A vision splendid, a place filled with trees and koalas, while the rivers teamed with fish and platypus. From the historical records this is what Bungendore would have looked like to the early European settlers who arrived in 1820. It was the country of the Ngunawal people and to this day a culturally significant place for their descendants.
This workshop was about stories of past times, honouring Aboriginal and early European history, while learning the importance of the fragmented vegetation that remains. The guest speakers were Wally Bell, Karen Williams and Jasmyn Lynch.
Wally Bell is a Ngunawal man from the Yharr clan group and a Traditional Custodian of the Ngunawal. Wally welcomed us to his country and called upon the spirits to guide and protect us during our visit to Day’s Hill Reserve in Bungendore. Wally’s story telling about the local area was moving. He talked about Budjabulya the creator and water spirit who lives in Lake Ngungara (renamed Lake George). Ngunawal people believe that since the beginning of time this spirit has nurtured the Ngunawal people and created the lakes, rivers, valleys, people, animal and plants.
Wally talked about the importance of Mother Earth to him and how we can all play an important role in restoring and healing the land. Wally’s advice is to sit, observe and listen to the land on which you live. Respect it and look after it because land is a gift.
Wally also emphasised the importance of scar trees and how they were used as directional markers. Often they were located up high so people could see them from a distance.
We looked at some Aboriginal stone artifacts and asked a lot of questions about what to look out for on our own properties. Wally told us that Aboriginal artifacts retain the spirit of the person who made them and must be left in the location where they are found.
We all know that water is essential for life and making every drop count, especially during drought, is essential. How to maximise water harvesting and efficient irrigation methods was the focus of this workshop.
Two successful market gardeners from Canberra’s rural outskirts, Chris Curtis from Roogulli Farm and Geoff Foster from Jerabutt Organics showed us how they manage water and grow enough to sell at the local farmers market. Planning effectively for water resources on small farms is challenging. Running a commercial small-scale enterprise is a remarkable achievement during drought. Geoff and Chris manage to do both.
Chris Curtis has written two fact sheets on how to design a small-scale drip irrigation system and how much water to apply to different crops. The fact sheets can be downloaded here and include links to more information.
Here are the key points discussed at the workshop:
Secure your water supply from the threat of bushfire. Geoff demonstrated his bore and pump set up with a backup generator if the power is cut. Geoff has designed the system so that the water used for firefighting can be sourced from the bore or the house tanks via gravity feed. There is a sprinkler system that surrounds the western fire sector of the house including one on the top of the bore shed.
Rainfall is sporadic in this region, often falling over a short period of time with high intensity. Invest and plan for the largest water capacity you can and then have extra tanks to collect the overflow. Geoff showed us his set up for the market garden. Water is collected from the greenhouses using a viaduct system into a storage tank that can also be filed from the house tank over flow. There is a bore which is used to irrigate the outdoor garden beds while the plants in the three bay green house are irrigated using rainwater.
Always use a tap timer so you don’t accidently drain your tanks. Buy the cheapest tap timer you can because they are not very durable. Tap timers are suitable for low pressure set ups and automating the irrigation of garden beds.
When you dig a trench for irrigation consider laying an extra pipe for future upgrades. Geoff has a duel irrigation system from the bore and tanks. Two lines have been run in the same trench so if one water source dries up a back-up supply can be used.
You can fit your garden beds with two types of irrigation. Geoff uses fine sprays to establish seeds and seedlings. Once the plant roots have grown, pressure-compensating drip irrigation is put onto the beds.
Owen Whitaker is a fifth generation farmer with 25 years experience revegetating farms and managing large scale revegetation projects. At this workshop he shared his revegetation wisdom and practical knowledge.
“Planting trees is an investment, well designed windbreaks can mitigate production losses from cold winds, improve pasture productivity, provide fodder and enhance biodiversity” Owen Whitaker 2019
Before deep ripping contact Dial Before You Dig and/or get professional advice to locate services, this can save you thousands of dollars. (Note that some services on rural properties may not be on record with DBYD.)
