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Turning precious water into nutritious milk

JUSTIN Staley has access to more water than most dairy farmers, but that doesn’t mean he wastes a drop.

The Legendairy farmer from Yarram has the right to use bore and river water to irrigate his family’s 430 acre farm, which means he can grow enough grass to sustain a 670 strong dairy herd.

It’s a situation that means, even in a dry season like the current one, Justin, his wife Stacee and parents Neville and Michelle can still produce plenty of the milk for which Gippsland is famous.

“Right now we are about 550,000 litres up on last year,” he said.

“With the irrigation combined with it being hotter and drier, we are able to grow more grass on the farm.”

Justin’s appreciation of the irrigation allocation – and his parents’ foresight in purchasing water-rights and sinking bores – means he strives to maximise the potential of every litre.

Efficient sprinkler systems and water re-use initiatives in the dairy shed mean that there is little wastage on the farm and plenty of grass grown for the Holstein herd.

Six pivot sprinklers combine with lateral irrigators to get water onto grass when it is most needed and to optimise growth.

“It’s just about better utilisation of the water so we can grow more grass with less water instead of wasting it,” Justin said.

Underground water is metered, with the Staleys having to keep within their annual entitlement. This helps ensure there is enough water for other farmers to use, as well as helping to maintain sustainable levels for the environment. 

In the dairy shed, which boasts a 50-unit rotary milker, all water usage is monitored to ensure no wastage occurs.

“We are a pretty low water-use dairy,” Jason said.

“We don’t have hoses running for the whole milking, we turn it on more sporadically when we’re washing the platform to keep it more water efficient.”

“We’ve also have a re-use flood wash so that once it has been through the dairy and down to the settling pond we could pump it back up.”

“Our plate cooler also re-uses the water straight back into a tank.”

Justin said a dry 18 month period had focused attention on water use – even on a farm with access to irrigation allocations.

“We are probably more aware of water usage and just how valuable it is, especially in a year like this,” he said.