North Wales farmers turn to civil engineers for NVZ help12th May 2011

TWO Denbighshire dairy farmers have turned to local civil engineering firm Jones Bros for a cost-effective solution to strict new rules on slurry storage.

Brothers and business partners Giles and Leo Rowland, who co-run Bachymbyd Fawr near Denbigh, have enlisted the Ruthin-based company to construct an earth-banked slurry lagoon on their land.

Family-run Jones Bros was founded in the 1950s, and has evolved from a livestock farm run by two brothers to become one of the UK’s leading civil engineering firms.

Managing director Huw Jones said slurry lagoons are becoming a niche sideline for the company, which uses the same techniques to line and seal landfill sites and on land remediation projects.

Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) regulations come into force in just over six months’ time, although recent NFU findings show that many North Wales farmers have still not invested in the necessary additional slurry storage facilities.  Welsh Assembly Government grant aid also finishes at the end of 2011.

Giles is viewing the lagoon, which will take engineers from Jones Bros three to four weeks to complete, as a long-term investment.

He said: “The reality is that NVZs aren’t going to go away, so we had to do something about the regulations.

“We wanted a quality job done properly first time. It is great that a local firm can follow a project through all its stages from design and planning to construction, with in-house engineers able to sign for the job at the end.

“Jones Bros engineers are up to speed with the regulations. This gives me peace of mind that their solution meets the legal requirements, which are strict when it comes to the materials used and the exact spec of the storage facility.”

Under the NVZ rules, farmers in affected areas must provide at least six months’ storage capacity for poultry manures and pig slurry, and at least five months’ for slurry from other types of livestock.

Failure to comply could put single farm payments at risk.

Giles added: “Earth-banked lagoons aren’t cheap but they are much more affordable than some of the alternatives.

“There will be immediate benefits to our business, as the new lagoon will allow us to spread slurry at the optimum times to make best use of its fertiliser value. This means we will be able to reduce our reliance on bought-in fertiliser.”

Huw Jones said: “As a company our roots are firmly in agriculture, so we have an understanding of the pressures the farming community is under.

“Our expertise in areas such as landfill and land remediation is completely transferrable to slurry storage.

“For example, our employees have experience in clay, flexible membrane lining (FML) methods and HDPE liners. We also have qualified FML welders on board and we carry out all associated work such as access and fencing.

“NVZs represent a headache for the farming community, but hopefully companies like Jones Bros will be able to help by providing a professional service.”

Farmers in Wales must complete all work by the end of this year in order to qualify for financial help under the Welsh Assembly Government’s £3.1m Catchment Sensitive Farming (Nitrate Vulnerable Zones) grant scheme.