World Soil Day: Farmers, soil stewards

Dec 05, 2015

Saturday 5 December, is World Soil Day. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations kicked off World Soil Day of recognition in 2002, and we’re using the occasion to celebrate the role healthy soils play in building productive and profitable farms.

By getting the trace elements in the soil right, farmers on Australian dairy farms often find they have the potential to drive increased milk production higher.  

Regular soil testing is necessary to make informed decisions on fertiliser use and soil management and the interpretation of soil test results is key to making the most cost-effective fertiliser choice. Dairying for Tomorrow’s Fert$mart program includes a range of tools to help advisers and farmers get soil “right” and make informed, cost-effective fertiliser management decisions.

Australian Dairy Farmer’s (ADF) Natural Resources Policy Advisory Group Chair, Daryl Hoey said insufficient fertiliser negatively impacts on pasture growth. This means less pasture and means farmers have to increase supplementary feeding or reduce stocking rates. Too much fertiliser, or fertilising at the wrong time means wasted resources.

“The key is to have the balance in soil just right so that nutrients are available for optimal pasture growth and are not lost in run-off into waterways and dams,” Mr Hoey said.

Soil health can also be improved by the implementation of a well-managed effluent system. Effluent is a valuable resource for reducing fertiliser costs, increasing soil fertility, adding organic matter to soil and providing valuable nutrients and moisture to crops and pastures.

“We now have a better understanding of effluent management than ever before,” Mr Hoey said. “The industry has moved away from a waste product mentality to taking a resource utilisation approach and, as a result, not only do we have improved productivity on farm, we are leaving our soils in better condition now and for future generations.”

Australia's dairy farmers have always had a strong commitment to environmental sustainability with industry bodies such as ADF and Dairy Australia coordinating a range of industry programs to help farmers manage fertiliser use, improve soil health and minimise the impact of effluent.

The dairy industry’s sustainability framework Mr Hoey explained, underpins the whole of value chain effort to minimise the environmental footprint of dairy.

“The framework has been used to identify priority areas, goals and objectives for sustainability,” said Mr Hoey. “It sets the scene for industry programs like Fer$mart and farmer investment and practices to deliver better results for both farmers and the environment.”

“Dairy farmers have a real commitment to managing land and water responsibly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting natural resources for future generations,” said Mr Hoey. 

“And as a bonus, many farmers are finding that, with proper soil and fertiliser management, they can produce more feed at no extra cost.”

To find out more about the role healthy soils play on Australian dairy farms take a look here.


Climate variability drives on farm innovation

Nov 23, 2015

A concerted effort to reduce power costs and dairy’s environmental footprint is seeing increasing numbers of Australian producers implement more efficient, ‘green’ on farm practices.

In Athlone, Gippsland former mechanical engineer and seventh generation dairy farmer, Lindsay Anderson is harnessing solar energy to the benefit of reduced on-farm costs. Converting all his large single-phase motors to three-phase motors using variable speed drives as phase converters, Mr Anderson has implemented renewable technology throughout his business. He devised a 5 kilo-watt grid-connected solar system which supplies power to his automatic milking system, his workshop and farm house.

This system provides enough power to feedback through the grid for a payment each quarter – providing some additional income for Mr Anderson.

“This system can save me between 15 to 33% of electricity consumption,” Mr Anderson said. 

It also means there is even less diesel used on the property so the environment will also be better off.

According to dairy’s 2014 Sustainability Framework Progress Report, Mr Anderson is one of many dairy farmers adopting energy efficient procedures on farm. Since 2012 40% of farms have installed some form of renewable energy installation.

Chair of the Sustainability Framework Steering Committee, Chris Griffin said that dairy producers have always been stewards of the land, and are constantly getting smarter about energy efficiency on farm.

“Dairy farmers have a real commitment to managing land and water responsibly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting natural resources for future generations. They are constantly reviewing their practices in response to seasonal conditions and a changing climate,” said Mr Griffin.

“As a bonus, many farmers are finding that these measures are cost effective.”

Working with Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) and Dairy Australia, the ADIC has lobbied hard to secure Government funding to support uptake of energy efficient technology on farm. Combined with industry investment, Federal and state programs have assisted farmers and manufacturers with the upfront capital costs in energy efficient or renewable energy technology, and therefore increased uptake.

