Leading Environmental Practices

Leading Natural Resource Stewardship

Changing community expectations on what is a reasonable ‘duty of care’ of our natural resources, primarily land, water and vegetation, have led to the need for the dairy industry to demonstrate good stewardship of the resources under its management.

Dairy farmers in the Murray Dairy region can do that.

Murray Dairy has led this process on three broad fronts: policy, research and development and support to farmers for on ground works.

Leadership

Changing community expectations on what is a reasonable ‘duty of care’ of our natural resources, primarily land, water and vegetation, have led to the need for the dairy industry to demonstrate good stewardship of the resources under its management.

Dairy farmers in the MD region can do that.

Murray Dairy has led this process on three broad fronts: policy, research and development and support to farmers for on ground works.

Policy

Catchment Management Authorities are the primary policy setter for NRM and the dairy industry has been actively involved in their organisations from board level to working groups, to influence policy that ensures the resources are managed sustainably (good for current and future generations).

Dairy farmers sit on the three Victorian CMAs relevant to the MD region (Goulburn Broken, North Central and North East), but not yet on the newly formed Murray CMA in NSW.

Research & development

Murray Dairy collaborates with key agencies to ensure dairy farmers in their region are prepared for the future.

Examples of this are research with Department of Primary Industries (DPI) on water use efficiency of maize production under different technologies, future farming systems seeking more productively efficient pastures, better matching of soils with irrigation system and with the Murray Darling Basin Commission, investigating a system that demonstrates how well resources are managed (an important piece of work toward being prepared for question from markets, resource managers and the community about this subject).

This important work described an Environmental Stewardship System that is informing many other processes such as DairyGains, that is developing an approach to achieving and demonstrating 100 per cent compliance of dairy farmers with effluent management requirements.

Initiatives

Dairy farmers across the region have demonstrated their leadership in farm works.

A good example is across the Shepparton Irrigation Region (SIR) between 1991 and 2005.

The area covered by Whole Farm Plans for broadacre irrigation went from 38,000ha to 208,100ha.

Most of the broadacre irrigation is dairying or supporting industries (e.g. feed production).

Other works include irrigation tailwater reuse systems (about 3,000 across the SIR, most of which are dairy farmers); landforming and lasergrading; fencing of waterways; tree planting; groundwater pumping and reuse for watertable control.

All these practices on individual farms combine to combat the very real challenges facing the region, e.g. land salinisation resulting from high watertables which are added to by irrigation accessions from less than optimal water management and water quality problems from salinity and nutrients discharging from farms into the waterways.

However, that is not all as the community collaboration has also resulted in around 500 km of community surface water management systems (CWSMS) that take excess rainfall away from farms and avoid production losses from waterlogging and the associated accessions to district watertables.

As described by an involved dairy farmer “CSWMS are a fundamental success to the future of the dairy industry”.         

Significantly, due to the flat terrain and irrigation infrastructure, there are also very affordable and effective ways of containing effluent from the dairy shed, feed pads and laneways on farms, which is a strong competitive advantage of the area.