Are you killing your effluent pond?

Dairy farmers are often squeezed between two powerful forces. One is the Regional Council. The other is the Dairy Company they supply milk to. These two powerhouses write the rules and guidelines that farmers must abide by.

Over the last 18 months I have become increasingly concerned about one such guideline: the promotion of Chlorine as a cleaner and sanitiser. On the surface, such promotion seems reasonable: Chlorine is an effective sanitiser, so widely regarded, farmers have been increasing their use of this 'go-to' chemical in preparing for shed inspections.

Sounds good, what's the problem? The problem is when two facts collide.

The first fact is this: Some kinds of bacteria are absolutely necessary for a successful farm. These good microbes convert nutrients into plant-friendly forms which helps pastures grow and reduces soil leeching. They also help cows digest their food properly in the gut which leads to healthier animals and more profit in the vat.

Fact No.2: Chlorine kills ALL bacteria, including these beneficial bacteria.

WHERE do these two facts collide? In your effluent pond. If your effluent pond is healthy, it is alive with good microbes. On the pond surface you will see bubbling activity which is the aerobic bacteria busy digesting solids and turning your effluent into liquefied fertiliser.

But most farmers don't see that. What they see is a green slime on the surface where the good bug activity had been. After testing these green samples in labs, I now know what it is: dead bacteria in the presence of Chlorine. Chlorine, washed into your effluent pond, kills the good bacteria that would have helped your farm.

So what can a farmer do? I can see three options.
1. Divert the Chlorinated water into a separate tank.
2. Spray the Chlorinated water directly onto your pasture.
3. Use another chemical that kills only pathogens but leaves the good guys alone.

To discuss any of these options or to talk about other effluent issues you may have, give me a call (027 490 9896). I'll be glad to help.

David Law


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