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Published: 2012-02-29 00:00:00

More than 500 farmers have again attended this year’s Effluent Expo, held at Mystery Creek yesterday, maintaining the very solid interest shown at last year’s inaugural expo.

They were able to see more than 40 exhibitors at the event, organised by Waikato Regional Council and sponsored by DairyNZ. That compares to 25 exhibitors at last year’s expo which focused on dairying.

This year’s expo was promoted more widely in South Auckland and Bay of Plenty, as well as the Waikato, and invitations had also been opened up to pork industry exhibitors.

“It’s great to see so many farmers from various sectors coming to see and hear about better ways to manage their farm effluent so that they can use it to increase profits and protect the environment at the same time,” said expo organiser Kate Ody, an agriculture advisor at the regional council.

The holding of the expo came as the regional council is looking to do more to protect water quality and water resources in the Waikato from the impacts of intensive agriculture, especially nutrients and bacteria from dairying and other livestock farming.

The day featured a range of seminars presented by industry experts on effluent issues.

Presenter David Houlbrooke of AgResearch said he had calculated the nutrient value of farm dairy effluent was $1.80 a cubic metre, meaning many thousands of dollars worth of nutrients were available for spreading on farms for promoting pasture growth. He said it was important to manage effluent applications so the nutrients stayed in the root zone. Effluent systems - including storage capacity - that delivered the right amount of nutrients at the right time were crucial, while different soil types were a key factor in determining how fast nutrients went through the soil.

The regional council’s on-farm programme manager Natasha Hayward told her seminar audience that there was increased community and iwi concern about direct effluent discharges to waterways, and the council was encouraging farmers to move away from this practice. Generally speaking, the council was only giving direct discharge consents under stricter conditions, and was promoting effluent spreading on land. “Land application does not require a consent as long as farmers follow our permitted activity rules,” said Ms Hayward.

DairyNZ project manager for effluent services Dr Theresa Wilson said farmers attended to get advice on upgrading effluent systems and constructing effluent ponds.

“Being able to put farmers in touch with the four newly accredited effluent system design companies was a big plus, and our farmer guides to effluent pond design and construction were in hot demand.”

DairyNZ consulting officer Wayne Berry told farmers “smart water” use practices could help optimise water use and create less effluent. Improved stock handling practices could reduce the amount of effluent produced.

Ms Ody said the continuing success of the Effluent Expo indicated another event would be held next year. “I’d like to congratulate farmers and the agriculture sector for the interest they have taken in the expo and being part of a great day. It’s been an excellent way of sharing information about a range of matters to do with managing effluent better to maximise profits and protect our waterways.”