More than 500 farmers have attended this year’s Effluent Expo in the Waikato, with many investing in water, effluent storage and application infrastructure.
The free expo, held at Claudelands in Hamilton on Tuesday (17 October), was organised by Waikato Regional Council with support from DairyNZ.
“Some of our 46 exhibitors have told us they got more business in one day than they did at this year’s Fieldays. This is great news for the environment, with farmers investing in key infrastructure as well as getting some useful information from the seminars,” said expo organiser and senior resource officer Hamish Smith, from Waikato Regional Council.
“I’d like to congratulate farmers and the agricultural sector more widely for being fully engaged and there with the sole purpose of learning and comparing different systems and products. Despite being a busy time of the year, the turnout showed there’s a real commitment to improving on farm management.”
Mr Smith added: “We’re yet to decide whether we’ll hold another similar event next year, but will spend the next few months considering what will best meet the changing needs of farmers working to improve their environmental impact.”
There were a number of seminars throughout the day which covered Waikato Regional Council monitoring, getting effluent storage volumes sorted, and extracting value out of farm dairy effluent.
Resource officer Scott Cantley highlighted some of the compliance issues the regional council farm monitoring officers encounter and how these impact overall farm compliance. The information he provided at the seminar aimed to help farmers prioritise their investment in key farm effluent infrastructure to achieve greater levels of compliance.
He also told attendees: “What’s really good to hear is that our monitoring officers are generally seeing an improvement in effluent infrastructure on farms right across the Waikato.”
DairyNZ’s environmental extension specialists Logan Bowler explained the three main inputs of the storage calculator that have the most impact on storage – the soil’s risk to run off or preferential drainage, water use in the dairy shed, and low application depths of effluent. He also showed the impacts of these on a “normal” dairy farm in the Morrinsville area.
“Farmers need to take ownership of the storage calculation modelling. They need to understand any changes to their effluent system that a designer might have included in a calculation, and how this might impact on their day to day management. Don’t let the designer just give one volume calculation – farmers need to see all the options open to them,” Mr Bowler told audiences.
The value of nutrients was the focus of the seminar by DairyNZ’s Nick Tait, an environmental extension specialist. He compared the value of nutrients to fertiliser prices and showed there was considerable nutrient and dollar value in effluent if well managed. He told farmers that getting effluent samples analysed for nutrient concentrations was cheap and easy and gives farmers valuable information.
Mr Tait also talked about testing irrigator application depths to know how much farmers are applying each pass and how to use DairyNZ’s easy effluent spreading app to calculate spreading depths and loadings.