Grass-roots community organisation that aims to improve the natural condition of the Derwent catchment

Open Gates

There is growing demand for agricultural industries to become more sustainable in an environmental, productivity and social context. As custodians of the land it is becoming increasingly important to stop land degradation, improve water quality and biodiversity, reduce nutrient and energy use, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.  

We have been working in partnership with the Compass Agri group, who operate three large dairy farms in the Derwent Valley, to help make changes to improve their sustainability. This program is supported by the Australian Government's Smart Farm initiative. 

Compass Agribusiness logo
Community Grants Hub logo

Sustainability assessments. This is an assessment that we carried out with farm managers to measure and collect information on sustainability. The assessment looks at several different aspects to give an overall picture of farm performance. Environmental factors such as soil health, water quality and biodiversity are assessed as well as livestock management, social wellbeing and productivity. The results have been used to assess the success of farming practices, and highlights where and how improvements may be made.

Fencing off waterways. Excluding stock and creating a buffer between water and land helps to reduce effluent, nutrients and sediment from entering waterways. This simple action has huge on-farm and downstream benefits to waterways.  To maximise the benefits of excluding stock from waterways we have planted along riparian corridors and around dams. Plants act as a filter and sediment trap and prevent excess nutrients that may run off from paddocks from entering waterways. Plants stabilise the banks, reducing soil erosion, and increase habitat for wildlife. We chose plants carefully to ensure those near the water's edge wouldn’t mind getting wet feet when it flooded, and selected drought-tolerant trees for the tops of the banks to cope with the very dry summers that can occur in the Derwent Valley.

Trees on Farms. Trees can deliver significant benefits, providing livestock shelter, shade, biodiversity and soil conservation, as well as beautifying the landscape. We looked at the whole farm and identified where trees could be planted to provide maximum benefit. In addition to planting along the riparian zones, shelterbelts have been planted to stall the strong prevailing winds beside the dairy and the paddocks.

On-farm wetlands. Creating wetlands on-farm reduces nutrient losses downstream and vastly improves water quality. The wetland traps sediment, nitrate and phosphorus run-off and reduces the amount of faecal bacteria entering waterways. We have constructed a series of wetlands along the existing drainage lines on the farm.

Plantings in a wetland

Water monitoring. Water quality testing has been conducted along the Derwent and Ouse rivers above (upstream) and below (downstream) each of the dairy farms. This monitoring has been conducted over several months to find out if significant nutrients are being leached into the main catchments and to find out if run-off is worse at different times of the year. If the tests indicate that nutrients are being lost into the main river channels it will inform us where mitigation will be necessary. Further plants may be needed for filtering the water, irrigation practices may need to be altered, or a system may not be working properly.

Taking a water sample

Open the gate. The project will open the gate to local farmers so they can see what we’ve been up to and share their knowledge and experience of dairy management. A series of workshops and events have been planned.

A froup of farmers in a paddock

Derwent Catchment Project

PO Box 22 Hamilton TAS 7140  |  Phone (03) 6286 3211  |  facilitator@derwentcatchment.org