Dairy farming is generally established on the volcanic soils of the Atherton and Eungella Tablelands and the Burnett region, and is managed very differently to the more extensive beef grazing that has its own subprogram of research (see Grazing).

The greatest impact of dairy operations on water quality is from increased discharge of nutrients, however, intensive animal industries in high rainfall catchments can also increase sediment loads if cattle are not excluded from creek lines and watercourses. A total of $467,000 was allocated to a single project that fostered smarter fertiliser practices for the dairy industry (RRRD055) in the Great Barrier Reef catchments.

RRRD055: Validating the cost/benefits of improved fertiliser practices and quantifying nutrient loads and pathways from irrigated dairy pastures in the Wet Tropics and the Burnett-Mary regions