At the Core of farm improvements

With twenty-five years’ experience and an agriculture degree, Ron Paynter knows a thing or two about farming. Even so, he says the day-to-day pressures of running a farm stop him from implementing all the systems and procedures he’d like to.

Fortunately, programs like the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority’s (WGCMA) CORE 4 offer a helping hand for landholders. For Ron, getting involved in CORE 4 was a chance to identify the best opportunities for upgrading his farm.

Working alongside his wife Kath – a biological scientist – Ron has expanded his Ellinbank dairy farm from 200 to 400 acres and now produces 1.6 million litres of milk every year.

As part of a recent West Gippsland Sustainable Agriculture tour, the couple hosted a group of representatives from government agencies and catchment management authorities across the state, to showcase the opportunities the CORE 4 program provided them.

“There’s a lot of things we’d like to do, and we aren’t lacking in information or the capacity to understand,” said Ron.

“However, we simply can’t do everything. This is not a model farm, we’re pretty typical and we’re continually under pressure.”

Getting involved in the CORE 4 program allowed them to identify their biggest opportunities and priorities. After working with the agronomist, Ron and Kath focused on upgrading their cow yard and installing an effluent pit.

The dairy shed is now bordered by a new concrete cobblestone walk that provides secure footing for the cows and stops effluent washing into the nearest waterway. The sloping design of the walkway, plus a high-volume cleaning pump, directs the effluent into a pit at the bottom of the holding pen and then into the ponds.

“We use the ponds to provide water and nutrients, which has been particularly useful over the recent dry summers,” said Ron.

“The nutrients in the effluent are extremely valuable to us and they complement our fertiliser program.”

As well as providing a financial benefit, keeping the effluent on-site has implications for the wider environment. As the Paynter farm is situated at the top of the catchment for the Gippsland Lakes, their Natural Resource Management Plan can potentially have an impact up to a hundred kilometres away.

“Run-off from this farm ends up in the Gippsland Lakes, so keeping the effluent on site is not just a benefit to us,” explained Ron.

“It can improve the water quality and the health of our rivers and lakes, and that’s important.”

“We always try and do the right thing but like most farmers, the upfront capital investment can be a significant barrier to making a change. CORE 4 funding helped remove that hurdle for us.”

CORE 4 was designed by farmers for farmers. Working with a local agronomist, each farmer can tailor a plan that identifies the risks unique to their farm, as well as potential activities to reduce the risk of nutrient loss.

The current CORE 4 program in the Macalister Irrigation District is supported by West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the Victorian State Government for the health of the Gippsland Lakes.

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Visit to dairy farm in Ellinbank
Ron Paynter explains the new concrete cobblestone walk installed on his Ellinbank dairy farm as part of the CORE 4 program