Veteran farmer, Rob Hornby, is embracing high-tech on-farm improvements made possible by Southern Rural Water’s new Newry pipeline.

Rob is one of nearly 30 farmers set to benefit from improved farming efficiencies and water savings as SRW replace open irrigation channels with nearly 23-kilometres of pipeline. These works are part of Phase 2 of the Macalister Irrigation District 2030 modernisation program (MID2030).

For Rob and his son Brendan, who currently manages irrigation on their 103 hectares dairy farm, getting consistent water flows from the new pipeline is a benefit they’re looking forward to.

He’s been waiting patiently for the new pipeline and said he’s excited to see it come to life because it’s going to make a huge difference by enabling them to automate the farm.

“The old irrigation channel system was built in the 1950s and it’s not up to delivering on the requirements of modern dairy farming,” he said.

“Currently, we often struggle getting consistent flow rates. However, the new pipeline changes all that and allows us to install automated pipe and riser irrigation based on a guaranteed 15 ML flow.”

Rob said they’ve already invested heavily in on-farm improvements and will continue to roll out more over the next few years to ramp up efficiencies across the property.

“We’ve already installed around $500,000 of pipe and riser equipment with around 50 outlets for automation and have laser graded a couple of the paddocks,” he said. “We’re planning on installing more pipe and riser and automating the entire farm over a period of two to three years.”

“These improvements will help us increase our water efficiency, reduce the time we spend irrigating and increase the pasture we can grow on our farm.”

Rob says the on-farm improvements will reduce the time it takes to irrigate the property from six days to three days.

“My son Brendan has a young family and I know he’s looking forward to spending less time irrigating and more time with them,” he said.

Newry is one of the last sections in the Macalister Irrigation District to be modernised and Rob said his son is also looking forward to more sleep thanks to the automation they’re installing.

“Automation means you can turn the water on and check it every 12 hours, rather than every three. So, when we’ve got everything set up, Brendan won’t have to get up at 2am to shift water,” he said.

Rob’s says he still loves the challenge of farming and modernisation means he has greater capacity to focus on the big picture things that allow him to grow the business further.

The modernisation of the Macalister Irrigation District is jointly funded by Southern Rural Water, the Commonwealth Government through the National Water Grid Fund and the Victorian Government.

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