Tree and shrub tube stock can be planted in rows using existing fences or in strategic clumps around the paddock to provide stock with access to shade and shelter from all directions. This can be achieved by using circular ‘ring style’ fencing around star pickets without strainer posts with either electric or hingejoint wire, depending on livestock.
Trees can be incorporated into lane ways so that paddocks can be split up for rotational or holistic grazing.
A typical shrub and tree planting layout would be 2 metres away from fences, 3 metres between rows and 4 metres between plants. Plant shrubs in the outside rows and trees in the middle rows creating a tapered profile effect to deflect winds. Offset the plants between the rows. The minimum tree row width for a good shelter belt effect is 3 rows x 10 metres however for a better return on outlay 5 rows x 20 metres would deliver the best micro-climate and ecological outcome.
Controlling biomass and ripping 6-12 months ahead of planting will help water to penetrate into the ground and build moisture profile to aid seedling establishment. Removing pasture by using a knockdown herbicide will reduce the allelopathic effects of pasture and competition for water when the tube stock is planted. Do not use a residual herbicide when preparing the planting site as the active ingredients will inhibit tree establishment.
Have a tree guard making party and have all guards assembled ready to go before planting day.
Mulching around the base of plants (but not against the stems) can help the seedlings to establish. A woody mulch is preferred over pasture hay.
A Pottiputki planting tool can be used with seedlings grown in a HIKO tray. The seedlings are inserted into the top of the planter so you don’t have to bend down to plant seedlings.
Owen’s tips for direct seeding:
A four-wheel drive direct seeder is a good option for lighter soil types on slopes that are not suited to ripping. Plants sown using direct seeding can take three to five years to germinate. Seeds will germinate at the ideal time and when moisture is available, usually during summer rains.
Native grass seed is often expensive. You can reintroduce native grasses cost effectively by sowing or blowing small amounts of seed into degraded pastures. The seed can also be hand sown. Smaller seeds should be mixed with sawdust or vermiculite so they can be spread more effectively.
The composition of pasture can be manipulated to include native grasses by allowing the grass time to seed and using rotational grazing. Animals will move the seed around your farm on their coats and in their dung. Wind and rain will increase native grass density over time and seasonal events.
The benefit of direct seeding is that the store of seed remains in the soil and will germinate over a number of years,. This helps mitigate the risk of plant failure due to drought. You may need to thin some of the seedlings that emerge over time.
Some seeds require treatment before planting. For example, some Acacia seeds require scarification (i.e. soaking in hot water) before planting.
This session was about building connections with people and the land: an opportunity to learn more about diversity, indigenous culture and the local area. The walk and talk was led by Tyronne Bell from Thunderstone Aboriginal Cultural and Land Management Services. Tyronne talked about his culture and traditional Ngunawal uses of plants and animals found at the site.
Key points from the workshop
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a spiritual connection with the land, that can be expressed in some part through stories about plants, insects and animals in a particular location.
By studying the behaviour of different species of insects, Aboriginal people used their traits to help them in their every day lives. For example, Tyronne told us about the ability of ants to regulate the temperature of their nest by bring different coloured gravel to the surface of the nest. White in summer and black in winter. Meat ants were used by some Aboriginal people to clean the carcasses of fish so the bones could be used as needles.
If you find Aboriginal artifacts, scar trees or other relics it is important to leave them intact and where you found them. These items hold great significance for Aboriginal people and are protected under NSW law. You can find out more information at the Office of Environment and Heritage website.
Preserving Nungawal language is very important to local Aboriginal people. The language can be spoken by everyone and children especially should be encouraged to use it. Tyronne taught us how to say thank you in the Ngunawal language ‘djan yimaba’. You can find more information about Ngunawal language in the links section below.
Some Aboriginal people used to bend over and weigh down trees in order to use the trunk as a structure to build a shelter on. In winter more permanent structures and caves were used as housing and remains of stone structures built by Aboriginal people have been found in our region.
