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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday 23 April, 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.

The Premier has implemented Stage 3 restrictions of non-essential activity aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Stay home. Protect our health system. Save lives.

There are only four reasons to be out in public:

  • shopping for what you need – food and essential supplies
  • medical, care or compassionate needs
  • exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirements
  • work and study if you can’t work or learn remotely.

The measures include a limit on gathering to no more than two people, except for members of immediate households and for work or education and social physical distancing rules of 1.5 metres between people should also be observed outside the home.

Stage 3 measures were effective from 11.59 pm on Monday 30 March and have been extended until midnight 11 May 2020.

The agricultural supply chain is essential to maintaining the flow of food to our supermarkets and kitchen tables.

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

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.

Backing agriculture businesses during coronavirus

The Victorian Government is working closely with the state’s agricultural sector to ensure its crucial supply chains can continue unbroken during the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes has established the Victorian Agriculture Industry Reference Group, bringing together Agriculture Victoria and industry representatives.

This has been done to share information from the Government, ensure farmers and producers have the most up to date health and business advice, as well being able to directly respond to feedback and concerns.

The group of representatives from 25 peak industry bodies are working with the Government to address the issues facing the sector.

This includes providing information about commuting and accommodating seasonal workers, along with answering frequently asked questions about how businesses can manage staff safety and the health of their workforce, and directives for people with responsibilities for animals.

Industry are aware that to slow the spread of coronavirus, it is vital that the entire agriculture supply chain adopts enhanced cleaning regimes, hygiene practices and physical distancing measures.

Many businesses have shown leadership and are stepping up to ensure agriculture businesses have continuity plans, know how to introduce strict cleaning regimes in the workplace and have processes in place to ensure work can continue should an employee have to self-isolate.

Any businesses seeking advice are urged to visit the Business Victoria website and hotline (13 22 15), with support staff trained to address specific concerns of the agriculture industry.

The frequently asked questions and the latest guidance on commuting and accommodating seasonal and contract workers during the coronavirus can be found at

For the latest general information and advice on coronavirus, visit

Latest news
Autumn feed budgeting: an integral part of farm planning

Do you find yourself asking How long should I supplementary feed animals? What is the feed value of my autumn pasture? What are my animals’ nutritional requirements for their stage of gestation or lactation? What are the increased nutritional requirements for weaner management?

The answers to these questions and more will be provided during an interactive webinar / phone seminar on feed budgeting being delivered by Agriculture Victoria Veterinary Officer Dr Cathy Bunter next month.

Dr Bunter has more than 28 years’ experience working in mixed veterinary practices across Australia, including five years teaching students as a lecturer in animal nutrition, health and production at Longerenong Agricultural College.

Dr Bunter said developing an accurate feed budget, incorporating the introduction of early-season pasture to an animal’s diet, was critical to ensuring that animal nutritional needs and animal growth rate goals are met.

“Efficient supplementary feeding is key to ensuring profitability, as well as pasture persistence,” she said.

This event will assist producers to assess if they have adequate feed-on-offer and to understand the variable properties of early-season growth.

“Using feed tests and interpreting the results into real-time animal nutritional requirements confidently is an important skill,” Dr Bunter said.

“We will take a ‘step-by-step’ approach to navigating this through the beginning of the season.”

This event is delivered by Agriculture Victoria with funding through the Victorian Government’s 2019-20 drought support program.

The ‘Autumn feed budgeting’ webinar / phone seminar, will be held at 7.30 pm on 6 May.

Register online at

For enquiries contact Tess McDougall on or 0409 841 492.

Panic grasses can be deadly for lambs

Dr Jeff Cave
District Veterinary Officer

One of the common perennial grasses in pastures and crop stubbles that would have responded rapidly to the recent rains are the panic grasses.

Panic grasses are also commonly known as fairy grass, witch grass and hairy panic.

These grasses can cause photosensitisation and death when ingested, particularly in lambs.

The young, rapidly growing grasses contain steroidal saponins, which when eaten can form crystals in the liver, damaging the liver cells and obstructing the outflow of bile.

The breakdown products of chlorophyll, which is found in green grass, are then no longer cleared by the liver and cause damage to skin tissues when exposed to light.

