Winter effluent management

by Robyn McLean, Regional Extension Officer, GippsDairy

Winter management of effluent systems is critical however, it’s not necessarily easy to manage especially if the effluent ponds are a bit on the small side.

In winter, effluent systems can be under a lot of pressure due to heavy rainfall events and limited opportunities to apply effluent to pastures assoils can already be wet. If you are in a situation where you find the ponds are lapping near the top, there are strategies you can adopt to help manage your system to keep effluent on your farm and ultimately out of waterways.

Strategies to help reduce the volume of extra rainfall entering the effluent system will help take some pressure off the ponds and save space for effluent.

This includes:

  • Diversion of gutters and roof areas draining onto dairy yards(ultimately into tanks) into surrounding paddocks.
  • Use of a rainwater diverter on the dairy yard to divert rainfall from the yard away from the effluent system when the yard is not being used (Figure 1).
  • Diversion of any extra catchment runoff from surrounding paddocks away from the effluent system.
  • Reducing water use in the shed by ensuring things like platform sprays are used efficiently and plate-cooler water is recycled; this will also help to keep the effluent pond free for storing effluent rather than water.

If you were unable to empty your effluent ponds during summer as recommended and find yourself in a situation where the ponds look like they might overflow, it is best to apply the effluent to paddocks that are furthest from waterways and drains at a time when rainfall is likely to be minimal and the soil profile is not saturated rather than allowing it to directly discharge, this is a source of pollution that you can be fined for under EPA regulations.

Dairy effluent is also a great source of nitrogen and potassium, for sustaining pasture growth. Using effluent is one way to help recycle some of all that bought-in feed over autumn and summer.

Free effluent testing and an effluent system health check is available through Agriculture Victoria. For more information please contact Benita Kelsall, Dairy Extension Officer, Ellinbank 56242218.

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