Larger herds of cows and changing farming practices are causing problems for some farmers trying to manage dairy effluent in the Waikato.
Environment Waikato Regulatory Committee chairman Jim Howland said farmers were running larger herds and introducing intensive feeding regimes but in some cases failing to upgrade their effluent management to cope. Many were using feed pads and stand-off pads frequently without considering the effects of increased and changed effluent.
The type of effluent created by cows on a feed pad was quite different – it contained less water, more solids, fibrous material, maize silage and other feed additives. The change was enough to create odour problems downwind for neighbours, and Environment Waikato had received a number of complaints.
“The smell is more industrial, almost a brewery smell, and is much more bothersome for neighbours. A few years ago the average Waikato herd was about 180 cows while now it is around 240 and the average is constantly being pushed up.
“Farm amalgamation means two or three farms are joining together and the effluent systems and management often aren’t upgraded as they should be.”
He said the Council had had to initiate prosecution of a couple of farmers and sharemilkers recently for effluent discharges, which harmed the environment.
“Some farmers are paying inadequate attention to effluent disposal and are often building feed pads without considering the effects. They need to ensure they have treatment facilities appropriate to their situation.”
He said more effluent was being left around milking sheds without being hosed down, resulting in silting and pugging. Farmers intending to increase herd size could talk to Environment Waikato staff or their farm advisor for initial advice on good practice for effluent management.
“In the last 10 years in the Waikato we’ve gone from 80 percent effluent treatment by pond and discharge to water, to 80 percent land irrigation. But some farmers are not always considering wider effluent management issues herd sizes can create.
“It is pleasing to see that Fonterra are discussing on-farm environmental performance with their shareholders and the industry is taking leadership on these issues. Environment Waikato staff are always happy to provide advice.” Cr Howland said.