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Published: 2005-02-17 00:00:00

A series of workshops on farm effluent management will be held throughout the Waikato this month.

The workshops have been organised by Dexcel, in conjunction with Fonterra and Environment Waikato as part of the Regional Action Plan for the Clean Streams Accord. The Accord, signed in May 2003, focuses on improving environmental performance of dairy farms nationwide, with particular local focus in the Waikato on riparian management, farm dairy effluent and nutrient management.

The workshops follow Dexcel and Fonterra’s publication of a guide to managing farm dairy effluent, which was sent to every Fonterra supplier just before Christmas. Farmers will be able to ask questions about collection of effluent, pumping mechanisms, pond design and land application. Staff from Dexcel, Fonterra and Environment Waikato will be present to discuss industry and Council directions.

Mike Bramley, from Dexcel’s Environment and Animal Welfare team said managing farm dairy effluent effectively was just another part of managing farm business.

“We recognize that farmers need good quality advice that fits well with existing on-farm activities, hence our decision to promote the effluent management guidebook by way of a number of workshops, in a farmer-friendly learning environment.”

Mr Bramley said that while many farmers effluent systems may have been adequate when first installed, increasing herd sizes and the use of feedpads had stretched the ability of some of these systems to cope with farm effluent. Farm staff turnover meant new staff could be unfamiliar with good management practices for farm effluent.

“Farmers who have management practices or effluent systems that don’t meet the rules face all sorts of problems such as pasture nutritional imbalances, weed infestation and bore water contamination, let alone the legal risks of being caught breaking the rules,” Mr Bramley said.

“We want farmers to have the information they need before they find themselves in trouble with the authorities.”

Environment Waikato has also recently changed compliance monitoring practices, with more random monitoring to start this season.

Environment Waikato’s Environmental Services Manager Rob Dragten said that in the past, it suspected some farmers only tidied up their systems when the inspector made the appointment to come and check it.

“As a result, we have started doing random monitoring of both pond and irrigation based systems this year. Farmers need to be aware that they could be monitored at any time, and if they are found to be breaking the law, the farmer, the sharemilker and the farm workers all potentially face infringement notices or prosecution.”

Mr Dragten said that Dexcel’s effluent workshops were particularly timely, as the early indications of the random monitoring completed so far was disappointing.
“We have undertaken some helicopter surveillance of effluent systems, and it was disappointing to see evidence of recurring holding pond overflows and excessive application of effluent from irrigators on a number of properties.”

“There is no getting around the fact that allowing effluent to get into waterways is illegal, irrespective of whether the effluent is from a holding pond, an irrigator or a raceway. It’s a risk to both human health and environmental quality,” he said.

“We are fully supportive of Fonterra and Dexcel in raising the profile of effluent management, and offering free advice to farmers through these workshops.”