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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday 25 June, 2020
In this edition:
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

The Victorian Government is gradually easing restrictions currently in place to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

In all activities, farmers are asked to be considered. Be cautious. Use your common sense. And if you don’t have to do it – don’t.

Stay safe by maintaining good hygiene, keeping your distance from others and if you feel unwell stay home.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus you should get tested.

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

More information is also available on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Latest News
Old and new tricks for practical risk management

Mixed farmers can hear about old and new tricks to manage risks during a Smart Farming webinar, hosted by Agriculture Victoria, next Monday 29 June.

Whether it’s fire, flood, drought or unseasonal conditions, the webinar will help mixed farmers improve their ability to identify, understand and manage risks.

Presenter Dr Kate Burke will discuss strategies farmers can use to help them focus their decision-making and how they can go about assessing risk in terms of ‘actual versus perceived’, likelihood and consequence.

Dr Burke will also provide effective strategies to manage risk, including what high-performing farmers and business managers do well.

Agriculture Victoria Land Management Extension Officer Martin Hamilton said risk management boiled down to farmers having the right “tricks” on hand to make critical decisions.

“As we’ll show in the webinar, seeing how others have handled risk well is a practical way of developing your own skills.”

Mr Hamilton said Dr Burke is a highly experienced independent farm consultant with extensive experience in agronomy.

“Dr Burke spent time in the corporate sector as a commercial manager of one of the largest grain producers in Australia and knows what it takes to run a profitable farm business,” he said.

Dr Burke has 30 years of experience in agriculture working with farmers, students, investors and regional communities in north west and northern Victoria.

The session will be recorded and made available for those who register.

Registrations (via Zoom) can be made here

For more information and to register, contact Martin Hamilton on 0429 946 149 or or Adam Buzza on 0447 525 457 or

Targets for maternals

Dr Ralph Behrendt, Agriculture Victoria, Hamilton

Key findings

  • Maternal composite ewes eat more at feed on offer (FOO) levels between 700 kg – 1500 kg DM/ha than predicted using current feeding standards.
  • Guidelines for managing target Condition Score (CS) for crossbred and composite ewes are different from those recommended for Merino ewes.
  • Optimal CS for crossbred and composite ewes at lambing is similar to Merinos for single-bearing ewes (CS 3) but higher for multiple-bearing ewes (CS 3.4 – 3.7).
  • Single-bearing ewes need to be managed to ensure that they are not overweight at lambing, which increases the chance of dystocia.
  • Pregnancy scanning of ewes will allow single- and twin-bearing ewes to be managed to optimise ewe and lamb survival, and subsequent lamb growth rates.

Lifetime Ewe Management (LTEM) has been successful in promoting the management requirements of Merino ewes and the implications of not meeting identified targets.

Producers who have adopted LTEM practices have increased stocking rates and lamb marking percentages, and decreased ewe mortality.

Although some of these changes have also been implemented on farms with crossbred and maternal composite ewes, guidelines developed for Merino ewes with a focus on wool production may not be optimal for prime lamb production and maternal composite ewes.

This article outlines the results from a series of experiments that have been used to develop guidelines for crossbred ewes used for prime lamb production, such as first cross and maternal composite ewes.

Condition score and feed requirements of maternal composites

Field experiments on four sites across southern Australia using 6000 pregnant ewes were conducted in 2014 and 2015.

These experiments investigated the impact of different CS during mid- to late pregnancy on maternal composite ewes, and the impact of different levels of FOO at lambing and during lactation.

The results showed there were predictable impacts of manipulating ewe liveweight or CS during pregnancy on the birthweight of single and twin lambs.

Low ewe CS at lambing had a negative impact on birthweight and weaning weight, resulting in lower carcase weight at slaughter. The mating weight of ewe lambs and carryover reproduction of the ewe were also negatively affected.

Lower ewe CS (2.5 – 2.7) at lambing had little effect on survival of single lambs, but CS greater than 3.5 had negative effects due to increased incidence of dystocia.

Improving CS during pregnancy and at lambing increased twin lamb survival to marking, from 78 per cent to close to 90 per cent when ewe flocks achieved an average CS of 3.2 – 3.5 at lambing.

Having high levels of FOO at lambing and during lactation did not completely offset the negative impacts of poor nutrition during pregnancy on birthweight and weaning weight.

