Get ‘em low – focus on emptying effluent storage ponds

Get ‘em low – focus on emptying effluent storage ponds

25 March 2019

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

As with most things on farm, 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 added 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 of you have been doing this already over the last two months and this comes as simply a reminder. However, for those of you who perhaps haven’t had a chance to grasp every opportunity to empty your effluent pond over the last few months, I recommend making this a priority over the remainder of summer before wet weather limits your 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, you’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, a 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.

For more information on managing effluent and storage volumes, visit dairynz.co.nz/effluent. Keep an eye out for the next installment of Logan Bowler's series on effluent in next month's issue.

By Logan Bowler, a DairyNZ environmental extension specialist and effluent management expert.

Meet DairyNZ’s effluent expert

DairyNZ environmental extension specialist Logan Bowler is an expert in helping dairy farmers manage effluent.

A dairy farmer himself, he understands the challenges first-hand. He and his partner Kathy Craw have a 230-cow farm in Marton, near Palmerston North.

Prior to joining DairyNZ in 2010, Logan was a compliance officer for Horizons Regional Council, a role which also gave him valuable insight into the regulations facing farmers.

He felt compelled to write this series following issues with effluent non-compliance in the Waikato. He says while the majority of dairy farmers are going a great job managing effluent on farm, others still have a way to go and need to step up. He hopes these columns provide some useful tips for farmers looking to improve their effluent management.

Article supplied by DairyNZ