Guideline Index

Chapter 13: Using Dairy Effluent

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Dairy effluent is a natural fertiliser and soil conditioner. Find out what nutrients are contained in manure and effluent; how to sample effluent ponds; and how to use effluent as a fertiliser.

13.1 Introduction

Dairy effluent is a natural fertiliser and soil conditioner and, if managed effectively, can enhance pasture growth and improve soil structure. Effluent can be utilised safely and effectively if it is applied to meet the agronomic needs of the crop or pasture intended for its reuse.

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13.2 Legal requirements of dairy effluent management

Dairy effluent is considered a potential point source for pollution of waterways. All Australian States and Territories have set minimum standards that all dairies must comply with. These standards include: State and industry legislation; codes of practices; guidelines; and planning provisions to prevent any adverse impact from dairy effluent. Find out about the fundamental principles for the management of dairy effluent.

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13.3 Nutrients in manure; how much is there?

Understanding the characteristics and quantity of manure is the logical starting point for developing management strategies to reuse it as fertiliser. The volume and nature of excreta depends on dry matter intake and composition of the cow’s diet. Find out more about: the composition of dairy manure; how much nutrient enters the effluent system; what happens to nutrients once they enter the effluent pond; and what percentage of nutrients are available for plant uptake.

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13.4 Sampling and testing of effluent ponds

Sampling and testing of effluent prior to application provides a more accurate guide than using ‘typical’ nutrient values. Most water testing laboratories can test effluent samples. Find out how to collect, package and transport effluent samples for testing.

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13.5 Applying dairy effluent and sludge to pastures and crops

Studies have shown that using dairy effluent as fertiliser is a cost effective way of increasing forage production. However, there are a number of important things to consider when re-using effluent and sludge. Find out the key principles for effluent and sludge re-use, including: the strategies to reduce problems, where and when to apply, and how to work out application rates.

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13.6 References

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