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. 

Key points:

  • 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.”

An aerial shot of a farm with a dam visible.

Aerial view of Trudi Refshauge’s Wyangala property in 2005, which she described as a “moonscape”.(

Supplied: Trudi Refshauge


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.

A dam with a fence running through it.

Ms Refshauge’s dam is now a haven for birds, insects and reptiles.(

ABC Central West: Xanthe Gregory


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.

A dam surrounded by thriving native greenery.

A restored dam with healthy water for livestock courtesy of the thick ground cover.(

Supplied: ANU


Bountiful benefits

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.

A man in bush attire and a hat stands among tall grass in a paddock.

Ben Scheele will spend three years quantifying how better water quality leads to livestock weight gain.(



“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.

Trudi put a fence around her ‘moonscape’ dam and the results are extraordinary
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