Upgrade: Effluent management systems
"We’ve now got a system that is bigger than what we require at the moment but we’ve done that to future proof the farm"
Rob and Nicola Bassett’s decision to “bite the bullet” and redevelop their farm’s effluent system will ensure their dairy business is future-proofed for the next generation.
The Bassett’s family farm just south of Carterton in the Wairarapa, runs 400 Fresian cows over a 100-hectare milking property, producing about 220,000kgMS per year.
It’s a high-stocked, high-producing farm which in 2018 embarked on an upgrade project to improve the way it managed its effluent.
“Previously, we were basically having to pump effluent out after every milking, straight out on to the paddock with a quick spreader,” Rob said.
“I don’t think you could say it was managed, we just had to get it out there.”
Rob said upgrading the effluent system had been something on the farm’s wish list for a while.
“In 2017, we still had two years on our effluent consent to go but we were at the stage where we were ready do something to improve the system.
“So we decided to bite the bullet, get in there and get it done before our consent was due.”
The Bassetts reached out to Waikato Milking Systems, Effluent and Environmental Masterton-based dealer, Ordish and Stevens, to help come up with a plan.
“Ordish and Stevens fitted out our cow shed out in 2002 and they also put in two central pivots and a linear pivot, so we felt comfortable working with them again,” Rob said.
“We have a very good working relationship with Ordish and Stevens, they are our go-to for all our dairy, irrigation and electrical maintenance.
“We always receive timely and sound advice from their staff.”
Rob and Nicola thoroughly researched the effluent management options as part of their planning process.
A new storage pond, capable of holding up to 150 days’ worth of effluent, was central to the upgrade. But finding the right location for it proved to be a challenge.
“We are on a very high-water table on our property and we had to look at all of the options to install a lined, storage pond.
“We looked at whether we would need a tank on top of the ground or a concrete pond. But doing the research, the costs blew out for the concrete option.”
The couple studied the different soil types on the property to see where the ideal location would be for a storage pond.
“We found at the top end, we had lighter soil types. That enabled us to dig in the ground to make a half, in-ground lined pond,” Rob said.
“Initially we wanted to locate it next to the cow shed but the best option was to shift it about 500m away, where the soil types allowed us to dig into the ground.”
The new system also included a stone trap, which removes stones and grit from the effluent. The solid material can be moved to a storage bunker, using a tractor and bucket. The solid material can later be spread over land.
A sump tank collects the effluent after it’s been filtered through the stone trap. A Doda long shaft pump is used to transfer the effluent to the lined storage pond. It can also be used to pump directly to the farm’s new King Cobra Travelling Raingun.
Beside the storage pond, a Mono pump was installed to transfer the effluent for irrigation around the property.
An advanced stirrer operates in the storage pond to ensure agitation and prevent a crust from forming.
The Bassetts used Masterton firm, Master Roads, to construct the pond and organise the pond lining. Roaches Concrete, from Foxton, completed the concrete form work for the scraping bin.
Ordish and Stevens completed all of the fitting work for the pumps, stirrers and electrical work required.
Rob said the total construction time was about 2.5 months and he was happy with the way the project was completed.
“It’s a huge step up from what we had. We’ve now got a system that is bigger than what we require at the moment but we’ve done that to future proof the farm.
“We’ve got the capacity to store 150 days’ worth of effluent which just takes away all of the worry about managing effluent, day-to-day.”
Rob said the new system gave him peace of mind it complied with regulations but it also delivered a number of other key benefits.
“We went for a system that did not require tractors to drive any pumps or stirrers, it’s fully electric, wired into the power system.
“In a wet spring, we don’t have to apply effluent to paddocks that might already be saturated, because we’ve got plenty of storage capacity.
“We’re also saving on labour, which is especially important at calving time.”
Rob said the system can now apply effluent over the entire 110-hectare milking property.
“That means we’ve been able to cut down on our requirement for fertiliser.”
A large storage capacity means Rob can apply effluent and still hold the nutrients in the pasture root zone.
“We’ve got moisture probes under our central pivot and we use those to govern when we can apply effluent and at what depth.”
Rob was also happy with the functionality of the King Cobra Travelling Raingun the farm is now using for effluent irrigation.
“It works brilliantly. It’s simple to use. With 400m runs we can set it up and do 12 hours of pumping continuously.”
Rob had some advice for other farmers looking to upgrade their effluent systems.
“Look at all the options. Find out what the soil types are on your property and then look at the best sites on your property for storage options.
“Having that information can be very helpful and determine the final costs of the project.”
The Bassett farm has been in the family since 1911 and in 2017 it was the recipient of a New Zealand Century Farm and Station Award, recognising its rich agricultural history.
Rob said the new effluent system plays a major part in ensuring the farm can expand in the future as well as be an attractive business for his children to take over.
“We are hoping we can set it up so we can give our two sons every opportunity to return to work on the farm in the future.”
- System upgrades:
- 25HP Doda long-shaft pump
- Horizontal stirrer
- Solids bunker
- Storage sump
- Holding pond
- Mono pump
- Advanced stirrer
- King Cobra