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Managing dairy effluent

Paddle available: Agriculture Victoria has a range of resources available to help farmers manage effluent. Photo by Contributed

Agriculture Victoria has developed informative and useful online resources to assist dairy farmers to manage the dairy effluent on their farms.

Choosing a dairy effluent management system

Developing an effective dairy effluent system requires detailed planning and often expert technical advice and guidance.

It is important to consider the soil type, distance to waterways, how the system can be integrated into existing infrastructure, management strategies, such as fertiliser application and irrigation management.

It is also important to conduct the appropriate geotechnical investigations to guide site selection.

Choosing the most appropriate effluent system will depend on what is: more practical, easier to maintain, considering other activities around the farm and has the potential to return the most benefits.

Components to consider in a dairy situation may include:

  • Minimisation of effluent. The more effluent generated at the dairy or feedpad, the more that requires storage and application.
  • Solid separation and fibre removal. Separating the coarse material from the liquid stream (such as manure solids, fibre, debris, sand, gravel and stones) reduces the likelihood of problems with other components within the effluent system that may include the pumping, storage, conveyance and application stages.
  • Conveyance. How will effluent be conveyed from the point source? Where will it be conveyed to? Can gravity be used? What distances are involved? These questions will assist in determining the most appropriate conveyance method for the system.
  • Storage or containment. What is the most practical and effective method to contain effluent within the property boundaries over the wetter months of the year?
  • Application. Determining the end location for where effluent will be applied is often a good starting point when designing an effluent system. A key principle in the application stage is ensuring effluent can be applied over a significant percentage of the farm paddocks. Application of effluent should be strategically linked to the farm soil fertility targets and fertiliser applications.
  • Management. The overall management and ongoing maintenance of an effluent system is often overlooked.

Types of dairy effluent systems

All effluent systems have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s a matter of choosing the system that best suits the farm variables, location and labour capacity.

System types can include direct application to pastures and crops (although a higher risk system), single storage ponds, multi-pond systems or tanks.

Due to the large number of considerations required when planning an effluent system, technical assistance is often recommended.

As the lead agency in effluent and manure systems design and management in Victoria, Agriculture Victoria provides technical resources and training through the nationally recognised Design Livestock Effluent Systems (Unit AHCLSK 506A) in partnership with Dairy Australia.

The Effluent System Designer List

This is a list of service provider businesses who have achieved a level of competence based on successfully completing all assessments and course requirements for the Design Livestock Effluent Systems Course.

They are able to offer farmers relevant services with respect to planning, design and management.

For a full range of information notes visit: agriculture.vic.gov.au/livestock-and_animals/dairy/managing-effluent

Ashleigh Michael, dairy project officer