Devenish demonstrate improved farm profitability through better soil management

16th September 2016

Devenish demonstrate improved farm profitability through better soil management

EU Commissioner, Phil Hogan, with members of his Cabinet recently visited Clive Reed's dairy farm in Co. Monaghan, one of three monitor farms participating in the Soil Improvement Programme, a collaboration between Devenish, Lakeland Dairies and Thomson and Joseph; and the Devenish Research farm, namely, the Lands at Dowth, in Co. Meath, which demonstrates how farm profitability and environmental benefits can be delivered simultaneously. 

Ciaran Conway, Ruminant Nutritionist at Devenish explains, "Grass is the cheapest source of nutrients for ruminants, yet milk from forage is in long term decline. Meanwhile, we are finding a decline in the nutritional value of forage, which is linked to cow health issues. It is also becoming increasingly important to maximise on-farm resources to reduce costs and embrace practices which enhance the environment. We believe the answer to this lies in the soil."


The Soil Improvement Programme helps to grow more and better grass to improve cow health, productivity and profitability, whilst enhancing the environment.  It involves three steps;

  • 1. Aerating to reduce compaction;

  • 2. Using soil analysis to rebalance soil fertility;

  • 3. Biologically treating slurry with 'Digest-it' to maximise nutrient availability and reduce ammonia, thus helping the soil biology.


Alan Hurst, Technical and Product Manager with Lakeland Agri outlined the key results from Clive’s farm, "Since embarking on the Soil Improvement Programme in 2013, Clive has increased grass utilisation on the grazing platform by 21%, which has delivered 8% more milk from forage, which is a fantastic result and really highlights the benefits of the Programme."


Host farmer Clive Reed commented, "I am delighted with the results from the Programme. I am growing more grass and able to carry more stock on the grazing platform. Compaction has definitely reduced across the farm, allowing me to access the more challenging areas which were previously prone to waterlogging."


Dr. David Atherton of Thomson and Joseph, demonstrated how compaction limits grassland productivity and can negatively impact on the environment, by increasing nutrient run-off in watercourses and denitrification of greenhouse gases. It can also increase the level of trace elements, which are implicated in cattle nutritional diseases, such as molybdenum which causes fertility problems. Clive has reduced his soil molybdenum levels by 51% as a result of the Programme.

At the Lands at Dowth, the Commissioner was shown the trial work Devenish are undertaking on the Soil Improvement Programme, including validating the slurry additive, 'Digest-it', and regularly using GPS soil sampling to measure improvements in soil fertility and environmental benefits. This was invaluable in showing the Commissioner and his Cabinet, who are key opinion formers, that farmers can and will deliver.


In addition, the group were shown the benefits of LiDAR, a new tool being trialled by Devenish in conjunction with Teagasc and UCD, to measure carbon sequestration.  John Gilliland, Director of Agriculture with Devenish, explained, "It is important to demonstrate the use of innovative technologies, like LiDAR, which can credibly quantify the positive role that our trees and hedges play in consuming greenhouse gases within a farmed landscape, for the wider public to acknowledge the positive impact that farming can have on the environment."

Image shows Commissioner Hogan pictured with host farmer Clive Reed and family, alongside representatives of Devenish, Lakeland Dairies and Dr David Atherton of Thomson and Joseph.

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