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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday 19 March, 2020
In this edition
Graziers warned to beware of phalaris toxicity

Sheep and cattle producers are being advised to keep an eye out for signs of phalaris toxicity which can lead to illness and sudden death in livestock.

With the flush of new growth across the region following recent rainfall after a prolonged dry period, there is currently an increased risk of livestock suffering from phalaris toxicity as a result of consuming young phalaris grass.

In its early stages of growth (usually the first six weeks) phalaris grass contains toxic alkaloids, which if grazed, can lead to animals developing phalaris staggers. In contrast, phalaris sudden death syndrome is caused by high levels of ammonia in the animal’s system.

Both sheep and cattle may suffer staggers or sudden death after grazing phalaris, although cattle are less susceptible than sheep.
Agriculture Victoria District Veterinary Officer Rachel Gibney said phalaris staggers can develop between 10 days and four months after grazing pasture and animals can even show signs months after being removed from phalaris.

“Sheep that start staggering may improve, but may be left with staggers for life,” she said.

Physical signs that an animal has phalaris staggers include staggering or stumbling, a bunny hop gait, head nodding, trouble standing or trouble eating and weight loss.

Dr Gibney said sudden death syndrome usually develops 12 to 36 hours after the animal has been on pasture.

“Signs include breathing difficulties and blue-coloured gums and the animal will usually die,” she said.

“If phalaris toxicity is suspected stock should be removed immediately, but slowly, from pasture.”

To avoid phalaris toxicity it is best to avoid grazing phalaris during the first six weeks of new growth or to limit the intake of phalaris during the first two days of grazing to just a few hours per day.

“Farmers should also manage stocking rates and feed hay before giving animals access to pasture to ensure they are not overly hungry and consume less,” Dr Gibney said.

“Cobalt supplementation may help prevent phalaris staggers, but not the sudden death syndrome.”

For further advice contact your local veterinarian or Agriculture Victoria veterinary or animal health officer.

Farmer pleads guilty to animal cruelty charges

A sheep farmer from Corack near Donald, recently pleaded guilty to animal cruelty in the St Arnaud Magistrates Court for failing to appropriately care for his sheep.

The farmer pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to provide sufficient feed, three charges of aggravated cruelty, and a charge for failure to comply with notices under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.

The farmer was convicted and fined $5,000 and a Conditional Control Order imposed which would allow an authorised Agriculture Victoria inspector to monitor compliance with the Act. 

Agriculture Victoria Compliance Manager Daniel Bode said the farmer had received a warning letter from Agriculture Victoria with respect to basic husbandry requirements for his sheep only a few months prior to the offending occurring in this matter.

The magistrate accepted the fact the farmer had taken his eye off the ball due to a difficult period, however, the consequences caused cruelty to animals.

The magistrate remarked these are living creatures and they had suffered.

Mr Bode said all farmers have a responsibility to maintain Victoria’s reputation in farming practices and the livestock industry.

“Throughout the period of offending, these sheep continued to suffer and were not provided with appropriate food or treatment, leaving no alternative for Agriculture Victoria officers but to euthanize several sheep that were severely unwell,” Mr Bode said.

“The case serves as a strong reminder that it is an offence for livestock owners to fail to provide for their welfare.”

Apply now for farming and community group drought funding grants

The Farming and Community Group Drought Funding program is open to Landcare and land management groups, industry groups, farming systems groups, farming discussion groups and not-for-profit and community organisations in Victoria. 

Grants of up to $25,000 (excluding GST) are available to engage technical experts and/or specialists to provide relevant and appropriate technical advice, information and support to a group of farmers or landholders to help them prepare for, respond to and manage drought and dry seasonal conditions.  

This can include, but is not limited to, the following technical themes:

  • Irrigation and water
  • Livestock management, including animal nutrition, health, feed and water budgeting
  • Crop, pasture and grazing establishment and management
  • Land and soil management
  • Stock containment area use and management
  • Whole farm and business planning
  • Climate adaptation
  • Other targeted themes will be considered on a case by case basis.

Applications will close on April 1, 2020 at 11.59 pm. 

A broad range of delivery options will be considered including activities delivered by teleconference, webinar, e-learning, podcast or other technology that can bring groups together.

Please review the program guidelines available at

For more information please contact

Segregating for grain quality on-farm using new technologies

Agriculture Victoria researchers are developing new sensor technologies that will enable growers to segregate pulse grains on-farm.

This research, which is being carried out through Agriculture Victoria and the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) Victorian Grains Innovation Partnership, could help farmers to capture higher prices by segregating grain based on quality before it leaves the farm.

