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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday 19 December, 2019

Welcome to the final edition of Barwon South-West Ag News for 2019.

Thank you for your support and interest throughout 2019 and we look forward to bringing you more agriculture news in 2020.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season.

Barwon South-West Ag News will return to your Inbox on 30 January, 2020.

In this edition
Latest news
Beekeeper pleads guilty to bringing in diseased hives

Father and son beekeepers from New South Wales have each been placed on 12 month adjourned undertakings with special conditions to pay a total of $5,000 to the Court Fund for bringing diseased bees and incorrectly marked beehives into Victoria.

The two men, who appeared in Robinvale Magistrates’ Court on 17 December, pleaded guilty to several offences under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994.

The father pleaded guilty to causing, permitting or allowing diseased livestock or livestock products to be brought into Victoria, while the son pleaded guilty to exposing hives infected with disease and being a registered beekeeper who possessed hives not marked or banded with his registered brand.

The court heard that in July 2018 the father, who is a 74-year-old beekeeper from New South Wales, signed a certificate declaring that hives he intended to bring into Victoria for almond pollination activities were free of the bee disease, American Foulbrood (AFB).

Once in Victoria, the hives were inspected by Agriculture Victoria Authorised Officers who determined that of the 396 hives inspected, 84 were showing symptoms of AFB. Of the 84 hives, 26 were classed as ‘dead-out’, meaning the disease is so far advanced that there are no live bees left in the hive.

The hives had also been left exposed by the beekeeper’s 46-year-old son, also from New South Wales, allowing healthy bees from other colonies to access the diseased materials.

Diseased and dead-out hives create targets for ‘robber bees’, whereby bees from neighbouring healthy hives can ‘rob’ honey from the weak hives and in doing so, can carry AFB spores back to their own hives, spreading the disease to other hives.

Many of the hives were also marked with inaccurate brands or were not branded at all. Branding is a legislative requirement in all Australian states and territories to ensure tracability in the event of a disease outbreak especially exotic bee pests such as Varroa. 

Agriculture Victoria Senior Apiary Officer, Joe Riordan, said that all beekeepers were responsible for complying with the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 to assist with maintaining biosecurity and controlling the spread of bee diseases.

“Interstate beekeepers bringing hives into Victoria must ensure that their hives are free of AFB prior to transportation and should be aware that their hives may be checked by Victorian apiary officers once here” he said.

“If you suspect that you have AFB in your hives, you must notify an apiary officer without delay and take immediate steps to minimise the risk of spread of AFB to healthy hives.”

Find out more about beekeeping and the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 visit the Agriculture Victoria website

High temperatures can impact livestock health and productivity

Dr Jeff Cave, District Veterinary Officer, Agriculture Victoria 

As we head into the height of summer, heat stress in livestock can become a major issue both for production levels and animal welfare.

By making some minor management changes and taking a little extra care of your livestock in extreme hot weather, the effects of heat stress can be substantially reduced.

The ideal temperature range for cattle is between 5 and 25°C, and for adult pigs is 18 to 20°C.

High producing livestock, such as dairy cows, are the animals most sensitive to heat stress. Poultry have been known to perish due to heat stress on very hot days.

As temperatures rise, livestock divert energy away from production to cool themselves. This is done via heat loss through their skin surface and respiratory tract.

Feed intake is also reduced and a decrease in milk production may be observed.

Humidity also plays a significant role, and for any given temperature, the degree of heat stress increases as the relative humidity increases.

Heat stressed livestock will seek out shade, drink more, eat less, stand rather than lay, pant, produce less milk and potentially be less fertile.

On hot days, livestock should be given access to shade and good quality, cool drinking water.

High quality feed should be given during the evening when it is cooler, and livestock are likely to have better intakes.

The yarding and moving of livestock should be avoided during the hottest part of the day. Your fire plan may need to be enacted on such days.

For further information please contact your local veterinarian, Agriculture Victoria veterinary or animal health officer, or go to

For information specifically for dairy cows visit:

Be alert for blue-green algae in farm water supplies

The current seasonal conditions remain standard for blue-green algae to thrive in farm water supplies.

Victoria’s Acting Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Cameron Bell, said livestock owners need to remain alert – blue-green algae poisoning can result in poisoning of livestock, including pets.

“As there is no specific treatment for blue-green algae poisoning, producers should check farm water supplies daily for blooms, as this remains the most effective way of preventing stock deaths.

“Blue-green algal blooms typically appear as surface scum that looks like a suspension of green paint or curdled green milk, often with an earthy smell. However, the colour may range from pale green to dark brown,” Dr Bell said.

Deaths can occur when stock drink toxins produced by the blue-green algae, often when it is concentrated on the down-wind side of a water supply and has formed a dense, surface scum.

