Here's why smart producers are doing dam work

Improved water quality more than pays for itself in weight gain: research

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Why is dam work not a big investment priority when the cost benefits are proven?

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NEW research is suggesting some sizeable per-farm economic benefits of renovating dams to improve water quality in terms of additional weight gain in cattle.

A study run out of The Australian National University as part of its sustainable farms initiative puts the average benefit-to-cost ratio at 1.5 for NSW and 3 for Victoria in areas where rainfall exceeds 600mm annually.

The analyses, published this week in the scientific journal Plos One, indicates that cattle on farms in NSW and Victoria would need to experience additional weight gain from switching to clean water of at least 6.5 per cent and 1.8pc per annum respectively to break even in present value terms.

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The researchers found if a producer invested in dam renovations like fencing, revegetation and strategies to limit stock access, there was more than a 70pc chance they would see a cost benefit from stock weight gain.

They say incentive schemes for these kinds of projects could benefit both farmers and biodiversity as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The work used data from three North American studies showing the weight gain of cattle when given access to better quality of water to determine whether this would be financially viable in southern rural parts of Australia.

"We recommend localised experiments to assess the impact of improved water quality on livestock weight gain in Australian conditions to confirm these expectations empirically," the researchers said.

The paper said access to water was a critical aspect of livestock production, but the relationship between weight gain and water quality remained poorly understood.

"Previous work has shown that water quality of poorly managed farm dams can be improved by fencing and constructing hardened watering points to limit stock access to the dam, and revegetation to filter contaminant inflow," the paper said.

Substantial further work was required in Australia to more accurately quantify expected weight gains in both cattle and sheep from renovating farm dams and improving the quality of the water they are consuming.

"Attention should also be given to the question why so many Australian farmers persist in relying on unfenced, contaminated dams if economic gains are to be made from cleaner water," the discussion section of the paper said.

"By comparison, significant efforts and investments are commonly made to improve productivity through various other means such as pasture improvement, parasite control, and genetic variation."

The story Here's why smart producers are doing dam work first appeared on Farm Online.

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