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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday, 14 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.

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

As Victoria takes the first step to ease restrictions, the Victorian Government continues to recognise the critical importance of the agriculture and food sector and will ensure our farms and agribusinesses keep operating – to keep the supermarket shelves stocked and food on Victorians’ tables.

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 Humans Services website for the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) advice.

Upskilling workers to boost Victoria’s dairy workforce

Job seekers matched with Victorian dairy farmers looking for help will be brought up to speed with specific training as part of a new program run by Dairy Australia and backed by the Victorian Government.

Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes this week announced $715,000 for the Dairy Farm Induction Program, which will help job seekers rapidly upskill and provide employers with training to induct new workers into their farm business.

The program is part of the $50 million Agriculture Workforce Plan which seeks to support Victoria’s agricultural industries and provide job-ready workers to meet labour demands.

The new program highlights an important component of the workforce plan in making sure incoming workers have access to rapid and high quality training, to ensure agricultural roles can be taken up quickly.

As part of the Dairy Farm Induction Program, an online learning package will be offered to help job seekers understand the culture of the workplace, and important day-to-day tasks such as machinery operation and handling stock.

Consultants will also be available to support farmers by providing training support on their farms for a smooth worker induction.

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

This includes continuing to test Victorians with even mild symptoms through new rapid response outbreak squads proactively visiting high-risk facilities, businesses and industries, and through pop-up testing sites.

Agriculture Victoria is also meeting weekly with the Victorian Agriculture Industry Reference Group to share information from the Government, ensure they have most up-to-date health and business advice and directly respond to feedback and concerns.

Online cuppa and chat making a connection

An online support network is encouraging rural women to put the kettle on or have a splash of wine whilst having a virtual chat to share ideas and experiences in staying connected during the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes this week launched the Virtual Country Cuppas to support rural women in combatting feelings of isolation and stress whilst physical distancing.

Coordinated by the Victorian Rural Women’s Network (VRWN), the event is based on the VRWN’s successful face-to-face Country Cuppas that attracted 600 rural women to 32 events across Victoria in October.

This year participants are invited to host a virtual morning or afternoon tea, after-work drinks or another form of an online catch-up with their favourite community members or group.

While staying at home and limiting physical interaction has been vital to slowing the spread of the virus, it can be difficult for people’s mental health and wellbeing – particularly for those already experiencing mental health conditions or who live in isolated areas.

The Country Cuppas are a relaxed and comforting environment for participants to reconnect and share their experiences whilst meeting other rural women.

Anyone wanting to host a Virtual Country Cuppa will receive a hosting pack from the VRWN, which includes a free Zoom training webinar and personal development resources.

Virtual Country Cuppas will be held from 23 May to 31 May and is just one of several virtual initiatives that are being developed by the VRWN to upskill and support rural women.

For additional information or to register, visit the Victorian Rural Women’s Network website at

Small dams not cutting it for stock water

Many Victorian farmers rely on small farm dams to provide water for stock and domestic use but according to Agriculture Victoria farm water supply specialist Clem Sturmfels, these dams are increasingly unable to meet stock and domestic water demands.

“Over recent years dams have become less reliable due to a hotter and drier climate, more severe droughts and increasing areas of the state being sown to crops or improved pastures,” Mr Sturmfels said.

“A small reduction in rainfall or change in land use can significantly reduce the amount of runoff available for farm dams.”

Potential solutions to this issue, and many other farm water-related problems, will be discussed during a webinar hosted by Agriculture Victoria at 7.30 pm on Wednesday 20 May.

During the one-hour ‘Planning and designing a 5-star water supply system’ presentation, Mr Sturmfels will discuss water quality and quantity, climate impacts, water planning and design.

“Farmers need to consider all available options before spending money sinking a bore, building a larger dam or installing a reticulated water supply system,” he said.

“They should start with a thorough stocktake of their existing system and calculate the water needs of their grazing enterprise, while also taking into account the strategies they will implement during the next dry season or drought.”

Mr Sturmfels, whose background is in soil conservation, whole farm planning and on-farm water reticulation systems, said small dams often go dry over summer due to their limited storage capacity and very high evaporation losses.

“Large dams, on the other hand, are becoming less popular due to the lack of suitable sites, planning permit requirements and the impact these dams have on downstream flows.”

The webinar will also cover planning, designing, mapping and the implementation of water supply systems.

This event is delivered by Agriculture Victoria and funded by the Victorian Government 2019-20 drought support package.

To join this webinar / phone seminar, please register online at

For enquiries contact Tess McDougall on or 0409 841 492

Trace mineral deficiency in lambs this year

Recent rain has prompted Agriculture Victoria to issue a reminder to sheep producers about the potential for trace mineral deficiency diseases to effect their lambs this year.

Agriculture Victoria Senior Veterinary Officer Dr Robert Suter, said the early season rain that has been welcomed by producers across the state should result in good pasture growth throughout the winter.

However, the flush of new pasture increases the likelihood of trace mineral deficiency diseases in lambs born in winter and early spring.

Dr Suter said trace mineral deficiencies can result from ewes grazing lush green feed during the last half of their pregnancy.