Animals that have consumed blue-green algal toxin may appear ill very rapidly, develop a staggery gait, collapse, begin to convulse and die – typically within 24 hours – depending on the toxicity of the bloom and the concentration of the toxin.

Those that do not die immediately often suffer severe liver damage. This may lead to the development of jaundice (‘the yellows’) or photosensitisation over the next few days.

Dr Bell said those that recover from these ailments often suffer from chronic ill-thrift. If a suspicious bloom is noticed, stock should be removed as quickly as possible, and a safe alternative water supply provided.

“Where possible producers should identify an alternative water supply, prior to their primary source of livestock drinking water being affected by a bloom. There may not be time to identify an alternative water source once the primary water supply is affected,” said Dr Bell.

“We recommend laboratory testing of the water supply for the presence of blue-green algae, and a post-mortem examination of dead or sick animals by a veterinarian.”

Blue-green algae toxins may remain on dry pasture for a long time following irrigation, often until there is a rain event or further irrigation with uncontaminated water.

Contaminated water should not be used to irrigate vegetables and fruit or come in contact with plants being grown for food, particularly fruit and vegetables that are mostly eaten raw such as apples, grapes, tomatoes, strawberries, cabbages and other salad greens.

It is also recommended to keep stock off pasture that has been irrigated with blue-green algae contaminated water for at least seven days after irrigation.

Dr Bell said dogs are also prone to poisoning as they tend to swim in farm water supplies and should be kept away from suspect water sources.

Further information on blue-green algal contamination in your irrigation water source or livestock water supply is available on the Agriculture Victoria website at

Prevention of cruelty to animals regulations 2019

The new Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (POCTA) Regulations 2019 commenced on 14 December 2019, these replace the previous POCTA Regulations 2008.

The Victorian Government thanks the 2468 individuals and organisations who provided a wide variety of submissions and comments on the draft POCTA Regulations 2019.

The POCTA Regulations aim to protect the welfare of animals in Victoria by supporting the state’s primary animal welfare legislation to prevent or minimise harm through regulation of specific activities.

The regulations make improvements on important animal welfare issues including:

  • Animal transportation and tethering requirements
  • Confinement of animals in vehicles on hot days
  • Use of pain relief for mulesing of sheep
  • Sale and use of appropriate fruit netting to protect wildlife
  • Operational and administrative processes for rodeos
  • Scientific procedure record-keeping, the sourcing of animals, and training of Animal Ethics Committee members.

Visit Engage Victoria for a summary of the consultation process, feedback received and changes made to the regulations.

Chemical users BeeConnected about pollinator safety

Agriculture Victoria is encouraging chemical users to actively engage in BeeConnected.

BeeConnected is a national databse and app that connects registered beekeepers with registered farmers and contractors, enabling two way communication on the location of hives and crop protection activities.

“It’s one of a number of tools available to chemical users to help them follow the highest possible safety standards for the benefit of consumers, the environment and especially managing any risks to pollinators,” Agriculture Victoria Statewide Specialist Chemicals Steven Field said.

Mr Field said the timing of chemical use can sometimes coincide with when bees are actively foraging for pollen and nectar, particularly in the spring and summer months.

“The risk of chemical use to pollinators is shared between the chemical user and the bee keeper. Chemical users, including aerial operators and ground-based sprayers, have a responsibility to conduct an on-ground inspection of paddocks to determine whether there are bees foraging on flowering plants, or bees in flight before applying chemicals,” Mr Field said.

He said commercial and hobby beekeepers should register their hives on BeeConnected, to enable chemical users to easily identify and notify beekeepers when and where they are going to be spraying.

“Chemical users must read and understand the product label, paying specific attention to DO NOT statements that appear under the Protection of Livestock section of a chemical label.

“These DO NOT statements are enforceable and constitute an offence* if they are disregarded.

“Spraying early in the morning when bees are less active or spraying on cooler days when bees are less likely to be flying and foraging are further strategies chemical users can adopt.”

Mr Field said pollination from honey bees was a critical element of agricultural and horticultural production in Australia, increasing yields and seed production for growers of a variety of different commodities.

“Cooperation between chemical users and beekeepers is critical for the success of industries and survival of bee populations,” he said.

The BeeConnected database can be found at

For more information, visit, or call 136 186.

*see Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992

On-farm biosecurity: lessons learned from abroad

South Gippsland beef producer Rob Liley

Victorian farmers have learned valuable lessons about the importance of rigorous on-farm biosecurity thanks to the experiences of Agriculture Victoria District Veterinary Officer Dr Jeff Cave.

At a recent state-wide webinar Dr Cave shared his recollections of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in the United Kingdom in 2001.

Dr Cave was deployed to Cumbria – the most severely affected part of the country – when the FMD outbreak was at its height.

His role as an epidemiologist involved aging mouth lesions on sheep and cattle to help authorities trace the disease and stem its spread.

