Silage effluent on the farm must be managed carefully

Silage effluent is one of the most toxic sources of pollution on the farm, and must be managed carefully.

Silage effluent is one of the most toxic sources of pollution on the farm, and must be managed carefully.

If it is allowed to escape to watercourses, effluent can have devastating consequences for wildlife and for drinking water supplies.

Breaches of nitrates and water pollution legislation can lead to hefty penalties on Single Farm Payments.

Check your silage pit now

The first step is to thoroughly wash down the pit, especially the floor, to enable problems to be fully assessed. Look out for cracks, porous patches, and unsealed and eroded joints. The extent of the damage can be assessed by hacking away any unsound concrete at joints and at the base of walls.

Structural failure, particularly subsidence and movement in the floor, should be looked for.

Bouncing a fencing post off the floor is a handy method of checking the structural stability of the floor. A hollow sound indicates the presence of a poor foundation, whereas a floor with full support and no cracks will emit a sharper thud when the post strikes it. Repairs should be carried out in accordance with Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine specifications.

Other tips for the silage season:

* Before cutting silage ensure that effluent tanks are empty.

* Clean effluent channels and make sure that pipes leading to tanks are clear.

* Lay drainage piping near the box channel around the pit to improve drainage and relieve effluent pressure on floor and walls.

* When the pit is covered, make sure that effluent is intercepted by the channels, and all clean water off the polythene is directed away in the clean water drainage system.

* Regularly inspect any watercourses downstream of the farmyard once silage making begins. Take immediate corrective action, if any contamination is suspected.

* Ensure that any diversion chambers/points are set correctly to divert effluent into storage tanks.

* Avoid storing silage bales within 20m of dry drains or watercourses, unless they are stored on concrete with provision for effluent collection.

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