Sustainable Dairies

The Sustainable Dairies program was developed in response to the need for better collaboration between agencies working in the Dairy Industry and to assist Dairy Farmers to address issues such as nutrient run off, effluent management, water quality and soil health. The aim was to address these issues using strong partnerships and a coordinated education and extension program that would lead to positive outcomes for both productivity and the environment.

The Sustainable Dairies Program was initially developed in 2016 and funded as part of the Department of Land, Water, Environment and Planning’s (DELWP) Our Catchments, Communities Program (OCOC). Due to the success of the program, funding continued through the Large Farms Project as part of the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

In partnership with West Vic Dairy and Agriculture Victoria, the Sustainable Dairies program bought together key focus areas of the three organisations into a complete program.

The program included Fertsmart (Dairy Australia nutrient management course), effluent management, soil acidity, soil carbon, alternative fertilisers and soil biology. The content was spread over 3 classroom workshops and one field day.

The program plan was:

Day 1 – Introduction to Sustainable Dairies and participants; Fert$mart introduction – plant growth requirements; soil limiting factors; soil testing & result interpretation; the Fert$mart plan; Effluent use and testing.

Day 2 – Fertsmart - Nutrient budgeting; soil structure and constraints including cation exchange capacity, salinity and acidity; soil carbon; Key soil nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur.

Day 3 – Alternative fertilisers; compost; Gibberellic Acid; in depth session on soil acidity; overview of the Fert$mart plans & effluent use plans.

Day 4 – Field Day – Soil biology, visual soil assessments and CCMA/Landcare discussion on waterway health and increasing biodiversity on farms.

Participants also received free soil and effluent testing on site which would inform the development of a nutrient management plan and an effluent management plan.


Since 2016, over 60 Dairy Farmers have participated in the program over 5 rounds. Increased skills and knowledge from the program have resulted in planned actions such as;

  • Fence and plantings on slips and waterways.
  • Actively manage compost.
  • Incorporate effluent into nutrient budget.
  • Reassess lime and fertilizer plans.
  • More revegetation on farm.
  • Better record keeping of our nutrients (soil testing).
  • Learn more about Trace minerals

Recent follow up site visits with participants from rounds 1 and 2 found they were continuing to focus on utilising compost and effluent as fertiliser alternatives which has lead to improved effluent management as ponds are emptied more frequently. Some Dairy Farmers have moved into cover cropping and revegetation projects continue to be on the to do list but struggle to happen without assistance due to competing priorities.

The strong partnership between the lead organisations has been a key factor in the success of the program. This relationship has also lead to the development of the South West NRM Dairy Group and highlighted the importance of working collaboratively within the Dairy Industry to achieve change.

Key Partners:

The ‘Sustainable Dairies’ program is a partnership project between the Corangamite CMA, West Vic Dairy and Agriculture Victoria. The Heytesbury Landcare Network also plays a key role in supporting the delivery of the program.


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For more information contact Corangamite CMA project managers:

Karen O’Keefe – karen.o’

Chelsey Agg –

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