A SHIFT in their irrigation program has helped Jervois dairyfamers Lawrie and Michele Golder save water and time while lifting their production.
The Golders, who milk 230 Holstein cows on a 12-a-side herringbone dairy with year-round calving, replaced their old open channels with a new underground pipes that allow the water to bubble up through risers and spread evenly across the paddock.
They have about 60 hectares of irrigation with a mix of permanent and annual pastures used for strip grazing.
Mr Golder said they had been thinking about changing for some time, including back in the early 2000s, when they had rehabilitation work done on their channels, but considered the project cost prohibitive.
Since then, drought had degraded the channels.
“We had trouble delivering water to paddocks,” Mr Golder said. “We had cut back on irrigation because we couldn’t do it efficiently.”
Mr Golder said the previous system had involved filling up to 1800 metres of channels with water in order to irrigate paddocks, which resulted in leaks and “dead water” left in the channels that either soaked or evaporated away.
“With the old channel system, once you started irrigating, you couldn’t stop the process but we have complete control, we can shut it down whenever we need to,” he said.
The Golders were able to install the new system through the SA River Murray Sustainability Irrigation Industry Improvement Program.
The scheme is funded by the Australian government and allows irrigators to invest in water efficiencies by trading water savings.
It has already recovered 35 gigalitres of its 40GL goal.
Mr Golder said they would not have been able to afford the upgrade without the assistance of the 3IP scheme.
He said as well as being an easier system to use, they have also saved at least 20 per cent on water use.
“We can control the amount of water, direct it where it’s going and how long its on for,” Mrs Golder said.
Mr Golder said by using less water, there is less waterlogging or wasted water spilling across to other paddocks.
“The pasture quality has improved because we’re watering it the right amount,” he said.
The extra confidence has allowed them to increase their milking herd in the past 12 months since the system was installed.
The Golders also grow about 450ha of dryland grain crops, used for winter grazing and silage.