This spring brings not only a welcome surge in pasture growth and milk flow, but for some farmers the headache of effluent management risks taking the glow out of the season’s peak.
DairyNZ has developed the Effluent Warrant of Fitness (WOF) programme that aims to ease effluent headaches by helping farmers ensure their effluent system meets council compliance standards.
The Effluent WOF programme consists of a voluntary, independent inspection of a farmer’s effluent infrastructure and practices. After some extensive “road testing” with over 200 farmers, Effluent WOF is now available to farmers and rural professionals around the country.
Getting farmer feedback during the development of the Effluent WOF programme proved invaluable in fine tuning the assessment process. Farmer input helped to make it as insightful and practical as possible, covering the entire effluent system.
An independent assessor points out areas of risk and suggest practical actions a farmer can take to ensure their system is capable of being compliant 365 days a year.
The three to four hour assessment by the accredited assessor covers the farm’s effluent consents and permitted rules, the storage capacity, nutrient loadings, soil risk, irrigator performance, off-pasture infrastructure and general health and safety requirements.
South Waikato farmer Richard Todd was among the first in the country to help assess the Effluent WOF programme.
Working with approved assessor Debbie Care, Richard determined the farm’s effluent irrigator was applying too thickly, despite appearing to be doing a good job. Further work also indicated the storage ponds were too small.
The irrigator was replaced with a more effective model that applies 3.5mm-8mm depth across a wider area. Meantime the ponds have been costed for enlargement and lining. Richard says the WOF process was well worth the money spent on it, given the significant capital involved in getting effluent systems right.
For Richard and his staff the process also resulted in generating application maps that highlight the high risk areas of the farm, and best times to apply effluent upon them.
The voluntary nature of an Effluent WOF helps give farmers the insight they have not had until now about their system’s true performance and compliance standard.
It is hard to assess a system yourself, and having an independent person whose sole focus is to deliver a concise, unbiased view is a welcome option for anyone uncertain about their system’s standard of performance.
The system has also been welcomed by Waikato Regional Council that has a longer term vision of building capacity in the rural sector so farmers can manage their farm’s environmental footprint and sustainability themselves.
To learn more about the Effluent WOF programme, visit www.effluentwof.co.nz
Nick Tait is DairyNZ’s Environmental Extension Specialist.