3-phase Project Powers Farmer and Reef

Kathryn Dryden
August 10, 2016

3-phase Project Powers Farmer and Reef

Dennis Byrnes pushing some of his cattle over a new reinforced crossing.

The Byrnes family have improved their production, the health of their land, and the quality of water running off the farm to the Great Barrier Reef as a result of some significant land management changes.

They have also employed erosion control measures and are recycling nutrients to fertilise pasture on their 163ha Yungaburra dairy farm.

To achieve this, Dennis Byrnes gained some financial assistance through Terrain NRM in recent years.

“We were seeking to make improvements to the costly job of regular creek crossing maintenance and fertiliser application,” Mr Byrnes said.

“Due to the low price of milk, the funding we received was critical to getting our project started.”

Mr Byrnes  was successful in obtaining Water Quality Grants totalling more than $27,000 from the Australian Government’s Reef Programme which the family matched.

“We needed to prioritise the repair and development of some of the creek crossings on our property,” Mr Byrnes said. “Regular heavy traffic from the cows along with pressure from wet season weather presented us with erosion issues.

“If left, it would’ve had long term effects on our productivity and resulted in damage to the natural creek system flowing through the block and eventually to the Reef.”

The construction of permanent creek crossings and reinforced laneways meant that erosion damage from everyday stock and machinery movement is now avoided.

It has also supported better health of the cattle as they have a better surface to tread and significantly reduced costs as the crossings no longer require regular maintenance.

Manure generated on the farm is being used  as a fertiliser.

“We purchased a manure spreader to allow us to apply dried manure to our pastures,” Mr Byrnes said.

“We stockpile large quantities of manure that build up on the feed pad, dry it out, and apply it with the spreader to areas of pasture that need it most.

“It has allowed us to have management control over the nutrient input on the farm, increasing productivity and reducing the need to buy fertilisers.”

The Dairying Better ‘n Better program is working with Terrain to support dairy farmers like the Byrnes to roll out their Reef Programme projects.

Program Manager Ruth Chalk said in the past, soil tests at the Byrnes’ property indicated slightly low levels of potassium.

“The use of nutrient rich organic fertiliser such as the cow manure has helped reduce the reliance on costly synthetic fertiliser and improved pasture production by matching the nutrient needs,” she said.

The liquid effluent captured in effluent ponds from the dairy to be recycled is the next project on the Byrnes’ farm.

“We installed a reuse system to distribute the effluent across 28.5ha of pasture by using a travelling irrigator,” Mr Byrnes said.

“The system significantly reduces the chance of nutrients building up in the soil. It also reduces the potential risk of the nutrient rich water leaving the farm and entering the local waterway.”

The effluent reuse system employed by the Byrnes’ won them a Reef Programme Award last year.

Terrain’s CEO Carole Sweatman said it was  brilliant to see a farmer from the  region being recognised for his vision and commitment to improving  land  management with the added benefit of  contributing to the health of the Reef.

“The Byrnes’ are one of 14 dairy farmers who received a Reef Programme Water Quality Improvement Grant in the Wet Tropics over the initial five years of the Programme,” Ms Sweatman said.

“Their farm makes up some of the 2,469ha of dairy land in the region where these grants are supporting practice change adoption and implementation.

“We are proud to be working with the dairy industry to support farmers and their families in contributing to a sustainable future.”

Mr Byrnes said he was grateful to Terrain and the Queensland dairy industry’s Dairying Better ‘n Better program for helping acquire the funding.

“They guided me through the application process and ensured the project management side of things were taken care of. This allowed me to get on with the job,” he said.

“I attended some soil health workshops in previous years organised by Terrain. This gave me some of the information and inspiration I needed to take this course of action.

“I’m now keeping an eye out for further funding opportunities that might help me purchase minimum till and efficient spray equipment to apply microbes to further boost the health of my soil.”

Terrain NRM is one of 56 regional bodies across Australia working with the community to care for our natural resources. For more go to www.terrain.org.au