Turning effluent into profit

Local farmer utilises cattle waste to add to green pastures

A farmer in Heathmere near Portland has innovated with a cocktail of water in an effluent separation program to add value to his pastures. Surrylea Farm's supplies the Murray Goulburn Co-Op with milk run by Casey Taylor and his family who look after 450 cross-bred Jerseys and Friesians for milking, on 415 hectares of pastureland.

Casey is serious about farming and wants to exact every ounce of ‘white gold’ from their property. Casey explained how they began to look at more effective ways of using their summer fodder crops in conjunction with an effluent separation program using the Bauer Rainstar which irrigates their pastures — but like others who have found the need to value-add to their properties, Surrylea turned effluent into good use.

“We chose the Bauer irrigator in our program because the hard effluent was quite acidic, and their product is made of galvanised and stainless steel parts,” said Casey. The farm produces 500 to 520 kilograms of milk solids per cow from a pasture-based system. They collect the effluent from the dairy through the feed pad and laneways, and then it is gravity fed into catchment ponds. It is a relatively inexpensive process that ends up mixing with the water sprayed from Bauer’s Rainstar onto fodder crops consisting of turnips, rape and millet, as well as the pasture.

Effectively, they work on irrigating between 16 and 20 hectares per season with the idea of rotating over three years. This also helps to avoid a build up of nutrients in the soil. The system has been operating for five years now and the first block of 16 hectares has not required any phosphorus, potassium or sulphur fertilisers for four years. “If we find too much potassium, we can manage this by silage crops and applying different grazing intervals,” explained Casey.

The Taylors are thrilled with the savings they gain through this process with fertiliser savings ‘well and truly covering labour and associated running costs’. These cost savings would include power, and maintenance as well as the additional feed they can grow which is their return on investment. With the system in place the farm can guarantee 10 tonnes of dry matter per hectare from a summer crop. And to replace this feed with lucerne hay would cost them about $350 a dry tonne or $3,000 per hectare on the 16 hectares they irrigate each season.

The Taylors have brought Surrylea through an expansion phase with other innovative ideas but it will take three or four more years of consolidation and fine tuning of the system to realise even greater yields from the Heathmere property.
Casey grew up on Surrylea and is in partnership with his parents Peter and Wendy, and apart from tinkering with old Holdens he loves to go camping and being with his wife Bonnie and children Jack and Banjo.