A research initiative of Australian National University, Sustainable Farms is working with farmers in NSW and Victoria to provide sustainable agriculture solutions while improving on-farm biodiversity.
With that in mind, the team at Sustainable Farms held a webinar titled Farm Dam Enhancements for Multiple Benefits, hoping to make sure the information from a recent pilot study got out to those who can use it from a practical standpoint.
Sustainable Farms' senior research and extension officer, Dr Mason Crane, and Eleanor Lang from the Australian National University, and Local Land Services District Vet Eve Hall each presented as part of the webinar which focused on how findings from the study applied to agriculture within the north-east Victoria, South West Slopes, Central Tablelands and Murray-Riverina areas.
More than 300 people registered for the one and a half hour webinar with 260 people watching it live.
Dr Crane said he was pleased with the engagement and hoped farmers would put the findings into practice.
"We have just finished the pilot study on dam enhancement and the webinar was a great way to get the information out and to hear the question that farmers had on the topic to help inform future research," he said.
"Sustainable Farms is primarily a research unit, but we need to make sure the people who can use the information get it.
"The study looked at how fencing out dams would affect water quality.
"We also discussed how water quality impacts on livestock productivity.
"For over a decade Landcare have promoted fencing off dams and watering stock through troughs.
"However, there has never been a study to quantify this.
"The data shows signs of reduced E.coli in dams and generally an increase in dam cleanliness. Cleaner dams means cleaner pipes and less blockages as well as clean, palatable drinking water for livestock."
Dr Crane added that while there were no studies directly related to clean water and stock productivity in Australia, there were some overseas.
"There are a number of studies in Canada showing a direct correlation between poor water quality impacting stock growth," he said.
"One study showed weaner steers drinking from clean, stream-fed troughs growing 20 percent better than those from an unfenced dam.
One study showed weaner steers drinking from clean, stream-fed troughs growing 20 percent better than those from an unfenced dam.
"It is definitely something here in Australia that we need to take more seriously.
"The dense grassy buffers around fenced farm dams captures sediments, animal dung, fertilisers and other pollutants that run off the paddock before they enter the dam.
"Fenced dams had significantly lower nutrient loads, which will directly reduce algal blooms.
"Such blooms can not only cause health issues, but can also effect the amount of water livestock will drink, and less water intake means less feed intake which in turn means less weight gain.
"It is not just about productivity though. Most producers are already aware that when we get into drought conditions, empty dams become a hazard.
"Fenced off dams stop livestock from getting bogged and stops muck filling them up when the rains do come.
"Waiting for rain and then not being able to use the water is just another kick in the guts."
- A recording of the webinar is available at: www.sustainablefarms.org.au/fielddays/enhancing-farm-dams-webinar-recording-now-available