These experiments also showed that the maternal composite ewes were gaining weight during pregnancy at lower FOO levels than expected. These results raised questions about whether maternal composite ewes were more feed-efficient or just eating more.

Bigger eaters or more efficient?

Follow up indoor feeding experiments then investigated the maintenance energy requirements and energy efficiency of maternal composite sheep. The feed intake of crossbred ewes grazing at different levels of FOO was also investigated.

These experiments showed crossbred ewes had higher feed intake than expected at different levels of FOO under grazing, compared with the current feeding standards for sheep. The indoor feeding experiments showed the ewes also had higher potential feed intake than predicted, based on their size and CS.

In addition, these indoor experiments showed that the energy contained in their tissues also varied from the estimates used in the current standards to calculate nutritional requirements. This was most likely due to differences in body composition (fat and muscle).

New CS targets for maternal composites

These results were then used to update feed budgeting models and production responses within a whole-farm MIDAS* model to predict the optimum CS targets for different regions.

Optimum CS targets for a typical farm in the Hamilton region were determined for a prime lamb producing enterprise that purchased all replacement ewes. Three different times of lambing were evaluated for this farm using the whole-farm model (Table 1).

table of information

Table 1. Optimum condition score (CS) for composite or crossbred ewes at joining, day 90 and lambing for each lambing date, if the flock is scanned for multiples, on a typical farm at Hamilton

While these targets have been developed for Hamilton, they are unlikely to differ for other areas, especially the targets at lambing.

The optimum target for CS at joining may vary slightly based on time of lambing and the cost-effectiveness of feeding ewes to reach CS targets. For earlier lambing, the optimum CS at joining at the end of spring is the level that the ewes reach without supplementary feeding.

However, the highest CS attained at the end of spring needs to be managed so that the target lambing CS can be achieved without excessive liveweight loss during early and late pregnancy.

For later lambing, liveweight loss from the peak highest CS at the end of spring is managed with supplementary feeding to achieve the joining CS that allows the lambing target to be achieved without excessive liveweight loss.

The optimum target is to join ewes at CS 3.8 – 4.1 and to lose body condition (up to 1 CS) during pregnancy, resulting in lambing at CS 3.0 – 3.1 for single-bearing ewes and CS 3.4 – 3.7 for multiple-bearing ewes (see Table 1 for CS targets at Hamilton).

The difference from the recommendations for Merino ewes is the optimum CS in high-rainfall environments for unscanned Merino spring lambing ewes is to join and lamb at CS 3. Where ewes are pregnancy scanned and separately managed based on single or twin status the target at lambing is CS 3.3 for twinning ewes.

The higher CS at joining for maternal composites is driven by the higher CS at lambing and recovery of CS after lambing to reach higher CS at the end of the growing season, which will also support higher subsequent conception rates.

To achieve these CS targets, the challenge is to manage for gradual weight loss over summer, autumn and early winter when feed quality and quantity are usually limiting.

The difference in optimum guidelines for multiple- and single-bearing ewes reinforces the value of pregnancy scanning and managing ewes to their nutritional needs and targets.

Single-bearing ewes need to lose 0.7 – 1 CS between joining and lambing to minimise dystocia and can lose weight in both early and late pregnancy.

Multiple-bearing ewes can lose some weight in early pregnancy but must then maintain weight or have only a small, slow weight loss in late pregnancy.

This research was supported by Agriculture Victoria, Meat & Livestock Australia, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Rural Industries Skills Training and Murdoch University.

*MIDAS Model of an Integrated Dryland Agricultural System

Fox bounty collection open again

Designated fox and wild dog bounty collection centres will open from 29 June, operating in line with physical distancing requirements including established drop off and exclusion zones.

During the suspension period, bounty participants were encouraged to continue to collect fox scalps and wild dog body parts on private properties as part of pest control activities, and to freeze or air dry them.

Hunters are encouraged to refresh their knowledge of the terms and conditions of the bounty to ensure what they submit is acceptable. Participants can submit entire fox scalps for a $10 reward and entire wild dog body parts for a $120 reward during scheduled collection times.

For more information go to

Seasonal climate update webinars for winter
map of Victoria showing rainfall

Agriculture Victoria’s seasonal climate update webinars for winter kicked off this week with a thorough look at the next few months ahead for the state’s grains industry.

The one-hour webinars, in partnership with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), are available to farmers in four states and are particularly relevant to those currently nursing crops through the growing season.