“The outbreak resulted in the destruction of roughly six per cent of the nation’s livestock,” he said.

Dr Cave said the experience drove home the importance of early identification of disease and stringent biosecurity protocols, including the cessation of stock movement if the event of a disease outbreak.

“Foot-and-mouth disease is one of the biggest threats to Australia’s agricultural economy,” he said.

“If an outbreak occurred, it would have drastic impacts on the livelihoods of many farmers, and the sustainability of our livestock industries.”

During the webinar farmers heard how Dr Cave’s take home messages about good on-farm biosecurity could be practically applied on their farms.

South Gippsland beef producer Rob Liley explained how he implements biosecurity practices on his farm with a rigorous induction process for new stock and good record keeping, ensuring lifetime traceability of stock.

“New animals are kept in their buying groups for several weeks after their arrival,” he said.

Mr Liley said strategic biosecurity is paramount to good management.

“Often our biosecurity practices have a dual purpose,” he said.
“For example, fencing off dams to keep stock out not only ensures the water is kept clean, but also removes the risk of parasite transmission through dams.”

Joe Toohey, who runs a cattle breeding and trading operation near Ballarat, said he restricts the entry of visitor vehicles onto his farm to help maintain the integrity of his on-farm biosecurity.

“I have visitors park their vehicle and only enter the farming platform using a farm vehicle,” he said.

“This not only minimises the risks of introducing foreign material, but also ensures stress free cattle handling techniques as the animals are adapted to the use of farm vehicles.”

While vendor-bred cattle are favoured, buying out of markets remains common practice for cattle traders.

What's on

Banking autumn savings using stock containment areas

Come along to share information on establishing and managing a stock containment area for sheep.

Event Details

Tuesday 18 February
9.30 am to 1 pm (lunch provided)

Glenthompson (register for directions)

RSVP: Register online by Monday 17 February at Eventbrite



  • Siting and design of stock containment areas
  • Feeding and nutrition of sheep in containment
  • Producer’s first-hand experience - design and use of stock containment areas
  • Benefits and uses of stock containment areas (including autumn saving of pastures, drought feeding, weaning, biosecurity and quarantine).


  • Clem Sturmfels – Land Management Extension Officer, Agriculture Victoria
  • Nerida Evans – District Veterinary Officer, Agriculture Victoria
  • Russell and Fiona Mitchell – farm owners, ‘The Ranch.

For more information please contact Nerissa Lovric, Agriculture Victoria on 0475 986 314 or email

Agriculture Victoria’s 2020 lunchtime climate webinar series

Agriculture Victoria have an exciting program of climate webinars for 2020. Subscribe to ensure you don’t miss out.

Agriculture Victoria’s 2020 lunchtime climate webinar series will give participants the opportunity to hear the latest science, insights and innovation from a range of expert speakers.

While the team are busy planning the program, you can stay up-to-date by subscribing to their electronic notifications.

So far, speakers include:

  • Luke Shelley, from the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), who will discuss BoM’s new Local Climate Guides project.
  • Andrew Watkins, Climatologist also from BoM, will discuss the new BoM seasonal forecast products and new multi-week and seasonal outlooks.
  • John Clarke, from CSIRO, will share the new Victorian Climate Change Projections.
  • Cam Nicholson from Nicon Rural Services will share valuable insights on farm decision making.
  • Geoff Steendam, Senior Manager Hydrology and Climate Science, DELWP will discuss the Victorian Water and Climate Initiative and findings.
  • Agbyte’s Leighton Wilksch will walk attendees through farm weather stations and examples of how they are being used to provide value for farmers.

Speakers from Agriculture Victoria:

  • Climate Specialist, Graeme Anderson will talk about weather forecasts, seasonal outlooks and climate change projections and what they can and can’t do.
  • Senior Irrigation Officer, Rob O’Connor, will discuss our irrigation products and services and how using BoM evapotranspiration data can assist determine plant irrigation requirements.
  • Seasonal Risk Agronomist, Dale Grey will present the Break Seasonal Forecast updates, including both autumn, winter and spring outlooks.

For more information and to subscribe to stay up-to-date with these upcoming climate webinars visit: or contact Heather Field on 5336 6607 or


GRDC Grains Research Update – Bannockburn
Event details

Thursday 27 February
9 am – 1 pm

Cultural Centre
27 High Street


The GRDC Grains Research Update events are for agronomists, consultants, researchers and growers to see and discuss the latest in research and to network with their peers about how to apply new and relevant information to the latest farming systems.

Presenters and topics to be confirmed soon.

Register here.

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Contacting Agriculture Victoria

Call 136 186 from anywhere in Australia for the cost of a local call (except for mobiles and public telephones).

If you are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment
contact the National Relay Service on 133 677 or

A full list of our contact points can be found at:

Don't forget to check out Agriculture Victoria's social media sites for up-to-date information and news.


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