The current study evaluated the effect of sowing date (early, mid-August or timely, mid-September) on two winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cultivars (Hereford, Mariboss) with different rates of nitrogen (N) (0–225 kg total N/ha) applied as animal manure (AM; cattle slurry) or mineral fertilizers (N: phosphorus: potassium; NPK). Overwinter plant N uptake and soil mineral N content were determined during 2014/15, while harvest yields (grain, straw, N content) were determined during 2014/15 and 2015/16. Overwinter uptake of N was 14 kg N/ha higher in early than in timely-sown wheat. Despite very different yield levels in 2015 and 2016 harvests, the advantage of early sowing on grain yields was similar (1.1 and 0.9 t/ha); straw yield benefits were greater in 2015 (1.7 t/ha more) than in 2016 (0.4 t/ha more). In 2015 and 2016, N offtake was 35 and 17 kg N/ha higher in early than in timely-sown wheat, respectively. The mineral N fertilizer value of cattle slurry averaged 50%. Early sowing increased the apparent N recovery (ANR) for wheat regardless of nutrient source. However, ANR was substantially higher for NPK (82% in 2015; 52% in 2016) than for AM (39% in 2015; 27% in 2016). Performance of the two cultivars did not differ consistently with respect to the effect of early sowing on crop yield, N concentration and offtake, or ANR. Within the north-west European climatic region, moving the sowing time of winter wheat from mid-September to mid-August provides a significant yield and N offtake benefit.