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Tassie trip to NZ Effluent and Environment Expo

A group of 13 from Tasmania, including farmers, effluent designers and contractors and agronomists visited the 2019 Effluent & Environment Expo at Mystery Creek, NZ, in November to find out more about the latest in effluent equipment, tools and management. The group had two days visiting dairy farms in the Waikato, plus met with local farmers socially and had a tour of the Waikato Milking factory, which manufactures and freights dairy plants all over the world. LIC also gave the group an overview of environmental gains being achieved through genetics.

It was a topical time to be in NZ with the Zero Carbon Bill just being passed, and the Freshwater Plan submissions underway. Acknowledging the challenges that many farmers are feeling with increasing environmental legislation, the organisers of Effluent Expo bought in one of NZ’s most well known people, Sir Graham Henry, as the keynote speaker.

The former All Blacks coach said he was empathetic for farmers as he could see they are under overwhelming pressure, which he has had plenty of experience with. “I can see you’re under the pump. You need to find solutions, not excuses.”

He said his greatest achievement was not winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup, it was going through the 2007 loss and having to change his mindset, which changed his coaching style late in life.

Sir Graham’s talk was just one of the many snippets of inspiration that the Tassie group came home with. Kiwi ingenuity with effluent management was seen with simple systems for solids separation and novel storage options. The group was particularly impressed with some projects built by the Archway group, featuring flood wash of animal sheltering systems (summer shade, winter standoff) through to twin bunker weeping walls for passive solids separation and recycling of green water, plus diversion to storage for effluent irrigation on pastures. The nutrient value of effluent means farmers have been able to significantly reduce or eliminate conventional fertiliser use on some parts of their farm.

Waikato Milking also showed the group a number of effluent storage options including a bladder, above ground tank and a lined earthen storage. These were set up with the option for diversion to direct application before storage, giving maximum flexibility in the system.

Trip organiser, Rachel Brown, who contracts as the Sustainable Dairying Adviser to DairyTas, said the trip was valuable for farmers and service providers. “Looking to NZ highlights what we need to focus on for the future. We need to be proactive so hopefully we can avoid the regulation that is occurring in NZ. Admittedly, we only have 400 farms in Tasmania, so nothing like the intensity, but Tasmanian dairying is becoming more intensive and the issues are the same.”

“The best systems we saw in NZ were really well planned, with a strong focus on minimal maintenance, letting gravity do the work, and also tailor made storage solutions for each farm. Farmers with simple systems all spoke about the labour savings. Yes, they had invested more upfront, but they all felt it was being repaid in spades with reduced labour costs and less hassles managing effluent.”

Farmers and industry service providers funded the majority of the trip costs. The NRM North River Health Action Plan provided some funding towards the trip and is also providing funding for farmers in the Tamar Region to make upgrades to their effluent systems. More information available at https://www.nrmnorth.org.au/tamar-action-grants/.

Learnings from the NZ trip are being shared by farmers and service providers individually, and will also be publicly shared at field days coming up in late March, plus at the Tasmanian Sustainable Dairying and Effluent Expo to be held on 21 May at Meander.

For further information, please contract Rachel Brown, Sustainable Dairying Adviser 0409 333 381 rbrown@landly.com.au.

Watch the video on our tour through the Waikato Milking factory - fantastic tradesmen making dairy equipment for export around the world!

Patrick and Karen Mathis owners of Patren Farm in New Zealand

Above: Patrick and Karen Mathis hosted one of the farm tours to see Archway Group installations on their property “Patren Farm”.

Patren Farm in the Waikato, New Zealand

Above: Patren Farm milks 390 cows near Tirau in the Waikato, New Zealand.

Patren Farm animal sheltering structure

Above: Patren Farm has an animal sheltering structure for summer shade and winter standoff. The yard is built with 2% slope and is washed via recycled greenwater flood wash, which flows via gravity to the twin bunker weeping wall.

Twin bunker weeping wall

Above: Effluent from the milking shed and the shade/shelter shed flows to the twin bunker weeping wall. Having distance for solids to passively separate is the key to the weeping wall working effectively. When one bunker is full, it is a simple job to switch flow into the other bunker. Greenwater from the sump (far end) is pumped either back to the recycled floodwash or to an effluent storage dam and used to irrigate pasture. Patren Farm uses effluent as the only fertiliser on its flat country, with the hills being fertilised via helicopter.

 

Amanda and Matt Hodgson - organisers of the Effluent and Environment Expo

Above: Amanda and Matt Hodgson are the organisers of Effluent and Environment Expo, plus also own and operate the Archway Group that builds effluent systems and animal sheltering systems. They are passionate about helping farmers with simple, minimal maintenance systems. “We try to help farmers keep it simple, gravity is the farmer’s friend,” says Amanda.

Tasmanian group siting on a flexitank bladder on a farm in Waikato NZ.

Above: Effluent bladders are a novel effluent storage option, as an alternative to earthen storages or above ground tanks. This Flexitank bladder was on a farm in the Waikato, which the Tasmanian group visited on a farm tour organised by Waikato Milking.

 

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