For Longwarry dairy farmers Graeme and Michelle Worth upgrading their dairy effluent system has paid off in more ways than one.
As well as improved dairy effluent management, the new system has resulted in significant labour savings in the day-to-day management of the farm, as well as fertiliser cost savings.
With technical advice from Agriculture Victoria and support from Melbourne Water’s Liveable Communities Liveable Waterways* incentive program, Michelle and Graeme upgraded their effluent system to include a second trafficable solids trap, a single effluent pond, and an effluent mainline.
Agriculture Victoria Dairy Extension Officer, Benita Kelsall said the upgraded system now enables solids from both the dairy yard and the feed pad to go through two solids traps prior to entering a storage pond.
“Most of the solids are now removed before effluent enters the storage pond, providing less solid material in the storage pond and making pumping easier.
“The upgraded system means the nutrients from the effluent can more easily be applied to pastures and limits the risk of storage ponds overflowing and dairy effluent entering local waterways,” she said.
Mr Worth said prior to the upgrade they were applying effluent every day to one or two paddocks, and it was a very labour-intensive system with the pump and the pipes often getting blocked.
“We were having to clear blockages in the system on a fairly regular basis, however, with the new system we only need to clean the two traps out once a year.
“Effluent from the new single pond can now be applied over 30 hectares and the addition of the pond means that it can be applied when conditions are drier,” Mr Worth said.
“Applying effluent when conditions are dry helps avoid the risk of effluent runoff and we’re now able to target effluent application onto paddocks that get a hiding in terms of fodder, by keeping the nutrients on-farm,” he said.
Dairy effluent is particularly high in nitrogen and potassium, which helps to replace the nutrients that have been removed in the fodder.
“We’ve got a great resource in the dairy effluent and it’s a real bonus given how expensive fertiliser is now.”
For technical resources, advice and training in effluent and manure system design and management visit the Agriculture Victoria website.
* The Liveable Community Liveable Waterways program is available to eligible Melbourne Water customers and was previously called the Rural Land program.