De­liv­er­ing ef­fi­ciency

The Tatura Guardian - - People - By Rod­ney Woods

The ef­fi­cient use of wa­ter is key to se­cur­ing the fu­ture of the dairy in­dus­try in the Goul­burn Val­ley, ac­cord­ing to Tatura farmer Dun­can Craw­ford.

The fourth-gen­er­a­tion farmer was an early adopter of the Farm Wa­ter Pro­gram, rolled out by the Goul­burn Bro­ken Catch­ment Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity.

His most re­cent par­tic­i­pa­tion, in round three of the pro­gram, re­sulted in the in­stal­la­tion of a cen­tre pivot ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem.

Buy­ing a 48 ha cen­tre pivot, which ir­ri­gates land pre­vi­ously used to grow peren­nial pas­ture, al­lowed Mr Craw­ford to in­crease his farm’s dry mat­ter pro­duc­tion.

‘‘With the use of the pivot we’ve been able to in­crease our dry mat­ter pro­duc­tion/ Ml of wa­ter,’’ Mr Craw­ford said.

‘‘It’s al­lowed us to grow a higher value crop on an area we used to grow lower yield­ing peren­nial pas­ture.’’

He said the old ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem on the pad­dock was in­ef­fi­cient and time­con­sum­ing.

‘‘The ex­ist­ing ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture was poor and we re­ally strug­gled to pro­duce much at all. Hav­ing the pivot al­lows us to have se­cu­rity sur­round­ing our yields,’’ he said.

The works were sched­uled as part of Mr Craw­ford’s long-term farm plan. But he said with­out funds from the Farm Wa­ter Pro­gram, it would have taken years to find the money.

‘‘It would have been five years be­fore we raised the funds. It was great to get it bowled over in one hit,’’ he said.

‘‘Our abil­ity toman­age the wa­ter onto the pad­dock has been the main ad­van­tage. We’re able to do more pre­ci­sion agri­cul­ture now.’’

With the sys­tem mod­erni­sa­tion com­plete for now, Mr Craw­ford is able to grow three tonnes of dry mat­ter for ev­ery me­gal­itre of wa­ter he puts on the pad­dock.

‘‘It’s a fan­tas­tic re­sult — com­pared with the old days when we were putting on one me­gal­itre of wa­ter and grow­ing one tonne of dry mat­ter.’’

With the dairy in­dus­try pre­car­i­ously po­si­tioned due to fall­ing milk prices, the fa­ther of three pre­dicted only farm­ers who were smart about their wa­ter use would last the dis­tance.

‘‘With wa­ter be­ing so valu­able we have to be wise where we use it and putting it onto high-value, wa­ter­ef­fi­cient plants like maize and lucerne is the di­rec­tion we need to go in the fu­ture,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve seen tem­po­rary wa­ter go from $80 to $300 to $800, so who knows what the fu­ture holds?

‘‘The work we’ve done se­cures a feed base and we know we’ve got a cut-off point that we can en­ter the tem­po­rary mar­ket to put wa­ter onto the pad­dock, safe in the knowl­edge that it’s go­ing to pay for it­self.’’

The Farm Wa­ter Pro­gram, de­liv­ered by a con­sor­tium led by Goul­burn Bro­ken CMA, has now funded more than 600 in­di­vid­ual ir­ri­ga­tor projects worth more than $160 mil­lion over five rounds.

Long-term plan pays off: Tatura farmer Dun­can Craw­ford.

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