5 Ways to Create an Effective Effluent System

Did you know that cows can produce up to $25 worth of nutrients annually? Multiply that by the average New Zealand herd of around 400 cows and you’ve got $10,000 worth of nutrients that can be re-used across your operation.

An effective effluent system identifies all of the areas that it can be collected from and redistributed to maximum effect; and in this planning stage you’ll likely require the help of a professional with experience in this field.

While investing in a custom-designed system that allows your operation to grow may sound like a no brainer, missing the basics can be a costly mistake. Here are 5 ways you can make sure yours is up to scratch.

1 – Make your land work for you

Whether your farm is flat, rolling or somewhere in between, using gravity to your advantage as well as the shape of your paddocks can create efficiencies across your system and protect your pastures.

Because water will fall and follow the direction gravity pulls it, it’s worth making this a consideration from the outset. When constructing storage ponds, why not set them lower than your paddocks or solids separators?

Putting the least stress on pumps as possible and working with the environment when designing a solution will pay off in the long run. 

2 – Recycle water wherever you can

As you may be aware, the concentration of nitrogen changes as effluent moves through your system. It can take on more water, especially via rainfall so designing a system that has sufficient capacity to handle all a farm’s effluent, when it’s needed, will let you effectively fertilise your pastures and prevent leaching and harmful runoff.

Using rainwater collection tanks and ponds, especially in wetter parts of New Zealand, can dramatically cut your reliance on this precious resource. And being able to use the collected water effectively with the right system, will manage the potential for overflow in places that experience excess rain. 

3 – Consider the scale of your operation

Having an effective system right now is great, but how might that system perform in 10 years’ time? Whether you see your farm increasing or decreasing its herd capacity, implementing a system that won’t become outdated is essential to maximising your investment.

4 – Get your staff up to speed 

A poorly designed system will create extra work for your staff, and when it’s calving season, or if someone’s absent or the system breaks down it’s important that everyone knows what to do and how the system works, and how to remedy any problems.

Getting everyone on the same page, from day one, includes at least an overview of how the farm’s effluent system works and what they should do in an emergency or breakdown. By training them to do minor servicing, testing and irrigation scheduling you will make them feel more valuable and loyal to your farm.

5 - Remain compliant at all times

Especially in light of recent reports and events, now more than ever is it imperative that farmers show they’re operating within the rules. Soil testing and preventing runoff are going to be two key themes in 2019 and making sure that any soil water deficit is managed to prevent exceeding its capacity is a team effort.

Soil moisture probes are relatively inexpensive, but they do need to be calibrated to your soil type by a qualified technician. Permanent ground sensors and fully integrated systems that take climate, irrigation and soil mapping data into account are available for more comprehensive results on larger operations.