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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday 7 May, 2020
In this edition:
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Farmers and producers are vital to all Victorian communities and play an important role during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

We are working closely with industry to ensure that the essential services provided by the agriculture sector continue to operate during the Stage 3 measures which have been implemented to combat the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The situation continues to change rapidly and we urge you to regularly check the Department of Health and Human Services website for the latest update:

More information including: common questions and answers; advice for animal owners, commuting and accommodating seasonal contract workers during coronavirus and farm business FAQs is available on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Contacting us
contacting us

We’re continuing to serve the community but you may need to contact us in different ways.

If you can do something online then this is the best way. You can also call us 136 186 for a range of information including how best to contact us.

Agriculture Victoria office receptions across the state are now closed in order to reduce face-to-face contact between staff and members of the community. The decision is in response to the latest advice to help prevent the further spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Please consider whether the activity you are contacting us about is necessary at this time. Visit the Department of Health and Human Services website for the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) advice.

Latest news
Monitor your farm business performance
Tractor sowing PBC March 2020

Agriculture Victoria is offering sheep and beef producers the opportunity to participate in the Victorian Livestock Farm Monitor Project (LFMP).

The LFMP has been collecting detailed physical and financial farm information from producers for 50 years and providing them with a thorough and independent report of their farm’s performance.

Participants have said they use the report’s data for such things as obtaining or extending loans or to make short, medium and long-term business decisions.

Farm Business Economist Sam Henty said for a farm business to achieve its goals it must first establish whether it can pay the bills, understand how efficiently it uses its resources and determine whether the owner is increasing their net worth.

“The Livestock Farm Monitor Project provides producers and decision makers with this information,” Mr Henty said.

“It’s a good opportunity to step back and look at your figures and input costs and review these elements.”

Participating producers will receive an annual individualised report with graphs and data from the reporting year.

“A participating farm business can use the results from this report to compare its performance over time and help identify the critical variables to inform and provide confidence for on-farm decision making.”

Data collection occurs in July and August each year, to coincide with the availability of data from the previous financial year.

Data collected includes farm income and costs for the financial year, trading and breeding details, feed input and production, fertiliser and labour inputs and a complete stock, feed, land and farm machinery inventory, including all farm assets and liabilities.

Limited places are available for individual farms and farm discussion groups across Victoria to participate in the 2019–20 LFMP.

There is no cost for participants, and all information is treated as strictly confidential.

Previous reports are available on the Agriculture Victoria website

For further information, please contact Sam Henty on 0430 482 443 or

Upskilling the next generation of Victorian farmers

Young farmers across Victoria are being encouraged to take advantage of an opportunity to expand their skills, knowledge and agricultural expertise through the latest program backed by the Victorian Government.

Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes today launched this year’s Upskill and Invest Young Farmers Scholarships, which allows successful applicants to access study and training, as well as invest in on-farm initiatives and further professional development.

The program offers scholarships of up to $10,000 to support training and study in areas such as business and risk management, genetics and pasture management development.

Once recipients complete their studies, they will receive further funding of up to $5000 to invest in putting their new skills into practice in fields such as professional development and business planning, or to invest in on-farm practices, equipment and technology.

To ensure young people continue to develop the skills they need to build successful careers in agriculture, the Victorian Government is investing $375,000 in the scholarship program over the next three years.

The Upskill and Invest Young Farmers Scholarship program has successfully supported 63 young farmers to develop their skills across a range of agriculture sectors since 2015.

Applications for this year’s round of scholarships are now open to farmers aged 35 or under who have been working in farm businesses for at least three days a week for the past three months, with at least two years total experience on-farm.

As well as the scholarship program, the Government is supporting our next generation of farmers through a range of other programs, including the Young Farmer Business Bootcamps, Young Farmer Business Network and the Young Farmers Advisory Council.

To find out more about the program and to apply for a scholarship, visit Applications close on Sunday, 14 June.

A great autumn break, but what about spring?
take care with chemicals in the backyard

Good rainfall in many areas from early April onwards has seen an ideal autumn break in much of the north and central regions.

Soil moisture is rated average or wetter in all Victorian locations except for far East Gippsland. Many moisture probes increased by greater than 10 per cent during April.

While most climate models surveyed predict a negative IOD in late winter/spring, predictability this far out is historically poor. 

For more details about seasonal climate risk in your region, check out the latest edition of the Fast Break newsletter.

Regional climate update webinar
seasonal climate update webinars

Want to know more about the climate drivers for your region, how climate forecasts relate to the weather you see on farm and what the current forecast is for your region?

Agriculture Victoria is running a series of webinars in May where our Seasonal Risk Agronomist Dale Grey will take us through:

  • The climate drivers which affect your region
  • How models have performed for some recent climate events
  • The current regional forecast.

If you need help registering or would like more information call Sarah Clack on 0417 316 345 or email

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District
Tuesday 12 May
12 – 1 pm
Register or join at:

North East Victoria
Wednesday 13 May
12 – 1 pm
Register or join at:

South West Victoria
Thursday 14 May
12 – 1 pm
Register or join at:

For more information about drought and dry seasonal conditions support call 136 186 or visit

Recordings of other recent climate webinars are now available.

