Partnering for healthy and productive catchments

With 1,400 dairy farms spread across the Gippsland region it makes sense for the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority to partner with the organisation that works with the region’s dairy farmers – GippsDairy/Dairy Australia.

Executive Officer at GippsDairy, Allan Cameron commented ‘We strive for profitable and sustainable farms and a reputable and vibrant dairy industry in our region, working with the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority certainly helps us achieve both of these objectives.’

The West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) recognises that it cannot singlehandedly protect, enhance and restore the region. ‘We will always rely on others to join us in our quest for integrated catchment management,’ said WGCMA Chief Executive Officer Martin Fuller. ‘A key focus for us is to work with a range of partners to achieve improved catchment health’.

Shared goals, open communication and proven benefits of partnering has sustained joint efforts between GippsDairy and WGCMA for more than fifteen years.

Dairy businesses rely on quality feed for milk production. Rain fed pastures provide the quality feed that drives the Gippsland dairy industry. Milk production in Gippsland is valued at three billion dollars and an estimated 6800 people are employed in dairy production across the region.

‘Rainfall that lands on any farm in Gippsland, makes its way down the river systems, often through wetlands and into our valued coastal zones. Management of dairying land plays a big part in catchment health and water quality.’ Martin Fuller explains.

Several successful projects highlight the benefits of the partnership between GippsDairy and the WGCMA.

Fert$mart

The delivery of the Fert$mart program is the most recent project between the two organisations. Fert$mart allows dairy farmers to assess their soils and most effectively apply nutrients to meet production needs whilst minimising nutrient losses to waterways.

This approach provides wins to dairy farmers through ensuring that the fertilisers they buy and apply are being utilised in the most profitable way. It provides wins to the catchments through
best practice science ensuring appropriate quantities of fertilisers are applied for plant needs, thus minimising losses of nutrients into waterways. Excessive level of fertiliser can impact on all parts of the ecosystem and may cause algal blooms. Wasted fertiliser is also wasted money.

More than fifty dairy farm businesses have Fert$mart plans in place with a further one hundred businesses booked in for planning in 2017. Funds from the Australian and state governments make this possible.

CORE 4

Another successful dairy partnership project is CORE 4 which aims to retain nutrients and sediments on farms, through the identification and management of high risk runoff areas on farms.
Since 2009, one hundred and ninety farmers have been engaged, developed farm action plans and received farm visits to assess nutrient ‘hot spots’ using a set of industry tools.

To date, one hundred and sixteen farmers have received funds for on ground works to reduce the risk of nutrients running into waterways. It is expected that between sixty and one hundred
additional Gippsland dairy farmers will be involved in CORE 4 activities in 2017.

GipRip

The award winning ‘GipRip’ project was where the partnership between the WGCMA and GippsDairy began back in 2003. GipRip comes from the shortening of Gippsland and Riparian
which explains the focus of this work – managing the banks of wetlands, rivers and streams. Other partners included the Department of Primary Industries, Land & Water Australia,
Gippslandcare and Waterwatch.

Sites on a number of dairy farms were selected to demonstrate the benefits of fencing and revegetating stream and river frontage. These sites are still used today to show the positive effects of stock exclusion, nutrient management and biodiversity gains with the fencing of waterways now common practice. Surveys of dairy farmers in the region indicate that 38% of farms have fenced all waterways on their property and 78% have at least some fenced waterways.

GippsDairy’s Allan Cameron acknowledges the partnership, ‘We have a strong working relationship with the WGCMA. With it comes access to funding for on-ground actions and helps spread the many benefits of good land management. We work well together to make a difference in our region.’

WGCMA’s strong links with dairy, the most prominent agricultural land use in the region, do not go unnoticed. The Australian government as well as state government agencies note and value
the linkage. As investors in environmental projects, these organisations rely on the WGCMA to develop and deliver quality projects on their behalf. It is vital that the WGCMA works effectively
with industry groups who connect with those on the ground managing our land resources.

As more waterways are fenced, improved fertiliser practices are adopted and reduced nutrient loads enter rivers and streams it is the local community that benefits from a strong working relationship between the two organisations. The proof is in the health of the estuaries, the abundant birdlife and clean beaches that are enjoyed by all who live in the area and the many visitors to the region. Producing quality dairy products can go hand-in-hand with healthy catchments.

GippsDairy is the regional delivery program funded largely by Dairy Australia. Dairy Australia is the national research, development and extension body funded through farmer levies, government dollars and leveraged funds.

 

This case study was developed as part of the State Government’s Our Catchments, Our Communities project.