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Dairy Effluent Management Plan

Dairy effluent management is an important part of any dairy farm business as it represents a valuable resource for farmers to put nutrients back into soil.

The effluents originated in the milking areas contain excreta, urine and water, as well as traces of milk and chemical products used for plant wash. Due to this, the composition of the effluent is high in solids, nutrients, organic matter and microorganisms that are capable of degrading the environment that receives it.

The way that dairy effluent is managed, will affect the quality of surface and groundwater, soil, and also human and animal health. To protect natural resources and the sustainability of production, the systems must be correctly designed, maintained and operated.

To guarantee the success operating the effluent system, there must be a clear operational planning that helps cover the effluent related tasks and prevent any environmental risk.

DairyNZ has valuable resources available for this topic, including an Effluent Management Plan poster that can be printed out and made visible at the cowshed or staff room, so everybody knows what to do and who to call when something goes wrong. The plan includes contact details of the person responsible for managing the effluent system, a map with the application area, health and safety, emergency contacts, maintenance and troubleshooting for the system.

DairyNZ Effluent Management Plan template


An example on how to fill out the poster and make it useful for the farm staff is shown below:

Example poster which is useful for the farm staff with table including key rules, buffer zones, health and safety and specific health and safety risks with details


An effluent application plan can help to identify suitable areas of the farm for effluent applications, and areas to avoid. It is recommended to always check the consent conditions for application areas (high and low-risk soils), minimum distances, application depths, minimum intervals and other restrictions included in the consent.

Aerial farm map showing effluent pond and low and high risk soils.

Table with information regarding how we operate and example of what to do if things go wrong


A run sheet for effluent applications should be also used to keep records during the season, as part of the management plan. This will help to make decisions on when and where to spread effluent, considering weather and soil conditions.

DairyNZ example of completed irrigator run sheet table.


There are a range of activities that could be implemented on-farm that would enhance the environmental performance of dairy effluent land application systems. Planning ahead and having a contingency plan in place will help comply with council consent conditions and avoid potential environmental consequences.



Environmental Consultant