Upgrade: Effluent management systems
1180 cows over three farms
"The farms are now more efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly for the future"
Tainui Group Holdings engaged Waikato Milking Systems to upgrade the effluent management systems across three of its dairy farms in the Waikato.
The project started in 2017 and included the company’s Hukanui, Punawai and Tainui Rd dairy properties.
A fourth dairy farm, Mangatea, was already up to spec for effluent management.
Work on the two-year upgrade programme was completed in August 2019.
Hukanui and Tainui Rd had been owned by Tainui Group Holdings for more than 30 years while Mangatea and Punawai had been purchased over the past two-to-three years.
Tainui Group Holdings Primary Industries Manager Mark Jackways said all three of the dairy property upgrades had different systems installed, such as tanks, lined pond, unlined/sealed ponds.
The company also upgraded its effluent irrigation systems for the farms, to prevent over irrigating the land.
“Each farm had different characteristics so you need to design a system to meet those unique conditions.
“We needed to be compliant with regional council but also with our supplier Fonterra, we needed to make sure we had safe systems in place with increased capacity for storage.”
Punawai was the first of the three farms to be upgraded. It is 85 hectares and has 220 cows, producing 65,000 kgMS a year.
“Punawai was first because it had the most risk. We bought that farm in a run-down state.
“The effluent system was one of the first things that needed urgent attention, it needed to be upgraded quickly.
“It had an unlined pond on the side of a hill which was not ideal. The solution was to put in a tank system.
“Punawai also had a new gravel trap, pump and stirrer, an extended irrigation area and a new irrigator,” Mark said.
Hukanui was next. It is 105 hectares and has a herd of 330 cows, producing 120,000 kgMS a year.
It had a clay-lined pond in good condition which didn’t need upgrading.
But improvements included relocation and upgrade of the pump and stirrer system to the current pond, installation of a new gravel trap and an extension to the area that can be irrigated, and a new irrigator.
The final upgrade project was at Tainui Rd Dairy. It is 250 hectares and has a herd of 630 cows, producing 200,000 kgMS a year.
It was upgraded with a new sump in the milking shed and a new gravel trap, new pump and stirrer and a new large, lined effluent pond to replace two smaller ponds.
Mangatea, already compliant, is 200 hectares and has a herd of 570 cows, producing 180,000 kgMS a year.
Mark said apart from meeting compliance requirements, the farms would also benefit from lower fertiliser costs.
“We’ll be able to irrigate more of the land using effluent, reducing the need to use fertiliser.”
Mark said all the upgrades were designed and project-managed by Waikato Milking Systems, which is one-third owned by Tainui Group Holdings.
Waikato Milking Systems also supplied all of the equipment for the upgrades, Mark said.
“It has been a big investment for all the farms combined but it’s something we had to do, to be complaint and to be sustainable in the long term.
“We are a long-term player in the dairy industry, we’re going to be around for a long time.
“Better to get it done now properly so we don’t have to come back later on and replace things.”
Feedback from the managers using the new effluent systems had been positive.
“They don’t have to go around turning things on and off, so there’s not so much manual labour needed.
“It makes it easier for our managers to run their farms. The farms are now more efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly for the future.”
Mark encouraged other dairy farmers to “seek expert advice” to understand how to meet new effluent management regulations in their regions.
“Get in experts to provide advice. Design the best and most cost effective solution for your dairy,” Mark said.
- Travelling irrigators