Apart from Lake Cargelligo and Doctors Point on the Murray, Brogo Dam is the only dam run by Water NSW in the state that is looking good and rising, and the only dam that is full.
The amazing turnaround happened after good rain in the Bega Valley on the NSW Far South Coast in the early part of February. The dam may only hold 9000 megalitres, but it gives hope that dairy farmers on the Brogo and Bega rivers will get 40 per cent allocations when the allocations are decided in July.
At the moment the allocation is at about 30 per cent. The situation was looking dire for water allocations up until the middle of October until bursts of rain started hitting the Far South Coast.
As of February 15, Brogo Dam was 100 per cent full, according to Water NSW (although classified as falling). Lake Cargelligo was the only dam rising at 64 per cent. Every other dam in NSW was falling.
Steve Guthrey of the Bega Valley Water Users Association, said the rise of Brogo Dam had given dairy farmers some certainty through the upcoming year.
“The rain has been good around Bega and also Bodalla and Moruya,” Mr Guthrey said.
“It’s enabled farmers to put in quite a bit of silage crops and a lot of maize has been grown. Up until the second week of last October it was looking pretty ordinary. But this latest rain has been lovely steady rain. But there is still not a lot of depth of moisture in the soil.”
The rain came in two tranches. A burst of about 50mm, then followed by about 70mm a few days later. With Brogo Dam 100 per cent full, dairy farmers would get their full allocation.
The rise in Brogo is also good news for recreational fishermen. The dam was the site of an inaugural stocking of Estuary Perch two years ago. About 10,000 Estuary Perch fingerlings were released at Brogo Dam and at two years they are ready to catch.
Meantime, Bega dairy farmers are rejoicing with the rain.
The strapping corn crop on the slopes of Ken Kimber’s dairy farm at Bega is a sign things have really turned in the Bega Valley.
Much of the Far South Coast received over 100mm in the first part of this month, giving hope for silage crops and more certainty for water allocations going forward right into the end of the year.
It’s a huge turnaround among farmers in the Bega district after years of being hammered by poor summer rain, thinking they live in a rain shadow by the Great Dividing Range.
With hope the milk price woes could be partly over when milk prices come up for review in July, with more transparency through a national code with processors, things may be on the turn for dairying on the South Coast, although the high cost of feed is still hurting dairy farmers badly.
Ken Kimber took the risk of putting in a corn crop in the first week of November, banking on some summer rain. He planted Pacific 624 and did very little watering through the season as it grew higher and higher. He grew the corn crop on the slopes of his farm to avoid flood issues down near the river. The 49 hectares of corn will be harvested for silage and be put out on the feed pads for his dairy cows. It’ll help save him a packet on feed costs.
“Oh my word, the cost of grain is killing us,” he said. “I had to forward buy some wheat the other day and it was $460 a tonne, with $62 a tonne freight (from the central-west NSW).”
The Kimbers graze 1200 Holstein and Jersey cross cows at Kimber’s Dairy. Mr Kimber said he hadn’t seen decent run-off into his dams in almost two years before this latest good rain. Some farms received over 120mm of good steady rain.
Meantime, the Far South Coast is moving to improve soil fertility. Farmers can increase stocking rates by up to 35 per cent if they get soil fertility right, according to recent trials on 200 properties.
The Far South Coast Dairy Development Group has won funding from the MLA to evaluate potential productivity of pastures and assess the returns from changing fertilizer practices. “The program involves comparing two paired paddocks at each site, one of which is run under the standard farm settings and another where fertilizer is applied based on soil and plant tissue tests, to remove nutritional limitations to production,” Local Land Services said.
“Changes in productivity from the treatment paddock are recorded over a three year period and the profitability from the changed practice assessed.”
Contact Andrew Taylor at LLS on 0428 419 679.