5. Plant species commonly found in the Bungendore area had special uses for Aboriginal people. For example, the Cherry Ballart (Exocarpus cupressiformis) looks like a small cypress tree and the sweet, juicy fruit provide a spring time snack, the sap can be used for snake bite, the fresh leaves are used for headaches, the roots as clap sticks and it can also be used as a shade tree to camp under. The plant was is used as an indicator species for the coming season.
Other plants that we learnt more about on the walk and talk were Hardenbergia violacea, Indigofera australis, Diannella species, Lomandra species, Acacia species, Cassinia quinquefaria, Microseris lanceolata and Bulbine bulbosa. Tyronne told us about uses of these plants for food basket weaving and stunning fish. Some of them are poisonous and should not be eaten. Find out more about these plants and their uses by following the links below.
6. According to local Aboriginal culture there are six seasons in a calendar year and no autumn. The calendar includes two summers, two winters and two springs, each with their signature weather pattern and special traditions.
Community spirit, professional expertise and practical demonstrations were a feature of this erosion and revegetation workshop. Guest speakers David Hilhorst and Andy Taylor from South East Local Land Services and Scott Soper led an inspiring and educational day.
One of our participants Chris Curtis has kindly agreed to allow us to publish his notes and photographs from the day – see the link below.
Here are more ideas and strategies from the workshop.
Pioneer plants such as wattle add nitrogen to the soil and improve soil fertility and structure. You can use branches from these plants (preferably with seed attached) and lay them over bare ground to create a nursery for seeds and/or or tube stock.
Locally grown small trees including wattles, kunzea and tea tree can be lopped and placed strategically on an eroded gully floor, the branches can be bundled and pegged creating a brush raft. The raft areas catch sediment that can be direct seeded using native grasses, sedges and rushes.
Look for wet patches above and below small erosion head cuts and use these sites for revegetation using locally sourced plants. Use bendy plants that slow the speed of the water including Juncus species, Carex appressa and Lomandra species. Trees that grow thick trunks should be avoided in confined gully beds and streams because tree trunks can deflect flood waters into banks and exacerbate the erosion problem.
Protect your soil from erosion is by maintaining 70- 80% ground cover in your paddocks and by limiting stock access to dams and dam spill ways. Erosion can be caused by overland flows from vegetation removal, dams, roads and gullies and by subsurface water movement. You can use simple clues to help you read your land, for example, are larger trees dying in patches? This could indicate that salinity is a problem. The eroded site at the property we visited was most likely being impacted by saline ground water which we learned also affects the water quality in the dam.
Mapping shallow ground water with an electrical conductivity survey gives an insight into the depth of the water resource and the salinity of an area. Windellama Landcare owns electrical conductivity (EC) mapping equipment and it can be hired for use by property owners and contractors. You should seek advice from South East Local Land Services to help you plan your erosion control work and EC mapping – Contact your Local Land Services office.
Eroded patches of sodic soils in gullies look like candle wax or stalactites. You can do a simple sodicity test using a small clod of soil and a clear dish. If area around the clod becomes cloudy, this indicates that the soil is sodic and might be highly erosive. Soil sampling of your farm could help you decide if you should be planting salt tolerant species at an eroded site.
Weirs, rock structures and rock/wire mesh weirs are all examples of “controlled activities” that may require a permit. Contact the Office of Water for advice about building structures including dams in drainage lines. As a general principle, water should always be returned to the same drainage line not diverted to another site. Before undertaking major works in water courses and gullies it is wise to check that your contractor has sought the correct approvals.
Jute or hessian can be used on bare eroded sites to create zones where vegetation can be established. ‘Burritos’ can be made by wrapping jute or hessian fabric around a mixture of forest mulch and compost which can then be laid on the contour and held in place using wire pegs. Mulched areas can then be seeded with a soil conservation grass mix or local native grasses. Once micro climates have been established other plants can be encouraged to grow using the brush raft technique described above.
