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Gippsland Ag news
Thursday 19 December, 2019

Welcome to the final edition of Gippsland 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 and for those of you up east, may 2020 bring drought-breaking rain.

Gippsland Ag News will return to your Inbox on 30 January, 2020.

In this edition
Latest news
Gippsland seasonal outlook workshops a success

More than 50 local farmers turned out to the seasonal outlook workshops in Orbost and Newry this week to hear timely presentations from Agriculture Victoria Climate Specialist Graeme Anderson, Agribusiness Consultant Colin Peace, Dairy Extension Officer Benita Kelsall and Irrigation Extension Officer Alexis Killoran.

Mr Anderson provided an overview of recent climate/seasonal conditions and key climate drivers behind the state's seasonal variability, with an insight into recent trends and the range of forecast tools available to farmers.

If you couldn't make it along to the workshops, Agriculture Victoria is running a series of lunchtime climate webinars next year, giving participants the opportunity to hear the latest science, insights and innovation from a range of expert speakers.

More information about the 2020 climate webinar series is available at

Full details below in What's on.

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:

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.

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

Beware of nitrate poisoning

With the ongoing drought and dry seasonal conditions there is a heightened risk of nitrate poisoning in livestock.

When an animal is poisoned by nitrate the ability of its blood to transport oxygen is reduced.

As a result, an affected animal will have difficulty breathing, followed by becoming weak and staggery before collapsing and dying. If clinical signs are noticed early enough, veterinary treatment is possible.

A range of different weeds, crops and pasture plants have been associated with nitrate poisoning.

Capeweed, variegated thistle, marshmallow and pigweed are well-known accumulators.

Other crop plants including maize, rape, soybean, linseed, sorghum, millet, wheat, oats and barley have also been associated with nitrate poisoning, under certain growing conditions.

The factors that typically lead to plants causing nitrate poisoning include:

  • rapid plant uptake of soil nitrate following rain after a prolonged dry spell
  • moisture stress and low temperatures
  • the use of nitrogenous fertilisers
  • spraying with hormone-type herbicides such as 2,4-D makes plants more palatable.

If you have any concerns, it is recommended that hay and other feed be tested prior to feeding to determine its nitrate levels.

Cattle and sheep can tolerate a certain amount of nitrate.

One way of reducing the risk of nitrate poisoning is to ensure that cattle and sheep aren’t overly hungry when introduced to a new feed, so their intake of nitrate is moderated to a tolerable level.

If nitrate poisoning is suspected, animals should be removed without delay from the suspect paddock/ feed and placed onto low risk feed containing less toxic herbage.

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

For more information about managing during drought and dry seasonal conditions go to or call 136 186.

Drought and dry seasons support services and information
Household Financial Relief Program

The Household Financial Relief program is being delivered by The Country Women's Association of Victoria Inc. – CWA through its CWA Drought Relief Program.

The program can provide up to $3000 to eligible farming families, farm workers and farm dependent contractors to reimburse them for household expenses like school costs, utilities, food and medical bills.

For more information and to apply contact the CWA online at or email them at

For more about the program and other available drought support visit or call 136 186.

The On-Farm Drought Resilience Grant Program

This program is now open to assist eligible farm businesses to invest in on-farm drought preparedness and to seek business advice.

A grant of up to $5,000 (GST exclusive) per farm business is available to assist eligible farm businesses to implement on-farm infrastructure improvements and or undertake business planning and advice activities.

The Scheme is available to eligible farm businesses in the local government shires of Wellington and East Gippsland.

For more information and to access the grant call Rural Finance on 1800 260 425 or visit

For more information about other drought and dry seasonal conditions support from Agriculture Victoria go to or call 136 186.

Drought employment program

The East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority received further funding for the Drought Employment Program in the recent drought funding announcement by the Victorian Government.

The program has been providing temporary employment for people across the East Gippsland and Wellington shires impacted by the drought. Details about the next round and other drought and dry seasonal conditions support will be available soon at

One-on-one assistance

Have you dropped into our offices at Bairnsdale, Maffra or Swifts Creek lately?

Did you know you can make an appointment to talk to a staff member about a pasture recovery grant, drought assistance and technical workshops in the region?

You can also make a time to have a one-on-one consultation.

You will find us at:

  • 574 Main Street, Bairnsdale (same place as the DELWP office)
  • 1 Stratford Road, Maffra
  • 13 McMillan Avenue, Swifts Creek (same place as the DELWP office)

As always you can also get more information, tools and advice online at or call us on 136 186.

On-farm emergency water infrastructure rebate scheme

Producers are encouraged to access the On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme for the purchase and installation of emergency water infrastructure for livestock.

In Gippsland, the scheme is available to eligible farm businesses in the Wellington and East Gippsland shires.

Farm businesses NOT in these local government areas can make an application if they can demonstrate a critical water need for livestock resulting from current seasonal conditions.
These applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The scheme is available for water infrastructure purchased since 1 July 2018. Guidelines and application details can be obtained from Rural Finance.

Feeding livestock website

Did you know that the Agriculture Victoria’s Beef and Sheep Drought Feeding and Management online books have a new home?

They are housed and updated on the FeedLivestock website and can be downloaded or viewed in whole or as individual chapters on any device.

Other key features of the website, include:

What's on

Agriculture Victoria will cancel workshops on Code Red fire danger days

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

To subscribe to Gippsland Ag News

Click here

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.


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