NSW farmers bolster drought efforts with biosolids

Posted 11 July 2018

Sheep FarmAgriculture across NSW is struggling through drought but some innovative farmers in NSW’s central west have been utilising biosolid fertiliser from a leading water utility. 

The organic fertiliser is made by Sydney Water, which produces 180,000 tonnes of biosolids per year with material from more than 20 metropolitan treatment plants, with some 70% going directly to farms. 

Ulabri farm owner and operator Gordon Nash told ABC Online he has been gradually improving the quality of his pastures for the past six years by incorporating biosolids into the soil and planting pasture species.

"I'm [turning] country that could run one sheep per acre up to three with introduced grass species, so it's definitely good value from my perspective," Nash said.

Nash said his treated paddocks were more resilient in the drought and were keeping his 2800 merino sheep in good condition.

"You might get a shower of rain and the paddocks we've had [biosolids] applied to, they'll spark up straight away, whereas other paddocks are still like a desert," he said.

"My stock are doing so much better ... wool cuts are up, you seem to be able to get a longer grazing period in your paddock because the plant species are just doing so much better."

Caloola farm owner and operator Cliff Kelly said the biosolid fertiliser is helping him and his son Andrew manage livestock feed during what he recalls as the worst drought in his life. 

"I've never seen it this bad, it's the driest in my lifetime, even worse than the drought in '78 to '83," he said.

Andrew Kelly said the treated paddocks were far more generative without needing much rain, helping grow food for livestock.

"This pasture here is just so responsive to even 10mm of rain, even 5mm of rain," he said.

"What it'll allow us to do is – ewes that have just lambed recently, we'll wean their lambs on this in four to six weeks.

"What it means for them is they hit the ground running off their mothers and hopefully shouldn't even realise that it's a drought."
 
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