Weeds such as blackberry and serrated tussock can be used as a resource to help provide mulch, organic matter and plant cover at eroded sites if they are already growing there. It is important though to manage weeds to prevent flowering or setting seed by cutting, spraying or manual removal. Chip and spray the weeds or cut the canes and leave them in situ on the gully floor or bank, this slows the flow of water and traps sediment. The area can be then planted with desirable plants and grasses. The thorny plants can act as protection for new plants during establishment. Continual monitoring of weed prone sites is important.
The SIX Maps website can be used to work out the size of the catchment for an erosion head cut. For example, using SIX Maps, Andy Taylor estimated that for 1 in 50 year high rainfall events, the gully on this farm would have one tonne of water per second flowing over it. That is equivalent to one intermediate bulk container (IBC)/second. Estimating catchment size, soil testing and electrical conductivity testing are just some of the tools that can be used when planning erosion control measures.
This workshop was an opportunity for a group of small farmers to learn and practice routine animal husbandry procedures for cows and calves. ‘Marking’ refers to a set of husbandry practices for calves that includes vaccination, ear tagging, castration, dehorning and mothering up.
Vaccinations are given subcutaneously – just under the skin. The best place to give the injection is on the side of the calf’s neck (see fact sheet on vaccinations below for a diagram). The 5-in-1 vaccination covers five clostridial diseases, namely pulpy kidney (enterotoxaemia), black disease, tetanus, blackleg, and malignant oedema. 7-in-1 covers the same diseases as 5-in-1 plus Leptospira harjo and Leptospira Pomona. Using 7-in-1 is recommended if you are keeping the stock for breeding. Keep vaccines cool in an esky while you are marking. Hygiene is important – keep the needles and injection site on the animal clean. To be effective these vaccines require an initial dose, a booster 4-6 weeks later and an annual booster.
Zoonosis refers to a disease or infection that can transfer from animals to humans – examples include Q Fever and Leptospirosis. People who work with animals should be vaccinated against Q-fever and understand how to minimise the risks of contracting these diseases.
Castrate calves as young as possible (around two weeks of age), not more than 3 months or younger than 24 hours. The rubber ring method is the easiest and safest method for small farmers to use on young calves. Using analgesia (pain relief) such as local anaesthetic and/or anti-inflammatory drugs could be beneficial to reduce pain and swelling at the castration site, and improve welfare. There is a 90 day withholding period for some medications given to calves.
If you have any concerns about the condition of stock in your area you can contact the NSW Stock Squad or RSPCA. It is not anonymous but it is strictly confidential and protected in accordance with the NSW Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act.
Call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888
Do not be afraid to contact or report to your District Veterinarian. District veterinarians can help with diagnostic investigations of unexplained deaths or herd syndromes and there are often funding arrangements in place. Some specific signs to report if noted in cattle: sudden or unexpected deaths, red or brown urine, cattle ticks, chronic wasting conditions, lumps along the neck, cysts in meat, or abortions/vaginal discharge.
Cattle Husbandry for introductory information on cattle husbandry and links to the National Livestock Information Scheme (NLIS) and National Vendor Declarations (NVDs) which must be used when buying, selling and moving cattle.
This workshop was funded by the Australian Government and supported by South East Local Land Services. Thanks Dr Lou Baskind from South East Local Land Services for her contribution to this summary.
We have a knack for bringing wet blustery conditions on our field days and Weeds in Waterways on the 14 April was no exception. Eighteen hardy souls donned their jackets and joined in for a day of information and demonstrations by expert presenters Rebecca Bradley – Senior NRM Manager from South East Local Land Services, Lori Gould – Grass Roots Environmental and John Franklin – Franklin Consulting.
Rebecca Bradley began by explaining the legal obligations of farmers with regard to weed management in NSW. The Biosecurity Act 2015 came into effect this year and has two key principles: biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility and all land managers have a general biosecurity duty.
