‘Green Dams’ Project – field day at Cape Liptrap

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Green-Farm-Dams-Field-Day-180523-50 2400pxL-R: Ben Gebert, Acting CEO, Food & Fibre Gippsland, with property owners Bruce Whittaker and Jillian Staton, and South Gippsland Landcare Network's Projects and Education Coordinator, Cassie Wright.

Vic Hub’s South-East Node, Food & Fibre Gippsland, has been part of a project with South Gippsland Landcare Network (SGLN). The Green Dam Project focuses on enhancing vegetation management in and around dams, with the aim of addressing the existing knowledge gap in managing dams in temperate environments.


Six years ago, project participants Jillian Staton and Bruce Whittaker fenced-off a centrally located, spring-fed dam to pipe water to troughs across their home farm. In Jillian’s opinion, the investment – which included replacing a faulty pump – has already paid for itself by giving them flexibility and the ability to graze the entire property more effectively. The improvement in pasture quality was evident in both the before and after aerial photos, and observed while walking on the property after lunch.

Green-Farm-Dams-Field-Day-180523-42 The fenced-off dam LR
The fenced-off dam.



In May, Jillian and Bruce hosted a field day on their beef cattle property at Cape Liptrap. Here is Jillian’s summary of the field day and what experts across ag economics, aquaculture and ecology had to say.



The huge turn-out at field day revealed the high level of interest in the economic and environmental impacts of fencing-off farm dams.

Fifty people attended the event, which was funded by the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption & Innovation Hub, with expert speakers giving presentations before attendees looked at dams on the farm.

Agricultural economist Professor Bill Malcolm urged participants to distinguish between economic and financial factors when making decisions, as many outcomes cannot be ascribed a monetary value. Given the current lack of hard data proving a link between clean water and increased meat and milk production, he said that an economic decision to fence off a farm dam should be made in the context of the farm business as a whole. It should consider the dam as an asset with a finite life – he suggested 40 years for a new dam – and compare the likely returns if the money was invested elsewhere.

Large animal vet Dr Phil Poulton considered the economic impacts of fencing off farm dams from a risk-management perspective. He said that providing stock with clean water from fenced-off dams virtually eliminates the risk of stock and production losses caused by diseases such as Salmonella and Leptospirosis, and toxic blue-green algae. It also prevents animals dying or getting injured from drowning or being stuck in mud. On the flip-side, he reminded participants of the need to monitor troughs regularly, especially in hot weather, as lack of drinking water can be

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Aquatic ecologist Dr Ty Matthews inspects a sample taken from the fenced-off dam, which is demonstrating high levels of biodiversity.


Aquatic ecologist Dr Ty Matthews said that despite there being around 450,000 farm dams in Victoria, little research has been done into their ecological values. A recent project he has been involved in, however, indicates that fenced-off farm dams are providing refuge for aquatic fauna that are struggling to survive due to habitat loss caused by climate change and human activity. He believes that farm dams could play an important conservation role in the future, particularly in respect of threatened native frog and fish species.

Later, on the farm walk, Ty took water samples from the fenced-off dam, a second dam with a newly constructed restricted access point, and a fully open dam that stock could access. The first sample demonstrated the high biodiversity benefits of excluding stock from dams. As well as being exceptionally clear, it contained highly sensitive macro-invertebrates (including mayflies) and a huge tadpole which was possibly a banjo frog. In contrast, the other samples had high turbidity and contained macro-invertebrates that have a high tolerance for poor water quality.

Another field day will be held in May 2024, by which stage the restricted access dam will have refilled and been in use for some time. Its value in preventing erosion and providing cleaner water for stock, along with habitat for wildlife, will be discussed in conjunction with any lessons learned from a farming perspective.

SGLN is preparing resources on fencing-off farm dams, to be available on the network’s website. Contact Cassie [via cassie(at)sgln.net.au] for more details.

The ‘Green Dams’ initiative is sponsored by FFG through funding received by the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption & Innovation Hub, supported by the Future Drought Fund. The project is being delivered in partnership with Bass Coast LGA and Agriculture Victoria.

For more information, please contact the Vic Hub’s South-East Node, Food & Fibre Gippsland.

You can find out more here about other the Vic Hub projects.

And if you’re wondered what makes an on-farm water-management project successful, find out here.

Green-Farm-Dams-Field-Day-180523-35 The fenced-off farm dam in the foreground, with a backdrop of Wilsons Promontory (note that this is a very windy coastal location) LR-jpg
The fenced-off farm dam in the foreground, with a backdrop of Wilsons Promontory – this is a very windy coastal location.