So, the thin skinned, wool-free parts of the sheep which are exposed to sunlight get damaged and show signs like severe sunburn. Typically affected areas are the ears, eyelids, nose, lips and vulva.

Affected lambs will seek shade and be reluctant to graze.

The liver damage may lead to jaundice, and with the swelling caused by photosensitisation the condition is sometimes known as ‘yellow bighead’.

This liver damage can kill the lambs before photosensitisation develops.

The only treatment is to remove affected stock from the toxic pastures and provide them access to shade.

If this happens promptly, affected stock can recover completely, as the liver has a remarkable ability to heal itself.

However, some livers may never recover totally, and this leads to ongoing poor metabolic processing of food consumed. So, food conversion efficiency will be poor, and the animals may never thrive.

The best prevention is to avoid grazing risky paddocks.

If this is not possible, do not to put hungry sheep straight out onto risky pastures but give them a good feed of hay first, graze older sheep as they have better developed rumens and are more resistant to the effects of the toxin, and check the sheep twice daily until you are confident that they have no ill effects.

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

Seasonal climate update webinars

Regional climate webinar

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 us 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 more than 14 years. During 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.

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

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

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

Webinar recordings now available

Presented by Geoff Steendam - Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

This webinar focuses on the impacts of climate on water supplies and availability, and risks to water resources in Victoria. Geoff provides an update on the Victorian Water and Climate Initiative. The initiative supports research into the impact of climate change and climate variability on Victoria’s water resources. This includes three distinct but related research projects undertaken with the University of Melbourne, the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO.

View the Recording

Password: climate&water

Duration: 59 minutes (including questions).

This webinar was recorded on Thursday 16 April 2020 at 12 pm AEST.

Victorian Autumn Climate Update - 2020

This is the recording of the recent seasonal climate webinar for Victoria by Agriculture Victoria's seasonal risk agronomist Dale Grey.

View the Recording

Recording password: VICfastbreak1

Duration: 50-60 minutes.

This webinar was recorded on Wednesday 15 April 2020 at 12 pm AEST

One-year game hunting licence extension for 2021

Victoria’s 50,000-plus recreational game hunters will be compensated for lost hunting opportunities with the Victorian Government set to extend all current game licences by one year.

In recognition of the unprecedented impact on Victoria’s game hunters caused by mandatory physical distancing measures, the expiry date of all current game licences administered by the Game Management Authority will be extended by 12 months, allowing hunters to get full value of their one- or three-year licence fee.

Health directives and restrictions as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have already impacted game hunting seasons for hog and sambar deer, stubble quail and gamebirds.

In response to public health advice, the GMA has also postponed all waterfowl identification tests and hound hunting tests until further notice. Anyone who has already booked a test will have their booking fee refunded.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has advised that to help slow the spread of coronavirus, people must not leave their property to go hunting.

Current State of Emergency measures to slow the spread of coronavirus remain in place until 11 May.

Duck hunting season opens on May 2. From that time, duck hunting other than on a property that you live on will not be able to be conducted until relevant restrictions are lifted.

New tool launched to help inform growers' crop variety choice

Grain growers and advisers across Australia are being provided with a suite of unique new resources to inform crop variety decision making.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has launched its inaugural series of National Variety Trials (NVT) Harvest Reports which provide the very latest independent varietal information on yield, quality and disease ratings from the extensive NVT program.

GRDC NVT Senior Manager, Sean Coffey, said the 16 regional Harvest Reports contain the past five years of results (including 2019) for every NVT trial across Australia, with the information presented at a local site level to support grower and adviser decision making on variety selection.

“The reports are an exciting new addition to the stable of NVT resources, offering growers and advisers another layer of important information to help them with crop variety choice,” Mr Coffey said.

“We hope these publications will be seen as useful decision support tools, underpinning selection of varieties that offer the best fit for individual farming systems and growing environments.”

The reports are designed to complement – not replace – the GRDC-supported state-based Sowing Guides, which are published prior to harvest.

The 16 regional Harvest Reports are available via

Northern cropping region reports are for Central New South Wales; Northern NSW; Southern NSW; Central Queensland; and Southern Queensland.

