A FOCUS on improving farming efficiencies and producing more “home-grown’’ fodder, thereby helping to control costs and also increase production and quality, is driving uptake of more flexible irrigation systems in various areas around the country.
One such area is the Bega Valley in southern New South Wales, where the systems are particularly suited to the local dairy industry.
Peter Abramowski, Principal of the local ProWater Nationwide store, Bega Agricultural Services, said the region was quite hilly and water resources were sometimes intermittent, making it less capable of supporting centre pivot, solid set or travelling irrigation.
“There is a lot of bike shift irrigation, but that is also labour intensive, uniformity of application is not good and it is costly to run and maintain,’’ Peter said.
He said it had been a logical step for many to move to K-Line Pod Irrigation, a specially-formulated, flexible tubing and unique, patented pod sprinkler system distributed in Australia by Philmac, and which reduced time and money spent on irrigation installation, operating and repairs.
“The shift to K-Line is very economical, it solves all the issues with bike shift, it is better for OH&S and you can shift eight to 10 sprinklers at a time rather than one.’’
“You can cover a reasonably large area with a single hydrant, so the infrastructure requirement is also less.
“It’s easy to get it into a uniform position, so that’s better, and the maintenance is very minor. If a cow breaks a sprinkler, it can be replaced for $12.’’
The K-Line system can apply 25 millimetres of water every six days, compared with nine days with a bike shift irrigator.
“You can’t actively maintain pasture on a nine-day shift, but you can when it is six days,’’ Peter said.
“The opportunity and potential with K-Line is significant. Some of the best grass grown in the Valley is under K-Line – and that’s even compared with centre pivot irrigation.’’
Fourth generation local dairy farmer Andrew Darcy and his family completed their final installation of K-Line Pod Irrigation last spring, completely replacing their previous bike shift and travelling irrigation. The K-Line system now irrigates 140 hectares of their 160ha ‘Daisy Bank’ property, which is situated 7 kilometres east of Bega.
Andrew and his wife, Nikki, together with his parents, Tom and Stephanie, run 400 mostly Holstein Friesian and some Jersey cows, milking up to three times a day through their robotic dairy.
Andrew said due to milk prices and industry pressures, they had been fine-tuning and tweaking operations for some time and the installation of the K-Line helped to improve efficiency and, importantly, grow more feed.
“Grass is the cheapest source of feed. The more grass we can grow, rather than buying-in feed, helps keep the costs down. Plus it can improve your milk production, butterfat and protein,’’ Andrew said.
He said they were located at the bottom of the catchment, where the country ranged from steep hills to gullies, so travelling irrigators were not suitable.
“We had the bike shift and soft hose travelling irrigation, but it took nine days to get around and irrigate, so we couldn’t keep the water up to the pastures after winter.’’
Andrew said they had received great support from Bega Agricultural Services for the K-Line Pod Irrigation system, with Peter also providing all the designs and mapping for the installations.
The heart of the system is a series of highly durable, transportable pods. Made from advanced thermoplastics, the pod protects a sprinkler that is firmly attached to the strong and flexible polyethylene K-Pipe, which resists kinking, abrasive soils, freezing, UV light and the stresses of transporting.
The low cost, modular system can be shifted easily, even by a quad bike, and it can adapt and grow as required, efficiently irrigating from 1ha to more than 10,000ha.
It is a low-pressure system designed to distribute water with a slow, efficient absorption method similar to soft rain – saving time, labour and water resources. According to their paddock sizes, the Darcys use shorter K-Line with six standard size pods and longer K-Line with 11 standard pods spaced either 15 metres or 18m apart and which use Naan and Senninger sprinklers. Andrew said the pressure compensating sprinklers provided better uniformity.
He said they were also able to utilise most of their existing infrastructure, with just some of their main lines requiring extension.
“Instead of shifting just one sprinkler with the travelling irrigator, we are now shifting a line of six to 11 pods.’’
“We tow them around with a quad bike, using a little trailer made locally that picks up a marine float tied to the lines. You just drive over the top and it scoops it up and hooks it in. Some farmers are also towing them with a small utility.
“It’s a big labour cost to shift travelling irrigation and it operates under higher water pressures, so the power cost is much higher.
“The capital cost with the K-Line is also a lot less than other irrigation. Solid set would work well, but the capital cost is too much.’’
Bega Agricultural Services can provide on-property design and installation services or supervision for installations.
Farmers interested in K-Line Pod Irrigation can contact Bega Agricultural Services on (02) 6492 1711, or find their nearest ProWater store at www.prowater.com.au