Successful dairy effluent project for the Williams River Catchment

Dairy farmer John Hooke explaining his new system to Joe Thompson from Hunter Local land Services and fellow dairy farmer Ken Fisher from Salisbury. Photo. Supplied
Dairy farmer John Hooke explaining his new system to Joe Thompson from Hunter Local land Services and fellow dairy farmer Ken Fisher from Salisbury. Photo. Supplied

Hunter region dairy farmers involved in a $1.1 million dollar project to improve water quality in the Williams River are enjoying significant improvements in farm productivity.

13 dairies near Dungog participated in the three year Williams River Dairy Effluent and Farm Management Project, to upgrade on-farm effluent systems and develop better targeted fertiliser programs.

The partnership between Hunter Water, Hunter Local Land Services (LLS) and local dairy farmers aimed to reduce dairy effluent risks to the region’s drinking water supply, while boosting farm productivity.

72 year old farmer John Hooke has worked his family dairy for 55 years, and is impressed with the outcomes of the project.

“Most of us had pretty outdated systems and the downturn in the milk industry meant we didn’t have available finance to cover the costs of the necessary effluent system upgrades,” Mr Hooke said.

“Thanks to Hunter Water and Hunter Local Land Services we were provided the financial assistance to help with the works, which has had a positive benefit for the catchment as well as our own properties.”

Mr Hooke has already noticed improved pasture conditions, through a boost to nitrogen and phosphorous levels in his soil, where the recycled effluent is being used to help grow feed.

Water Quality Scientist John Simpson said Hunter Water’s project partnership with Local Land Services is a great example of how public agencies and farmers can work together to deliver projects with real benefits for both the dairy farmers, the environment and drinking water supplies.

“The aim of the project from the beginning was to help dairy farmers improve productivity along with benefits to river water quality,” Mr Simpson said. “We look forward to finding other innovative ways to partner with the community to achieve win-win outcomes.”

The waste effluent was redirected to keep valuable nutrients on farm, allowing farmers to adjust their fertiliser programs and reduce associated costs. The group was also engaged in Dairy Australia’s Fert$mart program that bases effective fertiliser management on soil test results.

Hunter Local Land Services project manager, Col Freeman said the farmers made a significant contribution that has had direct benefits to the Williams River catchment.

“The dairy farmers invested over $300,000 between them to bring their effluent management systems up to the highest industry standards, and it’s great to see this level of commitment to the future of their businesses and the dairy industry,” Mr Freeman said.