Pig slurry partnership cuts fertiliser costs

An arable farmer has invested in a 2000 cubic metre slurry bag tank to work collaboratively with a local pig farmer. The Albers Alligator tank has integral hydraulic stirrers, fill and empty pipes and is self-venting. It has the optimum capacity for north east farmer Nigel Jackson to store enough nutrient rich pig slurry to cover 200 acres of his farm each year. “This means I can cover the whole 500 acre farm in two and a half years, and the slurry is free, which will save me £13,000 per year in the future,” says Mr Jackson.

Mr Jackson’s farm is in Fraisthorpe near Bridlington. His father, previously a tenant, bought the farm in 1993 and Mr Jackson intends to hand it on to his son Ben in the future. It is a mixed farm that includes OSR, barley, wheat, spring beans and potatoes along with thirty sucklers. The livestock do not produce sufficient slurry for the 500 acres of crops, so Mr Jackson has developed a relationship with a nearby pig farm. “I knew that a local pig farmer was expanding and that he didn’t have the arable land needed to spread the amount of slurry his pigs were creating, so I thought we could work together,” explains Mr Jackson.

The bag tank is three metres high and Mr Jackson excavated a 1.8 metre shallow well for it to sit in. “We used the excavated soil to create a 1.2 metre bank. The tank is barely visible, and I didn’t need planning permission. It was supplied and installed by Tramspread who managed the whole installation in just a day,” he says. Albers Alligator tanks have been available in Europe for over 35 years and slurry specialist Tramspread is the sole UK distributor of the range which extends to 7000 cubic metre capacity tanks. John Tydeman from Tramspread says “Containing slurry in this way is becoming more popular because of Defra’s plans to reduce emissions from slurry. These tanks are a green and efficient way to store slurry and we can see them becoming ever more popular as regulations change.”

Mr Jackson had previously exchanged straw for muck, but blackgrass had been transferred in the muck he sourced from a pig farm. “Blackgrass can’t live in pig slurry because it’s too acidic and a liquid, so it offered a more reliable solution” he says. The pig farm is an hour round trip for Mr Jackson who makes trips using his 16,000 litre tanker. “I worked out that 120 trips would fill the bag tank. It is a hard road between where I have sited my bag tank and the storage tank at the pig farm so I can collect and fill all through the winter,” he explains.

The bag tank stores the slurry without allowing rainwater in which means Mr Jackson can manage the quantities he is collecting and using accurately. It has vents that allow gases to escape gradually which significantly reduces the amount of harmful ammonia being released into the air. The slurry never forms a crust and is constantly agitated by internal stirrers in the tank. This means that Mr Jackson can add slurry incrementally through the year and draw off slurry without waiting to mix it. It is also easy to obtain an accurate sample of the slurry to test the nutrient levels before applying it to a crop.

Mr Jackson has entered into a ten-year contract with the pig farmer to protect the investment he has made in the bag tank. It is also helping him to plan for, and reduce, the amount of fertiliser he uses. “We create our own farm yard manure in the field by mixing slurry with chopped straw and then we incorporate in to the soil. In the past I have used fertiliser with 9 kilos of nitrogen, 11 kilos of phosphorus and 11 kilos of potash. The fertiliser balance is a good one but I have had the pig slurry analysed and feel confident that it will give me the same units of N, P and K (36 N, 46 P and K) per acre,” he explains.

“I’m aiming to be free of all artificial P and K in less than twenty years.” Says Mr Jackson. Increasing slurry use on crops also helps the environmental credentials of the farm, says Mr Jackson. “Applying slurry to growing crops means it is used more effectively, so there is less chance of leaching and causing environmental problems,” he says.  Although this is only the second year, he has used slurry in this way, Mr Jackson has found the winter-sown crops are proving strong enough in spring to make best use of the slurry which is giving him significant fertiliser savings. “When we are using only slurry and no artificial P or K I will be saving £13,000 per year and I’ll be using a natural fertiliser which is more sustainable for the farm,” he concludes.

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.