Agriculture Victoria Research Scientist Dr Cassandra Walker, who is leading the project, said new imaging technologies are currently under development which can rapidly measure grain quality and will ultimately deliver significant benefits to growers.

“We are aiming to transfer these developments from within the lab to grain processing systems that can be used during harvest, allowing growers the option to segregate grain prior to delivery.”

In recent years there have been significant advances in technology which can measure the quality of cereals at harvest, such as grain moisture and protein.

Dr Walker said the project aimed to expand this concept by developing new systems that could measure quality traits of lentil, chickpea and field pea to enable growers to capture the maximum value for their pulse crops.

“We are particularly keen to take new laboratory-based segregation tools and demonstrate their value on-farm,” she said.

“To achieve this our grain quality and field scientists are working closely with the precision ag industry and growers to demonstrate the potential value at farm scale.”

The research is being undertaken in Horsham, at Agriculture Victoria’s Grains Innovation Park where new high through-put spectral imaging systems are being used to develop grain quality algorithms.

“This is world-class research and is highly specialised,” Dr Walker said.

“The program will test the ability of this technology to segregate grain for quality defects due to frost, heat, disease, and contaminants such as snails or foreign seed - but the real value will be tested on-farm.”

Ashley Wallace, a research agronomist working on the program, said the research was also investigating quality degradation of grain during storage.

“This will provide industry with the knowledge to limit loss of quality associated with the storage of pulses, maximising the value of the product at the time of sale,” he said.

GRDC Manager Pulses and Oilcrops, Dr Francis Ogbonnaya, said the findings of this research presents huge opportunities for growers.

“Growers will be able to add additional value to crops through objective segregation of high value grains to maximise their returns,” Dr Ogbonnaya said.

“Ultimately, if sensor-based technologies can be successfully employed on-farm, this will optimise the quality segregation process of grains and maximise grower returns.”

Soil moisture monitoring report

Soil moisture data from across the state has been summarised in the very first cropping report for 2020.

Despite a dry start to the year, the data is showing soil moisture profiles to have generally improved, increasing cropping confidence.

For a closer look at how the rains impacted your place, click on this link.

Soils Community of Practice update

The latest Soils Community of Practice newsletter has dropped.

This publication includes information on soil health, the latest soil research, soil management advice, climate and soil moisture information and more.

The main objective of the Soils Community of Practice (SCoP) is to encourage communication and networking amongst professionals who are involved or have an interest in soil science.

Through this networking the group hopes to foster greater collaboration between the organisations and departments involved in the soil sphere, to the benefit of the many soil related activities underway across the state.

To join the community or to subscribe to the Soils Community of Practice newsletter log on at: and search 'soils community of practice'.

An update on seasonal climate drivers and outlooks

The first 'Fast Break' climate enewsletter for 2020 is now available online.

Agriculture Victoria Seasonal Risk Agronomist Dale Grey reports that oceans are still warmer to the north creating more evaporation, and a number of tropical disturbances, but higher pressure still exists over the north which is inhibiting cloud formation.

He said moisture is around, as long as you can get a connection to it.

The full update on seasonal climate drivers and outlooks is available on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Producer Demonstration Sites program opening soon

Livestock producer groups interested in running local projects to validate the on-farm benefits of research and development findings are reminded that funding applications open on 1 April.

Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) Producer Demonstration Sites (PDS) program for 2020-21 is open to beef and sheep meat producer groups throughout Australia.

The PDS program includes Levy and Co-Contributor funding options for projects ranging from two years to a maximum of six years.

Preliminary applications for both funding options will be open for six weeks, from 1 April to 12 May 2020.

The open call compliments seven PDS’s already underway in Victorian through a partnership between MLA and Agriculture Victoria, where we are supporting producer groups to test research or innovations on-farm, under local conditions.

They cover topics such as: increasing lamb survival, using drones for sheep welfare, filling feed gaps with fodder beet, dung beetles for lamb enterprises, weaning lambs in the Wimmera, using soil probes to predict spring pasture growth and annual grass control strategies (more details at:

MLA Program Manager – Adoption, David Packer, said the PDS program aims to increase the rate of adoption of key management practices and technologies that improve business profitability, productivity and sustainability.

“Adoption of research outcomes is absolutely critical to driving practice change on-farm and building resilience and prosperity in the Australian red meat industry,” Mr Packer said.

“The PDS program enables producers to see first-hand the commercial relevance of research outcomes through long-term, hands-on experiential and peer-to-peer learning.

