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R&D pays dividends for flood-prone farmers

The Waratah floating posts were released to market in 2016 after almost three years in development, and stringent trialling in flood prone regions of New South Wales.

Flooding in rural areas has regularly hurt the hip pocket of Australian farmers, with significant impacts on production.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science (ABARES) estimated that flooding in eastern Australia in 2010-11 reduced agricultural production by at least $500–600 million.

Following these devastating floods, research began into minimising some of the impacts for graziers, through the design of a buoyant fence post.

After almost three years in development and stringent trials, the Waratah floating posts were released to market in 2016. The unique fence system is designed to rise in the event of floodwaters, instead of collecting debris like traditional fencing.

Fast forward two years and Waratah is seeing the years of hard work in developing this product come to fruition, through the cost and time saving benefits achieved by end users.

Western Australian cattle producer Adam Smith estimates his operation has saved thousands of dollars in helicopter costs by having the flood posts installed on his property ‘Jubilee Downs’ near Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region.

The station runs 12,000 head of Shorthorn cows and calves and is jointly managed by Keith and Karen Anderson, Mick and Bonnie Reimers, and Adam and Kelly Smith, who have all grown tired of excessive mustering and maintenance of fences following the wet season.

“Each wet season, the old fence would either fall down or be washed down stream and the heifers and bullocks would box-up together. It would take months before we could get into the paddocks with a vehicle to muster them conventionally,” Adam said.

“The water would sit there for weeks and we would have to hire a chopper at nearly $400 per hour to go in there to fix the fence and muster the cattle back into their paddocks.”

Immediately after installing the fence, a 6.8m flood came through ‘Jubilee Downs’, putting the new infrastructure installed on one of their creek lines to the ultimate test.

“The 2016-17 flood, which spread about 200m across, was only a fraction smaller than the biggest one we’ve had back in 2011, and the posts stood up to the test,” he said.

“As soon as the water receded in April 2018, we were able to get in, quickly re-adjust the fence and were back in business. It took only 20 minutes for one person to re-erect the flood fence and minimal mustering was required.”

Head of Waratah’s Innovation Team, Brad, was involved in the initial trial phase of the new product.

“The posts are designed to float, and have a shape similar to a canoe pontoon, so they can sit on the flow of flood water with minimal resistance,” Brad said.

“They are hollow for buoyancy, but have a bung at the top so you can pour water into them before installation for extra balance and to stop the post from lifting in normal creek flow.

“However, farmers should be careful with how much water they pour into the posts, to avoid offsetting their buoyancy. For example, if you have six inches of water in your creek prior to flooding, don’t put more than six inches of water into the flood posts.”

This unique floating fence system may be used in creek crossings, causeways, river beds, tidal waters and flood plains and generally requires little ongoing maintenance.

Contact your local distribution outlet or Waratah representative if you require help with the technical side of building a flood fence.

Click here to watch a video explaining how the flood posts work. http://www.waratahfencing.com.au/latest-products/

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