Visit our climate webinar page on the Agriculture Victoria website for more information.

Keeping backyard chickens

By Dr Jeff Cave, District Veterinary Officer

Chickens can be a great addition to your garden, fulfilling various roles such as producing eggs, fertilising gardens and eating your food scraps.

The most trouble-free chickens to purchase are vaccinated hens at the point of lay (16 – 18 weeks) from a reliable commercial source.

Chickens need a well-drained and well-ventilated pen. Make sure the chicken pen is fox and wild bird proof and, unless the sides are attached to a wooden or concrete floor, dig them into the soil to a depth of at least a half a metre.

Part of the pen needs to be under cover, particularly where the chickens roost and lay. It works well if the chicken house/coop is located under a tree for shade.

The chicken coop should be north facing with an eve about a metre long to protect from the summer sun and the rain but to still let light in during winter.

It is easier to manage the chickens if the chicken coop is high enough for you to stand up in. Cover the floor with sawdust or straw to form a deep litter with the chicken’s droppings.

Nesting boxes need to be off the ground, dark and have fresh, clean straw that should be replaced regularly. Ideally build the chicken coop with outside access to the nesting boxes.

Perches for roosting need to be wide enough for the chickens to comfortably stand on.

Commercial layer pellets or crumble that can be bought in 20 kilogram bags at your local rural store are a satisfactory food source but chickens can be supplemented with food scraps. Don't feed more scraps than the chickens can consume, or the leftovers will attract vermin and create odours.

A round feeder is good for the pecking order as the weaker chicken can be on the other side of the circle and not beside the dominant chicken. Provide enough feed for no more than three days to prevent it from becoming stale.

An automatic chicken feeder is preferred; these are suitable for all backyard chicken flocks and the step-on mechanism helps prevent vermin, wild birds and rain from ruining the feed.

Chickens also need continual access to clean, fresh water.

Finally, monitor your chickens daily for their health, egg production, and food and water availability.

If you have more than 50 chickens, you are required to have a Property Identification Code (PIC) and also a unique egg stamp. You can apply for a PIC online at        

Additionally, you must either be in a recognised industry or commercial quality assurance program, or complete and follow Agriculture Victoria’s food safety management statement.

Check your local government requirements, as many have by-laws on flock size and housing.

For further advice please contact your local veterinarian or your Agriculture Victoria district veterinary or animal health officer on 136 186.

Child safety on farms

Children who live on farms are more likely to be injured or killed on the farm than their parents or other farm workers.

With children staying home amidst the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, children will be living, playing and sometimes working on their family farms. During a time when families are staying home it is more important than ever to ensure children are always in safe areas and there are no serious injuries.

This can be achieved by creating safe play areas, appropriate farm tasks and having safety conversations with your children in your home.

The National Centre for Farmer Health has more information and several fact sheets available at and WorkSafe is also a great source -

Soils Community of Practice update

“The earth is what we all have in common.” – Wendell Berry

In this edition of the Soils Community of Practice newsletter we investigate 'Why farmers adopt soil management practices".

To read more local, national and international soils news subscribe here.

Early-sown canola may escape blackleg clutches

Canola crops sown early in warm conditions over recent weeks may escape potentially severe blackleg disease during the growing season.

Many crops are being sown earlier than usual this year following decent summer and early autumn rains.

Marcroft Grains Pathology principal Steve Marcroft, who is co-ordinator of the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) National Canola Pathology Program investment, said crops sown before 30 April into warm conditions that allowed them to quickly progress through the seedling growth stage are at the lowest risk of developing blackleg.

“Crops sown from May onwards are likely to face more disease pressure from blackleg, with crops sown from June onwards at the highest risk.”

This advice is contained in the GRDC Blackleg Management Guide autumn 2020 edition which also features the latest blackleg ratings for canola cultivars.

Dr Marcroft said results from the latest blackleg screenings of canola cultivars have been factored into the updated ratings for 2020.

Blackleg ratings can change from year-to-year if the fungus overcomes cultivar resistance.

Leptosphaeria maculans, the causal agent of blackleg disease, is a sexually reproducing pathogen that may overcome cultivar resistance genes.

Fungal spores are released from canola stubble and spread extensively via wind and rain splash. The impact is more severe in areas of intensive canola production.

“Blackleg can cause severe yield loss, but can be successfully managed,” Dr Marcroft said.

“Growers are advised to closely follow the recommended strategies for reducing the risk of disease which are contained in the GRDC Blackleg Management Guide.”

The guide can be used by growers to determine whether they are in a high-risk situation and the best management practices to reduce or prevent yield loss from blackleg.

The guide also emphasises that fungicides will only provide an economic return if a crop is at high risk of yield loss.

“Fungicides complement other management practices,” Dr Marcroft said.

“Growers should never rely solely on fungicides to control disease as this poses a high risk for development of resistance.”

The BlacklegCM blackleg management app has also been updated with the latest disease ratings.

The app, a GRDC investment, provides growers with a tool that can forecast the likelihood and severity of the disease, associated yield loss and economic returns on a paddock-by-paddock basis.