Agriculture Victoria seasonal risk agronomist Dale Grey said his outlook presentations relied on the latest data from model projections for the key climate drivers as well as the oceanic, atmospheric and soil moisture conditions.

“Those joining a live webinar will be able to ask questions, but if you can’t make it on the day there’ll be a recording available that you can watch at a time that better suits,” Mr Grey said.

The link to the Victorian webinar recording (completed on Tuesday 23 June at 12 noon) can be found here

“At this stage of the season the majority of the world’s 12 weather models are ‘sitting on the fence’ when it comes to rainfall in the next three months, although three of them are signalling ‘wetter’ for most parts of Victoria,” Mr Grey said.

“Four of the 12 models are suggesting drier in the state’s South-West region, while all are split in terms of the possibility of a La Niña this year,” he said.

More information about the winter webinars, or other Agriculture Victoria climate information can be found at:

Farm Business Resilience Webinar Series
canva tile saying farm business resilience

Agriculture Victoria is delivering a series of four webinars to improve farm business resilience, hosted by ORM managing consultant Matt McCarthy. Farmers and farm business managers should register for the webinars to identify how to safeguard their core business operations when unexpected situations occur. Register for each of the webinars below to attend or receive a link of the recorded event.

Webinar 3: Your Resources

Thursday 2 July, 1.30 pm

In this webinar, participants will be shown how to identify critical work flows, exposures and vulnerabilities, set priorities and access potential impacts using a risk matrix.

Register here

Webinar 4: Your Plan

Thursday 16 July, 1.30 pm

In this webinar, an expert panel from across agriculture will discuss how farmers have successfully built business resilience over the last decade, where are the main gaps, and how can farms build resilience into the future.

Register here

Improving digital literacy and connectivity on-farm
graphic of technology

Want to know more about improving your digital literacy and connectivity? Need confidence to access technology to improve your on-farm decision making?


Join extensionAUS and Agriculture Victoria for a series of webinars which will provide a unique opportunity for you to address on-farm connectivity issues and help you to understand available digital technology - how to measure it and how to make it work as best as possible for you and your business.


Webinar 1 – On-farm connectivity

Tuesday 21 July
1.30 – 2.30 pm

Register or join at:

Webinar 2 - Getting the most out of video meeting software

Tuesday 28 July
1.30 – 2.30 pm

Register or join at:

Webinar 3 - Internet of Things (IoT)

Tuesday 4 August
1.30 – 2.30 pm

Register or join at:

Webinar 4 – Online networking to better communicate on-farm and service farm businesses

Tuesday 11 August
1.30 – 2.30 pm

Register or join at:

Contact: If you need help registering please contact Gavin Beever, Cumbre Consultants on 0438 234 886 or


An opportunity exists to participate in an on-farm digital technology audit conducted by phone by Agriculture Victoria, to understand the technology you already have available on-farm and how you can improve its efficiency.

Participants will be asked to identify what type of internet connectivity they have, where they have access to WiFi and how they use technology on their farm.

Participants will have time to prepare for the audit and will receive a property map and report of results.


To register for the audit please book a time at

Contact: If you need help registering or would like more information please contact Andy Clark,

Agriculture Victoria, on 0436 804 656 or

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

Preference will be given to participants from Central and East Gippsland, the GMID and the Millewa region of North-West Victoria.

Need help controlling gorse?
picture of gorse and words
PhD fellowships in the dairy industry – apply now
sheep notes

In partnership with the University of Melbourne, Agriculture Victoria is offering 17 PhD research fellowships in the dairy industry.

Based at our world-renowned research centres at Ellinbank and Hamilton, successful applicants 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

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.

What's on

Details about Agriculture Victoria events can now be found in one spot on our website. Log on to to find out what's on.

African swine fever webinars



Date: 2 pm 30 June

To register follow the link:

Victorian Climate Projections webinar

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is running this webinar to give an overview of the information from Victoria’s Climate Science Report 2019 and the local-scale Victorian Climate Projections 2019, as well as guidance on understanding and using the information.

Date: 1 - 2 pm, Friday 26 June.

Topics include:

  • What do the projections say for Victoria?
  • What are the benefits of local-scale climate data?
  • How to understand and work with the different sources of uncertainty in projections
  • Top tips to interpret the projections correctly
  • Lots of time for Q&A with DELWP and CSIRO scientists.

Join via this link on the day

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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

All 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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Subscribe to the Agriculture Victoria YouTube channel. 


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