Southern reports cover Eyre Peninsula South Australia; Mid North and Yorke Peninsula SA; Mallee SA and Victoria; Western Victoria, Lower South-East SA and Tasmania; Northern Victoria; and Wimmera Victoria and Upper South-East SA.

The five western region reports are for Albany Port Zone; Geraldton Port Zone; Kwinana West Port Zone; Esperance Port Zone; and Kwinana East Port Zone.

The NVT program evaluates more than 550 near-release or released varieties each year, providing independent, consistent, timely and robust comparative data on yield performance, quality and disease resistance ratings of commercially available grain varieties.

“NVT represents a huge logistical undertaking, evaluating varieties for the 10 major crop types – wheat, barley, canola, chickpea, faba bean, field pea, lentil, lupin, oat and sorghum – within trials across the country,” Mr Coffey said.

“Conducted to a set of predetermined protocols, trials are sown and managed to reflect local best practice, such as sowing time, fertiliser application, weed management, pest and disease control and fungicide application.”

The largest co-ordinated field trial network of its kind in the world, NVT is a 100 per cent GRDC investment that is fully administered by the GRDC on behalf of Australian grain growers and the Australian Government.

Mr Coffey said single site results from successful trials in 2019 were finalised earlier this year and this data has been fed into multi-year, multi-environment trial (MET) variety performance analysis.

“These multi-year, rolling datasets for all crops and growing regions provide the most valuable information to support decision making around what to sow each year.

“The new Harvest Reports feature the very latest information from the 2019 harvest that has been built into the rolling datasets.”

Results and analysis from the trials harvested in 2019 across the nation can also be viewed at

To support growers and advisers, the GRDC has produced instructional videos on ‘how to interpret NVT data (long-term yield results) using the NVT website’ and ‘how to navigate NVT’s website’. The videos can be viewed via the GRDC’s YouTube channel at

Mr Coffey said planning for the NVT program for 2020 is well underway, with the number of trials across the nation expected to be around 650.

In the meantime, growers and advisers are encouraged to keep an eye on their email inbox, as the GRDC is distributing electronic links to the new Harvest Reports as they are published.

To ensure they are receiving the latest NVT information from their regions, growers and advisers can nominate their Harvest Report preferences via the GRDC subscription centre.

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.

PhD research fellowships

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.

What's on
Regional climate update webinars
Event Details

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District

  • 12 May (Tuesday)
  • 12 – 1 pm

Register or join via this link.

North East Victoria

  • 13 May (Wednesday)
  • 12 pm – 1 pm

Register or join via this link.

South West Victoria

  • 14 May (Thursday)
  • 12 – 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

Repeat: whole farm plan webinar

Agriculture Victoria will re-deliver this week's whole-farm-planning webinar for farmers on Monday (27 April).

The repeat session is being offered at 1 pm.

No registration is required, simply click on the link 5 - 10 minutes before the webinar.


The webinar will present useful and timely resources that farmers can adopt on their farms and introduce the FarmPlan21 course scheduled to be held later this year.

The highly-regarded FarmPlan21 course assists farmers and their families to review their vision and goals, consider the impacts of climate change and take stock of their farm assets, such as soils and water.

This information can then be used to prepare a new plan of the farm using the latest computer-based mapping technology.

The whole farm planning webinar and delivery of the FarmPlan21 course are supported by the Glenelg Hopkins CMA with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

For more information please contact Tess McDougall on or 0409 841 492.

Autumn feed budgeting

Presented by Dr Catherine Bunter, District Veterinary Officer, Ararat

Topics covered:

  • The value of feed on-hand in paddocks
  • Animal nutritional requirements
  • Step-by-step approach to feed budgeting
  • Other nutritional considerations

Date: Wednesday 6 May

Time: 7.30 – 8.30 pm


Autumn grazing management

Presented by Fiona Baker, 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?

Date: Wednesday 13 May

Time: 7.30 – 8.30 pm


Planning and designing a five star water supply

Presented by Clem Sturmfels, Land Management Extension officer, Ararat

Topics covered:

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

Date: Wednesday 20 May

Time: 7.30 – 8.30 pm


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