Un­der the pump, Acocks found a win­ning so­lu­tion

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I WRITE to ex­press my ap­pre­ci­a­tion to the Rochester and dis­trict com­mu­ni­ties for their sup­port of the RSL dur­ing our re­cent Poppy Ap­peal.

Wher­ever we were sell­ing these pre­cious to­kens we re­ceived great sup­port from very gen­er­ous peo­ple. Also thanks to those who sold pop­pies on our be­half; REDHS, Cal­tex ser­vice sta­tion, Mur­ray Goul­burn store and Rochester Ho­tel.

Sales from these to­kens and as­so­ci­ated mem­o­ra­bilia en­ables the RSL to con­tinue its work car­ing for ex-ser­vice­man, their fam­i­lies and their de­pen­dants.

As the ru­ral cri­sis wors­ens, we ex­pect to add more re­cip­i­ents to these wel­fare ac­tiv­i­ties and the sup­port of a gen­er­ous and car­ing com­mu­nity is vi­tal to al­low these func­tions to con­tinue.

We in Rochester RSL are proud of the sup­port given to us by our lo­cal prin­ci­pal com­mu­ni­ties of Rochester, Nan­neella and Lock­ing­ton; we are the envy of other sub-branches.

John Glover RFD, pres­i­dent Rochester RSL TOM Acocks’ rea­son­ing for in­vest­ing time, ef­fort and money into a new ir­ri­ga­tion con­nec­tion is sim­ple.

“We wanted to grow more feed for the cows. This set up guar­an­tees feed,” Mr Acocks said.

In 2011 the Campaspe Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict was de­com­mis­sioned leav­ing about 110ha of the Rochester dairy farm with­out ac­cess to wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion.

It was a de­ci­sion that af­fected the dairy farm­ing busi­ness’ abil­ity to grow enough feed for their cows, so the fam­ily got to work find­ing a so­lu­tion.

But be­cause of a so­lu­tion Mr Acocks helped plan and de­sign, a new con­nec­tion to the river was es­tab­lished.

For that he was recog­nised as one of the coun­try’s most in­no­va­tive farm­ers at the 2016 Ru­ral Wa­ter Awards.

He was named re­gional win­ner of the sur­face wa­ter cat­e­gory.

Af­ter much plan­ning and de­sign­ing in 2011, farm­ers, in­clud­ing Mr Acocks, es­tab­lished a new con­nec­tion to the Campaspe River, which now al­lows them to di­vert wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion.

Wa­ter is now pumped from the river, through a pres­surised pipe sys­tem to two cen­tre pivot ir­ri­ga­tors.

The pro­ject al­lows them to dou­ble crop the sec­tion of land se­cur­ing feed for the herd.

“The cen­tre piv­ots al­low us to pro­duce two fod­der crops a year,” he said.

“One be­ing sum­mer maize for silage and the other is a win­ter legume for pro­tein for­age.

“Com­bined, this al­lows us to pro­duce 30 tonnes of dry mat­ter per hectare per year.

“By us­ing a spray sys­tem, in­stead of flood ir­ri­ga­tion, we’re also sav­ing be­tween four and five me­gal­itres of wa­ter/ha/year.”

Tom and his wife Emma, along with his par­ents Mick and Heather, milk an 850-strong Friesian herd in a 50-stand ro­tary dairy.

Grow­ing pro­duce for the herd is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for the fam­ily who feed fod­der crops on an un­der­cover feed­pad rather than re­ly­ing on pas­ture.

“This sys­tem that al­lows us to grow more feed, us­ing less wa­ter,” Mr Acocks said.

“But the sys­tem is more com­plex that just sav­ing wa­ter.

“We’re in­vested in wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture, but we’ve also spent on ma­chin­ery and fa­cil­i­ties to ac­tu­ally feed the cows.”

There are fur­ther ben­e­fits cre­ated by a sys­tem that can be re­motely op­er­ated.

“Very lit­tle labour is re­quired to ir­ri­gate a large par­cel of land,” he said.

“We’ve even started ir­ri­gat­ing while on hol­i­days.

“This sys­tem gives us the abil­ity to get wa­ter to the crop when and where it’s needed.

“Maize is ir­ri­gated on a seven day ro­ta­tion and we’re us­ing 0.8ML/ha through the spray sys­tem, com­pared to about 1.1 to 1.5ML/ha for flood ir­ri­ga­tion.”

The fam­ily has a fur­ther 1400ha of land with ac­cess to wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion through the grav­ity ir­ri­ga­tion net­work.

The awards are open to all Vic­to­rian ru­ral wa­ter li­cense hold­ers and aim to recog­nise and re­ward peo­ple who are do­ing great things with wa­ter.

GMW Gen­eral Man­ager of Cus­tomer Op­er­a­tions Scott Bar­ber con­grat­u­lated the award win­ners say­ing they were a fan­tas­tic dis­play of in­no­va­tive and ef­fi­cient wa­ter use.

“While we al­ready know our cus­tomers are some of the best in the coun­try, these awards prove it,” Mr Bar­ber said.

As a re­gional win­ner they will re­ceive a cash prize of $500 and are now in the run­ning to win the $2000 state award.

Tom Acocks at his dairy farm.

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