Reap­ing re­wards of up­grade

Shepparton News - Country News - - GRASSLAND CONFERENCE -

Peter and Agnes Nolan have spent more than 30 years build­ing a dairy farm from scratch on their Katunga prop­erty af­ter mov­ing from Bal­larat.

They milk a herd of 350 cows on their 200 ha farm, and these ef­forts trans­late into 190 000 kg of milk solids which they sup­ply to Mur­ray Goul­burn each year.

So when the Goul­burnMur­ray Wa­ter Con­nec­tions project ap­proached them about three years ago to dis­cuss farm mod­erni­sa­tion ini­tia­tives, Mr Nolan was happy to con­sider what it could mean for the prop­erty.

A three-year plan was agreed so work could take place in stages — which saw the prop­erty’s aged ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture ra­tio­nalised and a new con­nec­tion to the mod­ernised sys­tem im­ple­mented.

‘‘There was a lot of pre­plan­ning work,’’ Mr Nolan said.

He said this in­volved decommissioning of a ma­jor spur chan­nel and re­moval of 11 Dethridge wheels to al­low a con­nec­tion to the back­bone chan­nel and in­stal­la­tion of two au­to­mated me­ters.

‘‘It’s made run­ning the farm a lot eas­ier, there’s bet­ter wa­ter flow — and mod­erni­sa­tion adds value to the farm,’’ he said.

‘‘We had good con­trac­tors — they were easy to work with.

‘‘We also ap­plied for an on­farm ef­fi­ciency grant and in­vested a sig­nif­i­cant amount of our own funds to im­prove our on-farm pro­duc­tiv­ity.’’

He said re­duc­ing the num­ber of out­lets and get­ting a bet­ter flow rate had been worth­while.

‘‘The flow rate has im­proved so much with mod­erni­sa­tion of the chan­nels from the back­bone. They’re in good con­di­tion,’’ he said.

‘‘Phys­i­cally it’s also eas­ier for me; I don’t have to bend down as much to get to the out­lets.’’

In­stead, the wa­ter is re­leased by ‘‘the touch of a but­ton at Tatura’’ once the wa­ter or­der has been placed.

Mr Nolan said he in­tended to fur­ther au­to­mate his farm, how­ever last year’s shock fall in dairy prices has slowed the pace of change.

G-MW man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Pat Len­non said the Con­nec­tions project team, led by project di­rec­tor Frank Fis­seler, had spent $100 mil­lion on win­ter works this sea­son across a range of projects in the Goul­burn Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict.

‘‘The $2 bil­lion Con­nec­tions project is vi­tal for our re­gion and north­ern Vic­to­ria to build a sus­tain­able fu­ture for our cus­tomers, farm­ers and com­mu­ni­ties,’’ Mr Len­non said.

Mr Fis­seler said it was great to see out­comes be­ing achieved for ir­ri­ga­tors and the project it­self.

‘‘We’re look­ing for­ward to see­ing how mod­erni­sa­tion through the project can ben­e­fit more farm­ers as it con­tin­ues to move for­ward,’’ he said.

‘‘There has been so much hap­pen­ing dur­ing our Win­ter Works pro­gram this year and it will mean more ir­ri­ga­tors will ben­e­fit from the mod­erni­sa­tion this sea­son.’’

This in­cludes 35 km of pipe­line at seven sites, re­me­di­a­tion of 33 km of ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels and chan­nel au­toma­tion at more than 271 sites.

In September last year, Wa­ter Min­is­ter Lisa Neville of­fi­cially re-set the Con­nec­tions project to se­cure the re­gion’s ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, fol­low­ing the re­lease of a mid-term re­view.

The re­set in­cluded an im­proved de­liv­ery model and in­creased trans­parency and cer­tainty for landown­ers.

Happy with mod­erni­sa­tion . . . Peter and Agnes Nolan on their Katunga prop­erty.

Eas­ier to run . . . Peter Nolan is get­ting bet­ter flow rates on his Katunga prop­erty and says run­ning the farm is much eas­ier fol­low­ing mod­erni­sa­tion works.

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