South West dairy farmers upgrade effluent systems to protect waterways

Dairy farmer Dwayne Neill, Western Dairy chair Robin Lammie, South West MLC Jackie Jarvis and GeoCatch dairy projects coordinator Bree Brown.
Dairy farmer Dwayne Neill, Western Dairy chair Robin Lammie, South West MLC Jackie Jarvis and GeoCatch dairy projects coordinator Bree Brown.

Dairy farmers in the Geographe Catchment have taken advantage of the Revitalising Geographe Waterways program to help fund upgrades to their effluent systems.

The upgrades have prevented nutrient run-off from entering waterways and Geographe Bay.

Dairy effluent entering waterways contains high levels of nutrients, sediment and pathogens, which can cause significant problems for aquatic ecosystems such as eutrophication, algal blooms, and fish kill events.

As part of the program, 10 dairy farmers received funding incentives to upgrade their systems and develop individual effluent management plans through an accredited system, and in turn reduce the level of nutrient run-off from their farms into the Geographe Catchment.

The upgrades have seen participating farmers implement a range of more effective solutions for managing effluent to suit their individual farms and herd sizes, as well as improve methods of on-farm solids storage to enable the reuse of effluent on pastures.

Dairy farmer Dwayne Neill said solids on his farm were collected from two points and pumped into a pond. Water was then pumped into a second pond which they could use all over their farm.

"It stops it from going into the waterways, there is a drain nearby, so at this time of year all that would have gone straight into the Capel River," he said.

"Now I can use all this on my paddocks."

Western Dairy chair Robin Lammie said they used a tanker or pod sprinklers to use the water from the ponds, and the more it was pumped out the less nutrient value it had.

"You have to mitigate the fear out of it as well, what farmers have been doing for decades, you have to assure them it is an improvement and making things better," he said.

GeoCatch dairy projects coordinator Bree Brown said they were trying to reuse the nutrients on farms and keep it out of the waterways, also saving on fertilisers.

"It reduces the overall load of nutrients going into the estuary which is really good for water quality," she said.

Water Minister Dave Kelly said partnerships between government, farmers and industry were critical to delivering real improvements to effluent management in WA.

"While upgrades to effluent systems are complex and can be expensive, this upgrade program has seen a real commitment and investment from local farmers and the WA dairy industry in the protection of the Geographe Catchment and waterways.

"Through the McGowan Government's Healthy Estuaries WA program and DWER's long-term partnerships with dairy farmers, industry stakeholders and GeoCatch, we're now seeing real improvements to effluent management systems and the resulting reductions in nutrient run-off into the catchment."

This story South West dairy farmers protecting Geographe waterways first appeared on Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.