The dairy industry has seen the benefit of such co-funded initiatives through Dairy Australia and the Federal Government’s Energy Efficiency Information Program. These nationwide assessments have already helped 1,400 farms. Guidelines have also been developed to complement these assessments and provide information about where energy is used in dairies, as well as identify where greater efficiency can be found.

In two years since the Sustainability Framework was implemented, manufacturers’ use of fuel and electricity has reduced by 14.5%. Together, the whole value chain is vigorously pursuing its target of reducing the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020.

“We will continue with programs and projects that are guiding the industry toward improved returns, while minimising our environmental footprint and improving the wellbeing of our people and animals,” Mr Griffin explained.

“There is still work to be done, but we are most definitely headed in the right direction.”

Earlier this year, ADF shifted its climate change policy, calling for joint industry and government investment in adopting energy efficient technologies on farm. Chair of the ADF Natural Resources Policy Advisory Group, Daryl Hoey said the revised policy highlights to Parliament, consumers and the broader community that the industry remains actively engaged in reducing its environmental impact.

“The scientific evidence, international policy, and public interest in increased climate variability justify industry action. Our whole value chain strives to continually reduce its environmental footprint, through uptake of new technologies, improved management and adoption of farming systems to suit climate variability,”

“The Australian Government can promote the industry’s effective response to climate variability through sustained investment in agriculture R, D&E and the uptake of energy efficient technologies on farm.”

This includes new solutions that both reduce emissions and improve profitability, international research collaboration, and methodologies that support a whole-farm-systems approach in reducing emissions.

“The Australian dairy industry is keenly observing the Government’s response to the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference taking place in Paris this December,” Mr Hoey said.

“We are aware the outcomes of this event may impact the Australian Government’s approach to emissions reduction policy. We want to ensure any policy initiatives do not undermine our trade exposed industry, but instead support dairy farmers’ ability to manage risk, innovate and adapt to climate variability.”

For more information on ADF's policy on carbon emissions and climate change click here

Getting ChAFTA over the line requires united front

Sep 30, 2015

Getting the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) ratified will require farmers to show their communities what this opportunity means to them, according to Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) President, Noel Campbell.

Mr Campbell, along with representatives from the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV) and the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF), was in Northern Victoria as part of a Regional Roadshow which kicked off on Monday 21 September.

The industry used the roadshow to ask as many farmers as possible for their help in getting the China agreement ratified before the end of the 2015 calendar year.

“Farm lobby groups are leading the push to get the deal passed through Parliament.ADF, in collaboration with the State Dairy Farming Organisations has been wearing a path to Canberra, lobbying both sides of parliament and the independent senators to highlight why this deal is important,” Mr Campbell said.

“The ChAFTA is under threat. We need farmers, processors, service providers and regional communities to help us get this deal over the line before the end of the year. We need your help to explain to your neighbours, friends and family why this deal matters for Australia.”

The regional meetings were well attended, with over 100 farmers attending for the first three events in West Victoria. Farmers from all commodities – not just dairy – attended the meetings, demonstrating that the entire farming community is well aware of what is at stake.

Tatura dairy farmer, Ingrid Tysoe said the ChAFTA was about building long term sustainable profitability.

“For farm security, things are going to be a lot better; this gives courage for us to work towards the future,” Ms Tyson said.

"I felt that the session was really informative and it's giving us hope that the dairy industry is looking brighter for us.”

Mr Campbell told attendees that it was essential to highlight that the ChAFTA is a good deal not just for farmers but for the Australian community.

“We worked hard to get a true ‘free trade’ agreement with the ChAFTA last year. With tariffs down to zero over the next four to 11 years on dairy products, we believe this has been achieved,” Mr Campbell said.

“The ChAFTA is a great deal for Australian dairy and a great deal for the Australian community. If ratified this year, the dairy industry alone will see growth in job creation across the value chain. We expect that around 600-700 jobs will be created within the first year of ratification. More dairy jobs means more vibrant, prosperous and growing rural and regional communities across all of Australia's dairying regions.

“I urge all of you to get on board to help us ensure that this deal is implemented this year so that our industry, as well as the broader community can start to take advantage of the benefits this deal brings.”

With meetings in Victoria to conclude on Tuesday 29 September, ADF plans to take the regional roadshow to Tasmania to spread the word about how farmers can help get ChAFTA over the line.


Select Tags