Sign up to save money and boost productivity

Time is running out for dairy farmers in the Macalister Irrigation District to register their interest in the Fert$mart program – an opportunity that could see them slash their fertiliser bill.

Fert$mart, offered in partnership by GippsDairy and West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, upskills farmers to make better decisions about fertiliser use on their properties.

The program is being led by a team of agronomists, including Glenn Marriot from Ag-Challenge Consulting.

According to Glenn, by participating in the program farmers may ultimately improve their bottom line either by reducing their fertiliser costs or by changing their fertiliser program to generate more pasture.

“Farmers are busy and we know that,” says Glenn. “But the Fert$mart project is well worth making time for.

“On average, participants in the last edition of Fert$mart could save on average $27,000 per year on fertiliser within the milking area.

“For a three day commitment, that’s a pretty good return.”

Glenn says that some past participants were sceptical about the program.

“It sounds too good to be true,” says Glenn. “But we have lots of evidence from farmers who thought they weren’t going to get a benefit out of the program and then did.”

Those who sign up to the Fert$mart program will be helped by a specialised farm consultant who will visit their property taking soil and effluent tests.

The consultant will then help them interpret these results and provide them with a fertiliser management plan.

Glenn says they will then receive a visit from the one of his team to make sure they understand the plan and know how to implement it.

“This is when we see the farmers reducing their fertiliser costs or increasing the amount of pasture produced for less,” continued Glenn.

“What many farmers are doing with their fertiliser program probably works – what we can do is help create a plan that works at a lesser cost.”

Andrew Bacon, who milks 390 cows at Toora said he had slashed $40,000 from his fertiliser budget after doing the Fert$mart course.

For Loch farmer Kate Kirk, the program helped create a strategy for more cost effective use of fertilisers.

“It turned out all of our levels of everything were high everywhere on our farm, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to reduce our annual application,” she said.

“We kept the urea up, but we reduced the annual application from about 600 kilos to 400 kilos, which is a saving of about 70 dollars a hectare.”

Martin Fuller, CEO of WGCMA said Andrew and Kate’s experiences were typical of farmers who complete the Fert$mart program.

“The consistent message we’ve had from previous participants is that they have saved money and been able to grow just as much, if not more grass than before,” Mr Fuller said.

“It’s a win-win when farmers can improve their business outcomes while reducing the environmental effects of fertiliser applications.”

Get in quick as Expressions of Interest for the Fert$mart course close on Friday, 3 March. To register your interest contact Donna Gibson, GippsDairy on 0409 178 624 or donna@gippsdairy.com.au.

This program is supported by West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.