Dr Marcroft said the tool provides growers and advisers with ‘an interactive interface’ to explore and compare the economic outcomes of different management strategies for blackleg, which can cause up to 90 per cent yield loss where a cultivar’s blackleg resistance has been overcome.

The app, available for use on iPads and tablets via the App Store and Google Play, is an extension of the Blackleg Management Guide which is updated twice a year to reflect any changes in the resistance status of individual cultivars.

“BlacklegCM assists growers to manage blackleg by integrating the information provided in the Blackleg Management Guide and producing a predicted economic outcome,” Dr Marcroft said.

“It can be modified to account for some of the major factors that relate to risk of yield loss due to blackleg in a particular paddock.

"It allows the user to compare the likely relative profitability of different disease management strategies, including paddock selection, cultivar choice, seed dressing, banded fungicide and sprayed fungicide.”

BlacklegCM factors in costs, yield benefits and grain prices to give the best case, worst case and most likely estimates of economic return.

It also accounts for the major factors that influence blackleg severity and can be used during the growing season to assist with foliar fungicide application decisions.

Dr Marcroft said the severity of blackleg disease in 2020 will be dependent on seasonal conditions.

To further assist growers in determining the level of risk in their area, the GRDC-supported National Variety Trials (NVT) Online website provides the latest information from blackleg monitoring sites across Australia.

Representative cultivars from all blackleg resistance groups are sown in trial sites in every canola-producing region and monitored for blackleg severity.

This data provides regional information on the effectiveness of each blackleg resistance group.

Comprehensive information on management of canola diseases can be found in the GRDC’s Diseases of Canola and Their Management: The Back Pocket Guide, available

Videos featuring Dr Marcroft diagnosing and explaining how to control blackleg upper canopy infection can be found at and respectively, while a podcast on upper canopy infection can be downloaded via

PhD research fellowships on offer
sheep notes

In partnership with the University of Melbourne, Agriculture Victoria is offering 32 PhD research fellowships in the grains, dairy and horticulture industries.

The fellowships will be based across Victoria at the department’s world-renowned research centres. Successful candidates will be rewarded with a $33,000 per annum scholarship, access to state-of-the-art facilities and opportunities for professional development and overseas travel.

To find out more visit the Agriculture Victoria website.

Young farmer business network
young farmer business network

Young Farmers of Victoria – this is your network to talk about farm business management with other like-minded young farmers through social media, articles, online and face to face forums.

Click here to join and learn more about the Young Farmer Business Network Facebook group.

Digital Opportunities Roadshow

The Victorian Government in partnership with Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) are delivering online workshops in regional and rural Victoria to provide your small businesses with practical actions and tips on how to make the most of the digital economy and reduce your cyber-security risks.

Register for a FREE online workshop in your region to build your own action plan of next steps and come away with digital skills to assist planning and growing your small business.

Your small businesses will develop digital skills across a range of areas including:

  • developing an online presence
  • understanding and using digital tools
  • managing your cyber security and safety plan.

The workshop will assist your small business in developing a fit-for purpose online presence, how your business can operate in a digital economy and identifying your online goals.

For more information and a complete listing of events in all regions log on at:


What's on
Regional climate update webinars

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District
Tuesday 12 May, 
12 pm – 1 pm
Register or join via this link

North East Victoria
Wednesday 13 May, 
12 pm – 1 pm
Register or join via this link

South West Victoria
Thursday 14 May, 
12 pm – 1 pm
Register or join via this link.


Want to know more about the climate drivers for your region, how climate forecasts relate to the weather you see on farm and what the current forecast is for your region?

Agriculture Victoria Seasonal Risk Agronomist Dale Grey will take participants through:

  • The climate drivers which affect your region
  • How models have performed for some recent
  • climate events
  • The current regional forecast.

Dale has been working in seasonal climate risk for over 14 years. Over this time he has built a national profile for expertise in explaining climate drivers and climatic model predictions, including rainfall and temperature, for the agriculture sector.

If you need help registering or would like more information please contact Sarah Clack, Agriculture Victoria, on 0417 316 345 or email

For more information about drought and dry seasonal conditions support call 136 186 or visit

Autumn grazing management webinar/phone seminar – 13 May

Date: Wednesday 13 May

Time: 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm

Register online here


Join us for in interactive webinar on autumn grazing management.

Presented by Fiona Baker, Agriculture Victoria Beef Extension Officer, Ellinbank.

Topics covered:

  • How do I determine if my pastures are ready for grazing?
  • How much rest should pastures be given?
  • What’s the best grazing strategy to aim for?
  • How long can I leave stock in the paddock for?

For enquiries contact Tess McDougall via email at or 0409 841 492.

Planning and designing a five-star water supply – 20 May

Date: Wednesday 20 May

Time: 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm

Register online here


Join us for in interactive webinar on autumn grazing management.

Presented by Clem Sturmfels, Agriculture Victoria Land Management Extension officer, Ararat.

Topics covered:

  • Planning for the future
  • Stock water requirements
  • Climate impacts
  • Basic design

For enquiries contact Tess McDougall via email at or 0409 841 492.

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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).

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All contact points can be found at:

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