All waterways are unique and behave differently depending the geology, soil type, river processes and energy level. You need to have a basic understanding of all aspects of stream behaviour before undertaking ground works. Something that works in one location may not be suitable on your property. Getting good local advice is a must. There are chemical, biological, physical and farm management factors that determine the behaviour of a watercourse. First and second order streams can have structures put in them to mitigate erosion, third order streams require a permit for structures and professional advice should be sought in this situation. See Tapping Into It: Water for Small Farms summary for an explanation about first, second and third order streams.
John Franklin and Lori Gould shared their expertise in managing weeds in waterways including a discussion about willows and managing a riparian restoration project.
Willows friend or foe?
Willows (Salix spp.) are currently identified as a weed of national significance (see weeds of national significance list). They are invasive and well adapted to Australian conditions. Key points about willows:
Willows spread and propagate in different ways depending on the species. They can also form hybrids with each other. Some willows grow from seed, cuttings (that break off the plant and move in the water) and by suckers. Hybrid willows are very vigorous and can reproduce just two or three years after germination.
The replacement of native vegetation by willows adversely affects biodiversity in waterways by reducing habitat and aquatic diversity. Willows create a flush of organic matter when they drop leaves in autumn. This reduces water quality by reducing available oxygen and releasing chemicals that harm small in stream herbivores that are adapted to living with evergreen plants (such as eucalypts).
Willows use much more water than native vegetation in streams and willows in stream beds can divert stream flows, resulting in erosion.
Any willow project should consider what other vegetation there is on the site and whether revegetation is required. Sometimes there is enough remnant vegetation to recolonise once willows are removed. Circumstances where willows shouldn’t be removed (or removal should be staged) are on eroding outer bends of rivers and creeks and in places where it isn’t cost effective. For example, large infestations where willows are removed without any major environmental benefits, such as sites with willows upstream and downstream and little remnant vegetation. These sites really need a ‘whole of reach’ approach and actions need to be well coordinated. Often these sites become beyond the landholder’s capacity to manage. However, large projects can be a great success such as the Yass River Linkages Project.
If you propose to remove or prune any existing trees or vegetation, you should contact your council first to make sure you don’t need approval for this – look in the Queanbeyan City Council Tree Guide
Some general principles for managing weeds in waterways:
Understand what you have in terms of native vegetation and weeds and do a simple map.
Cooperate with your neighbours where possible.
Prioritise weed control in high asset areas and/or where the weeds are in low numbers, removing weeds by hand or targeted spraying. Start with weeds that are the highest environmental priority (e.g. Serrated Tussock, St Johns Wort and other noxious weeds) and then progress to managing lower priority weeds if appropriate. If weeds are extensive then control may need to be staged from the outside in or from upstream to downstream. The amount that can be achieved will depend on time and budget.
It is generally considered better to poison willows in stream beds and leave them in place, rather than removing them manually using equipment. This reduces the risk of branches snapping off and plants establishing from the cuttings. The best option depends on what assets are downstream (e.g. fences, crossings, bridges).
When planning your project think about what you want to replace the weeds with. Plant a diversity of plants including ground covers, grasses, shrubs and trees. This provides valuable habitat for animals. Use local plant lists and resources from Landcare and Greening Australia to find out what to plant in your area. For example ROC Native Revegetation Species List and Local Native Plant Guide – Molonglo Valley.
Prepare tree planting sites by deep ripping and spraying in autumn and planting in winter and spring. Spraying with herbicide reduces grass competition or scalping is a chemical-free option.
Always water plants in and use tree guards.
Keep monitoring the site for new infestations of weeds and plant health.
Fence off the watercourse and manage grazing to allow the plants to establish. Timed grazing can be reintroduced once the revegetated trees and shrubs have grown to a suitable size.
Rivers of Carbon in partnership with Greening Australia and other organisations currently has funding for projects in the Burra, Goulburn and Yass areas to assist landholders with revegetation and stream rehabilitation (see Rivers of Carbon Funding Opportunities).
