Managing effluent is a year-round activity on farm. In this first column in the series, DairyNZ’s effluent expert Logan Bowler takes a look at some of the key things dairy farmers can do to ensure they remain compliant every single day.

Don’t leave it too late in the season to empty your effluent storage pond.

As with most things onfarm, good management is extremely important, and the same applies to your effluent pond to ensure you always have adequate storage available when you need it most, winter and spring.

Most of you are doing a great job at keeping on top of this, but remember it’s a task that requires constant attention.

Now is a good time to be pumping your effluent pond down as often as possible, while the warm weather ensures soil conditions are dry enough to mitigate the risk of run-off or leaching into waterways.

The bonus with irrigating your effluent this time of year is that it will help with pasture growth and reduce the amount of fertiliser you need to apply. Just continue to keep a close eye to ensure you are doing this in accordance with your region’s rules and consent.

You really should be aiming to irrigate every day weather and soil conditions are suitable to get your levels down before autumn and winter. I’m sure most farmers have been doing this already over the last two months and this comes as simply a reminder.

However, for those who perhaps haven’t had a chance to grasp every opportunity to empty their effluent pond over the last few months, I recommend making this a priority before wet weather limits their opportunity to do so.

After-all, we never know what autumn has in store for us. If it’s a wet one and you haven’t kept on top of emptying your effluent pond, they’ll be on the back foot heading into winter and I don’t want to see anyone in that situation.

Let’s look at the numbers: A few of you might be thinking, I’ve got heaps of time, what’s the rush?

Let me give you an example to really put in perspective why it’s important to start the process early.

A farmer with a 400-cow farm, with average effluent pump rates, would need about 30 days to empty a 2 million litre effluent pond (40m x 40m). That’s not too bad right?

Remember, this doesn’t include effluent continuing to be generated in the milking shed. If we factor that in, that’s another 1.2 million litres, which requires 42 days.

Build in rainfall, let’s say 100mm over six weeks, preventing irrigation and adding another 0.25 million litres to the effluent pond, and we’re up to 48 days.

You can see how the situation can quickly escalate.

If that farmer left it until early March to start emptying their effluent pond, the process would take until mid-April, and that’s only if they had the right weather conditions.

If they waited until the beginning of April, the chances of getting their effluent pond empty before late autumn rains hit is extremely remote.

So, make emptying your pond a priority this summer so you’re prepared for whatever winter throws at you.

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