“The program continues to successfully result in evidenced-based practice change that has increased productivity and profitability for the adopting production systems.”

Producer groups wishing to engage in a levy PDS project can apply for up to $25,000 per year, for the length of the project, and producer groups wishing to engage in a co-contributor PDS project can apply for up to $50,000 per year, for the length of the project.

“Co-contributor projects require producer investment in the project, which is matched by MLA Donor Company (MDC),” Mr Packer said.

A Levy funded PDS comprises:

  • Funding of up to $25,000 per year for the project term (two to six years)
  • A minimum of three sites and ten core producers, though flexibility offered for extensive regions
  • Alignment with the Research Advisory Council PDS priorities, as defined in the Terms of Reference.

A Co-Contributor funded PDS comprises:

  • Funding of up to $50,000 per year for the project term (two to six years)
  • Funded by 50 per cent levy, 25 per cent producer cash contribution, and 25 per cent MDC
  • Eight per cent access fee (of total project value)
  • A minimum of three sites and ten core producers, though flexibility offered for extensive regions
  • Alignment with industry targets and priorities as per the Meat Industry Strategic Plan, Beef Industry Strategic Plan, Sheep Industry Strategic Plan and MLA Strategic Plan.

Groups will require a facilitator, experienced in group coordination and extension, monitoring and evaluation of on-farm practice change and communication and reporting, to oversee the demonstration.

The 2020-21 Terms of Reference and levy PDS priorities will be available on the MLA website on 27 March 2020.

For full details, application guidelines and forms, visit

Water hyacinth – don't buy, sell or give it away

Water hyacinth is a highly invasive weed that is choking lakes, rivers and water ways around the world and Agriculture Victoria is encouraging Victorians to report it to prevent it from taking hold in Victoria.

Water hyacinth may look pretty but has a well-deserved reputation for being the world’s worst water weed.

If you see or have any water hyacinth, or any other State prohibited weed, report it to the Agriculture Victoria Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or email

What's on?
Climate webinars
Tools for better irrigation scheduling
Event Details

Wednesday, 25 March
12 – 1 pm


Register here


This presentation is on irrigation scheduling tools that can achieve top yields and water use efficiency.

Rob O'Connor is a Senior Irrigation Extension Officer with Agriculture Victoria. His presentation will provide information on Evapotranspiration (ET) tools and services available to irrigators and will share results and learnings from using soil moisture monitoring equipment for more informed irrigation decision making.

Presenter: Rob O’Connor has a long history working with farmers on irrigation-related issues. For the past five years, Rob has specialised in the area of irrigation scheduling.

Register here

Fox and wild dog bounty collection schedule for South West Victoria

Acceptable entire fox scalps and entire wild dog skin pieces will be collected from eligible members of the public at specific dates and times, and from sites scheduled as Collection Centres.

Please note that no entire-fox scalps or entire wild dog skin pieces will be accepted at any public counter or state government office. Collections will only be accepted at scheduled collection centres.

Please note, bounty collections at Colac have been relocated to 23A Hugh Murray Drive, Colac East 3250.

Further information about the fox bounty is available here.

BALLARAT (fox only)

Monday, 6 April
1 – 3 pm

25 Vickers Street

GEELONG (fox only)

Tuesday, 7 April
9.30 – 11.30 am

16 Cadman Terrace
North Geelong

COLAC (fox only)

Tuesday, 7 April
1.30 – 3.30 pm

23a Hugh Murray Drive
Colac East


WARRNAMBOOL (fox only)

Wednesday, 8 April
8.30 – 10.30 am

703–711 Raglan Parade

HAMILTON (fox only)

Wednesday, 8 April
1.30 – 3.30 pm

Depot, Hamilton Centre
Research Station Road, Hamilton


Digital opportunities roadshow

Small Business Victoria in partnership with the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, are hosting free workshops across regional Victoria to help businesses make the most of the digital economy and reduce their cybersecurity risks.

Topics include Developing an online presence, Understanding and using digital tools and Managing your cybersecurity and safety plan.

Bookings are essential.

Workshops taking place across Barwon South West, include;

11 May – Colac

11 May – Lorne

28 May – Camperdown

28 May – Portland

Digital Opportunities Roadshow is delivered in partnership with VCCI. For more information contact VCCI customer service on (03) 8662 5333 or email

Subscribe to BSW Ag News

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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.


'Like' our Agriculture Victoria Facebook page.


Follow us on Twitter @VicGovAg


Subscribe to the Agriculture Victoria YouTube channel. 


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