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 48ha 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 time-consuming.
‘‘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 to manage 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, water-efficient 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 $160million over five rounds.