When Hamish Crawford bought a 125ha dairy farm in Tatura it was one of the wettest years on record.
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 Goulburn-Murray Water’s Connections project, Mr Crawford agreed to rationalise one of three outlets and upgrade the two remaining inefficient Dethridge wheels, replacing them with modernised meters.
A section of Stuart Murray Canal, which borders the farm, was remodelled to enable a flow rate of 15Ml/day.
Further works included replacing concrete stops with metal slides and 15.24cm pipes featuring watertight Padman stops to make irrigation faster and more efficient.
Mr Crawford 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 out with 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.’’