Delivering an irrigation basics workshop to corporate dairy employees

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The Agriculture Victoria Irrigation team in Maffra, with assistance from the West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA), developed and delivered an irrigation basics workshop to 19 dairy staff. The workshop was hosted at the Macalister Demonstration Farm (MDF) in March 2023, allowing a hands-on learning experience for the staff.

A number of large dairy businesses had identified that their employees were doing much of the day-to-day irrigation without having participated in formal training. Given the opportunity to increase irrigation efficiency within the region, the irrigation team enthusiastically worked to design and deliver an irrigation basics course to upskill this cohort of dairy staff.

The workshop aimed to provide practical irrigation knowledge to employees with minimal irrigation knowledge and experience. The topics covered included soil type and water-holding capacity, evapotranspiration, irrigation scheduling tools and system selection, as well as practical information on starting and stopping irrigations on farm.

Each attendee was provided with a workbook containing the information delivered, so they could refer to the information when required on their own farms. An activity using sponges and water was used to provide an example of soil water holding capacity and how different soil types hold water. This sponge soil moisture activity generated fantastic discussion which led to further questions relating to irrigation as a whole.

Workshop participants engaged in the soil moisture exercise

Workshop participants engaged in the soil moisture exercise.

Once the introduction and sponge activity were completed, the group went for a walk around the farm to look at and discuss the different types of irrigation systems at the MDF: fixed sprays, flood irrigation, lateral sprays, and a reuse system.

Workshop participants in a Macalister Demonstration Farmpaddock listening to presenters talk about flood irrigation operation

Workshop participants at the MDF listening to presenters talk about flood irrigation operation.

The management and operation requirements, maintenance checks, irrigation scheduling and O, H & S concerns were covered for each of the irrigation systems. The walk around the farm looking at the different irrigation systems prompted extensive questions and discussion amongst the group. This was valuable as it helped consolidate the information for the attendees and provided them with practical tips and tricks for on farm operation.

The day was well received and appreciated by the farm owners as well as the employees who attended and identified that they were able to improve their knowledge of irrigation.

“Thanks again for the workshop. It’s obvious that you have run these days before, well organised, and great teamwork. The workbooks are great so I can make sure that the staff retain the information after the day.” – Dairy farm manager.

The team were energised after such a successful workshop and intend to run more at this basic level to rapidly upskill new and existing irrigation staff across Gippsland.

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