This field day was made possible with funding from the Australian Government and in-kind support and funding from South East Local Land Services. Thank you to our sponsors of the network, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability, and our host farm.
The weekend of the 24 & 25 March was a ‘cut above’ the rest of our workshops for 27 participants from the region.
Workshop trainer Barry Aitchison shared with us some chainsaw related statistics. National Coronial Information Service data shows at least 99 deaths occurred in Australia between 2000 and 2016 as a result of chainsaw use and tree felling (Source ABC News). According to Barry in 2014 there were over 60 accidents from chainsaw use requiring at least 66 stitches in NSW hospitals. Having worked in the industry for over 33 years Barry believes that the main cause of injury is apathy, complacency and fatigue as most accidents occur in the afternoon.
So what are Barry’s top five tips for safe chainsaw operation and maintenance?
Safety is the number one priority – invest in a good chainsaw and safety equipment. Including chainsaw chaps, helmet, eye and ear protection, gloves, close fitting clothing and lace up boots if possible. A dust mask is also useful to prevent dust and fungi from the wood dust getting into your respiratory system. When in the bush consider using a hi-vis safety vest. Always be aware of other people around you by keeping them in your line of sight.
Chainsaw fuel once mixed does not last forever. At the beginning of the season empty the old fuel from the chainsaw and put in fresh fuel. Use a high octane fuel and a special synthetic chainsaw oil. If the chainsaw is not working check the fuel, spark plug and chainsaw air cleaner first. For new chains soak the chain in bar oil for two hours so the reservoirs in the chain fill up with oil to lubricate the bar.
Use a safety chain with a low profile, this will help prevent kickback. Different chainsaws models require different chains. The chain, bar and sprocket must match. The chain can not be pulled in the reverse direction if the chain and sprocket don’t match. The chain can be fitted the wrong way, so check the cutting edge is facing forward.
A kickback occurs when the top quadrant (or kickback zone) at the end of the cutter bar snags on a log. The resulting torque effect causes the chainsaw bar to kick upwards towards the operator. To help prevent kickback, know where the top of the cutter bar is at all times and put the bottom part of the bar into the log first. Use a safety chain and ensure that the chain brake is working. Modern chainsaws have chain brakes as a standard safety feature. More about kickbacks .
Know your equipment and keep it sharp and clean. The chain can be sharpened using special files designed for each chain. The chainsaw bar can build up a burr that can be removed using a special tool. The burr will slow down the chain spinning on the bar. Carry a wedge to help free your cutter bar if it gets caught in a cut. And apply bright coloured paint to your tools so they don’t get lost or left behind in the forest.
By providing links to external information in this summary, the Small Farms Network Capital Region is not recommending or promoting any brand of equipment. The links contain the best available diagrams and information on the topic.
The Small Farms Network Capital Region would like to thank Mr Greg Simms from BRURAL for sponsoring this field day. Sponsorship enables us to keep the cost of our workshops affordable. Check out the range of BRURAL chainsaw equipment in store and online.
This field day was made possible with funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services and sponsorship from BRURAL. Thank you to our sponsors ,the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability, and our hosts Alan and Sue for giving up their weekend to help others learn.
Each NSW property has a maximum volume of water (harvestable right) that can be stored in dams that is based on the area of the property. Before building a dam you need to calculate the capacity of existing dams to see if you have any more harvestable rights available (see NSW Office of Water Maximum Harvestable Right Calculator).
If you have harvestable rights available then you need to work out whether a licence is required to build a dam (see NSW Office of Water Harvestable Rights – Dams). The easiest option is to build a dam on a first or second-order stream. Dams on third-order waterways require a licence. The order of streams is based on the pattern of blue lines for watercourses shown on topographic maps (eg look up SIX maps for your property). There is an explanation about how to work out what order watercourse you are dealing with in NSW Office of Water Dams in NSW: Where Can They be Built Without a Licence. [Your Council may also require you to lodge a development application before constructing a dam – Ed.]
