Trudi Refshauge’s property at Wyangala, in Central West New South Wales, was once described as a “moonscape”, but today it is a refuge for birds, reptiles and insects.
- Trudi Refshauge’s dam at Wyangala is now a “native wonderland”
- ANU research shows healthy dams lead to an increase livestock weight gain
- Most farm dams exceed the safe water consumption threshold for animals
The transformation began with the Sustainable Farms project run by the Australian National University, which looked into the far-reaching benefits of improving the biodiversity around dams on farms.
Ms Refshauge fenced off the livestock, planted an array of native trees, shrubs and reeds, and built an island for frogs in the middle of the dam.
“It’s a native wonderland and nature has taken care of a lot of it,” Ms Refshauge said.
“We’ve got the most gorgeous local eucalyptus trees, little native birds are nesting around it, we’ve got turtles in the dam and even native ducks.”
Dam good for bottom line
Barred from direct access, the livestock drink from a trough fed by the dam.
Ms Refshauge said the stocking rate on the farm had increased since the improvements were made.
“The cattle don’t mind,” she said.
ANU research ecologist Benjamin Scheele said the scant existing research showed “higher quality water has about an 11 per cent benefit in terms of weight gain”.
He said the cost benefit factor ranged from 1.5 to 3, which meant the investment in infrastructure to fence off and trough from a water source would pay off at the market within a few years.
“Farm dams play a vital role in our ecosystem across farmland,” Dr Scheele said.
To revive a dam, Dr Scheele says, livestock access must be restricted to reduce the amount of animal waste washed into the water.
That allows vegetation to establish itself on the surrounding walls and filter out material as it gets washed in.
“You get much clearer and less salty water, but also levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in the dams that are fenced are much lower,” Dr Scheele said.