The event showcased Andrew & Linda’s composting system and how they managed effluent and fertilisers efficiently on their dryland dairy farm. Visitors to the farm field day (in Simpson, south west Victoria) listened to guest speakers provide information on how the farm was transformed into a highly productive business and best practice management guidelines on utilising fertiliser and effluent.
It was important to Andrew and Linda that the farming system was designed with lifestyle in mind. Whilst working hard to achieve their goals the plan is to have a system which provides personal satisfaction. Time saving is important and utilising the feed pad has saved on labour requirements to feed cows in the paddock. The feed pad also offers opportunity to reduce wastage of forage during paddock feed out. Even at 10% saving this equates to 80 tons of forage a year.
The high level of purchased feeds (significant import of nutrient into the farm system) is complemented by the composting process. Andrew and Linda decided that it was beneficial to invest in to work on promoting better root development in pasture and build the humus in the soil. The system evolved overt time which aims to promote better soil. The compost system uses dairy effluent, wood chips and sometimes chook manure and they use service providers to ‘turn’ the compost rows and to spread the compost onto paddocks.
Soil tests are conducted annually so nutrient levels are monitored.
The range of information and activities was very eventful. A $30,000 microscope provided by Camperdown Compost Company gave participants an opportunity to see whats living in soils including fungal feeding nematodes! There was also information provided on how to compost dead livestock and return the nutrients back to the farm.
Simpson dairy farmers Rob Methven and James Guy were among those to take a glimpse inside the microscopic world of the soil and tour the farm’s effluent system, feed pad area and compost system. Mr. Methven said the microscope had opened his eyes to the intricate nature of the soil and the remainder of the program had broadened his thinking. “We’ve got to be open to new ideas so it’s important for us to know how soils work.” He said.
According to Mr. Guy, the field day was the first he had attended in several years. “I haven’t been to one for a while but it’s been fantastic,” he said. “It’s one of my main priorities to get the most out of my soils and hopefully save on fertiliser costs.”
The Camperdown Compost Company provided information on composting on a large scale and how this ‘recycling’ system can benefit soils and therefore improve pasture production.
Department of Primary Industries Dairy Extension Officers Michele Ryan and Rachael Campbell provided a range of valuable and practical information on taking soil tests, understanding soil tests, managing wet soils, figuring out fertilisers, acid soils, testing effluent ponds and using dairy sludge.
Simpson, south west Victoria
Louise Sheba, Dairying for Tomorrow Regional Coordinator