The Connections Project is a game changer on the dairy

When Hamish Crawford bought a 125ha dairy farm in Harston it was one of the wettest years on record.

Anna Turnbull
3 minutes

But lessons from the millennium drought were fresh in his mind and the fourth-generation dairy farmer knew an opportunity to modernise the farm’s irrigation infrastructure would be a game changer.

 In 2012, through the $2 billion Connections Project, Mr Crawford agreed to rationalise one of three outlets and upgrade two remaining, inefficient Dethridge Wheels replacing them with modernised meters.

A section of the Stuart Murray Canal, which boarders the farm, was remodelled to enable a flow rate of 15ML/day.

Further works included replacing concrete stops with metal slides and 6 inch pipes featuring water tight Padman Stops to make irrigation faster and more efficient.

The 44-year-old said there were a few things he wouldn’t miss about the old irrigation system.

“I don’t miss drop bars or Dethridge Wheels and I don’t miss getting up in the morning to turn the wheel on,” Mr Crawford said.

“With the new system the water starts while I’m still in bed. By the time the channel has filled up, I’ve watered my first couple of bays and by 6am are in full swing.

 “That’s the best bit of the Connections Project. It used to take four days to order water. Now, with Total Channel Control, I only need to give 24 hours notice, sometimes less, and I always get the water on time.”

Starting outwith 149 Holstein cows, Mr Crawford has grown his herd to 450 and since 2010, purchased more land.

“In the future we need to make better use of our water as water becomes more scarce,”he said.

“The spotlight is on water for farmers. What you put your water on is a big decision.”

Connections Project Director Frank Fisseler said the project was benefitting farmers by automating water delivery across the region.

“Dethridge Wheels and manual gate and channel systems are being replaced with automatic systems that allow irrigators to get water when and where it’s needed,” Mr Fisseler said.

The project is also generating water savings by creating a world leading delivery system that boosts irrigator productivity and helps communities thrive.

For MrCrawford the project signalled a positive future for dairy farmers in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMID).

“Water is crucial. It’s the reason we are here. It’s the first and the second priority for dairy farmers. We need reliable and affordable access to water and we need to use what is available efficiently,” he said.

“Seeing $2 billion invested in the region is very encouraging. It’s a voice of confidence.”

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