Good spillway design is crucial to ensuring that excess water can be released safely when there is lots of rain. It is desirable to have good ground cover on the spillway to protect it from erosion and also to keep it dry as often as possible. A trickle pipe can be installed to release small amounts of water so the spillway is kept dry.
Farm dams can be made wildlife friendly and more attractive by excluding stock and planting riparian plants. See The Farm Dam Handbook (Water NSW) for design ideas and strategies.
What makes dams leak?
topsoil not removed before dam wall is constructed so water seeps out through topsoil layer in dam wall
inadequate compaction of dam wall
a waterproof dam requires 10-12% clay
typically dams built in basalt soils will leak
Leaking dams are expensive to repair. Options for repair include polymer material applied when dam is full or rubber or plastic liners. Contrary to popular opinion, throwing Bentonite into a dam will not fix leaks.
It is also good practice not to plant trees on dam walls to reduce the risk of their roots causing leaks when the tree dies.
Silted up dams
Aim to maintain groundcover in the dam catchment to minimise silt flowing into the dam. Silt can be cleared out of a dam by emptying the water and then bucketing out the mud and spreading it on the dam wall or elsewhere. Sometimes dams leak after this has been done because the silt has been sealing leaks.
Erosion around dams
Generally erosion is caused when a dam is built on steeper ground so that the water drops down the front edge of the dam. The eroding areas can be protected by spreading rock on them. It might also help to build a berm across the front of the dam to direct the water into a narrow channel flowing into the dam that can be protected with rock. Strategies for dealing with erosion involve slowing the water moving down the slope, covering exposed soil and re-establishing ground covers.
The NSW Government Soil Conservation Service provides consultants who can help design dams and provide advice for solving problems with existing dams.
There are three key things to consider when planning your water supply for stock:
Quantity – how much is needed (see NSW DPI Primefact 326 Water Requirements for Sheep and Cattle), will you have enough in dry times? Remember that wildlife will use stock water too and you also need water for fire fighting, garden watering and to allow for evaporation (25-30% from farm dams in the Southern Tablelands).
Quality – different quality water is needed for different purposes (eg drinking water for humans, drinking water for stock, irrigation water for garden). You can test your water to check that it is fit for purpose. Testing is important in dry summers when salt levels can build up in dams. Blue Green Algae (which is also sometimes red/brown) is toxic and stock should be kept away from it. The NSW DPI website has more information on water quality and testing for livestock and blue green algae testing.
Stock water can be provided by giving access to a dam or pumping water to troughs. Generally stock should be fenced out of dams to maintain water quality but you can fence so that they have limited access to a dam over rocky ground. Water troughs need to be kept clean and you need to make sure that all animals have access to troughs – sometimes there are bullies who keep the other stock away from the trough.
The water in the dam will be cleaner if you fence to stop stock camping in the dam catchment. It is also important to maintain 100% ground cover in the dam catchment and 80% elsewhere to reduce silt and nutrient run off into the dam.
Most farms store rainwater collected from roofs in tanks for use in the house including drinking. While this tank water is relatively low risk, good hygiene is critical for ensuring water is safe for drinking. People with compromised immune systems and the elderly are most at risk.
Key actions are
clean house roof gutters to remove dirt and debris
first flush diverters can keep the dirtiest water out of the tank but they need regular maintenance to work properly
tanks can be cleaned (say annually) using technology similar to cleaning a swimming pool while the water is still in the tank
pumps should be regularly cleaned and maintained
drinking water can be filtered using charcoal and paper filters which should be replaced annually
home test kits are available to check the quality of the tank water
If the water becomes contaminated (eg dead animal in tank), water can be made safe for drinking by boiling. UV filters can also be used to clean water but are more expensive.
This field day was made possible with funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services, the Soil Conservation Service and Veolia. Thank you to our sponsors of the network, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability, and our host farm.