If like me, you have either read or heard of the laws regarding the storage and/or spreading of effluent, you will know it as being referred to as wastewater. Effluent fits the definition of wastewater which is "any water that has been adversely affected in quality by anthropogenic influence"1. This could lead to a pollution problem if allowed to enter freshwater sources. But when managed properly, it is actually quite valuable.
Effluent water contains valuable nutrients2. If there is one thing I've learned in the few months that I've worked in the dairy industry, it's that not only do nutrients equal milk production, but they also cost a lot of money. So it really doesn't make sense to be wasting nutrients (Read blog: Are you wasting nutrients on your farm?).
Effluent, when properly managed, is a great way of recycling nutrients on a dairy farm. This can decrease fertilizer costs by supplementing nutrients, improving soil health3 (by adding organic matter) and also minimising pollution2 (by decreasing the amount discharged into freshwater resources). With this having been said, it is only fair to treat your effluent water as you would fertilizer and water. Be sure that the soil needs, and most importantly, can actually hold the additional nutrients and moisture that is provided by the effluent water.
As to whether effluent is a waste or a benefit, depends entirely on how you, the farmer, use it. Remember there are laws around the storing and irrigating of effluent water. Be sure to comply with these by contacting Department of Environmental Affairs (storage of effluent) and the Department of Water and Sanitation (irrigation of effluent). For any clarity and/or guidance, feel free to contact us.