loan from AMC, which was provided on a 20-year variable rate agreement. “We chose AMC because their rates are competitive and because they leave you alone once the loan is in place. There are no annual charges or loan reviews to contend with which makes the whole borrowing process much less stressful,” Kevin says.
Andrew Connah, AMC's Regional Agricultural Manager for North Wales, the West Midlands and Warwickshire comments, “Even if interest rates rise back to the levels that we have seen in the last 13 years, the savings that Kevin has made in reduced fertiliser usage alone are enough to service the costs of the loan,” he states.
“The new slurry store will therefore be self-funding and will also ensure that the farm is compliant with any future NVZ regulations. Providing the loan was therefore a simple decision but we were also able to help Kevin by consolidating his bank overdraft and an existing loan into a single AMC facility. This has provided further cost savings as well as peace of mind to the partners on the basis that margins on AMC loans are set for the term, subject to loan conditions being satisfied.”
Avoiding the common pitfalls of project management:
Kevin Jones has the following advice for any dairy farmers who are yet to comply with the latest NVZ regulations:
- Don't delay: a project of this size involves a lot of organising. The 2012 deadline is less than 16 months away so it makes sense to start planning immediately.
- Find a competent contractor: as the 2012 deadline approaches there will be a huge rush for building works to be carried out. The longer you leave it, the more difficult it will be to find a suitable and competent builder who is available to work within your timescale and budget.
- Plan for the future: any investment should consider future business growth and provide facilities which can cope with that growth.
- Cost benefits: the latest NVZ regulations shouldn't be seen as a burden. Investing in your farm's infrastructure can bring new efficiencies and cost savings to the business.
- Contingency budget: allow for any unexpected costs during the planning phase.