“These ewes are likely to have lambs with low or deficient levels of trace minerals selenium, copper, iodine and cobalt,” he said.

“Sheep ingest several essential trace minerals from soil intake. This usually occurs when ewes graze short pastures after a dry summer and before the autumn break.

“When there is a lot of early season pasture growth, the intake of trace minerals via the soil is less likely to occur.”

Growing animals, such as lambs, also have a higher demand for trace minerals than adult sheep and are likely to suffer a dietary deficiency sooner.

Dr Suter said trace minerals such as copper, cobalt, selenium and iodine are only required in small amounts but are still essential for optimal production, and for life.

The signs of deficiency vary according to the mineral involved:

  • Copper deficiency presents most dramatically as enzootic ataxia (or ‘swayback’), a condition causing paralysis of the hind limbs of newborn or very young lambs. Less apparent signs include steely wool, anaemia and reproductive loss in older sheep.
  • Cobalt deficiency is an ill-thrift disease of reduced appetite and growth, decreased wool production, anaemia and poor reproductive performance. Affected animals often have ‘white liver’ disease. Diagnosis is based on vitamin B12 levels (vitamin B12 contains cobalt), and treatment is with vitamin B12.
  • Selenium deficiency causes ‘white muscle’ disease with white lesions in the red skeletal and cardiac muscle tissue, leading to lameness or sudden death. Ill-thrift, reduced wool growth, and ewe infertility are also reported signs of deficiency.
  • Iodine deficiency results in an enlarged thyroid gland, known as ‘goitre’ in lambs. There are effects on the developing foetus including reduced foetal size, brain retardation and increased lamb mortality.

Dr Suter said sheep producers in known deficient areas should review their trace mineral supplement strategies to ensure ewes have adequate levels to produce healthy lambs.

“Most of Victoria is iodine deficient; and an appropriate time to supplement ewes is midpregnancy,” Dr Suter said.

“A good time to do this is at pregnancy scanning.

“Special care must be taken with supplementing ewes with copper, as sheep can be easily killed with relatively small amounts of copper.”

For more information or advice speak to your local veterinarian or Agriculture Victoria animal health and welfare staff.

Almond pollination preparation

By the Agriculture Victoria Apiary Team

The 2020 almond pollination season is not far away.

For those beekeepers planning on taking hives this year, it is vital that you adequately prepare your hives so that they are healthy and strong for their work in the orchards.
Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice (‘the Code’)

Almond pollination season provides a great financial opportunity for beekeepers, but large numbers of hives moving into one area can create an increased biosecurity risk.

The Code has been designed to provide a clear framework for all beekeepers to engage in biosecurity best-practice to help mitigate the risk.

If everyone complies with the Code, the risk of disease spread is reduced and the whole beekeeping industry benefits.
It is important to note that most of the Code is now law in Victoria.

For more information, go to:

Almond pollination preparation checklist

  1. Check to make sure that your registration as a beekeeper is current and that your registered brand is clearly marked on all your hives. Check your registration details at:
  2. Ensure that all your hives are structurally sound, have intact external surfaces, and only have openings that are designed specifically for bee access.
  3. Inspect your brood regularly to check for pests and diseases.
  4. Remove any diseased or substandard hives from your load before taking them to almond pollination.
  5. Test your hives for exotic parasites (such as varroa mite) via drone uncapping and either the sugar shake or alcohol wash methods.
  6. Communicate with your broker/grower with information about your apiaries, including your expectations of your available hive numbers and their quality.
  7. Maintain records of your inspections, tests, observations and actions (such as movement) as they relate to your hives.
  8. Complete your annual honey culture test. This is mandatory for beekeepers who own 50 or more hives. To order a test kit, contact Gribbles Veterinary Pathology on 1300 307 190.
  9. To demonstrate to your broker or grower that you are compliant with the Code, provide them with a completed and signed copy of the ‘Certification of Compliance’ document. It can be found at the back of the Code:

What is Agriculture Victoria doing?

Agriculture Victoria undertakes disease surveillance and compliance monitoring activities aimed at reducing the biosecurity risk associated with almond pollination.

Prior to hives arriving at almond orchards, we carry out a desktop audit of beekeepers attending almond pollination to gauge compliance levels and identify those who may pose a higher risk to others.

During pollination, we conduct physical hive inspections aimed at detecting and containing any disease present.

Pre-season desktop audits have started. We are also increasing our communications to help ensure that all beekeepers are aware of their responsibilities and have all the information they need to comply with the Code.

We recognise that an adequate supply of strong and disease-free hives it is vital to the success of both beekeeping and almond producing businesses.

Agriculture Victoria is working with the industry to mitigate the biosecurity risk posed by high densities of hives at almond pollination.

For more information about attending almond pollination, the Code, or beekeeping in general, email your questions to:

On-farm child safety

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.

Farm safety risks for children

A farm can be a place where families work, live and play. But farms are also workplaces which present serious death and injury risks to children when they play or help on the farm.

Children perceive the world differently to adults and they may not always be able to predict or respond to an unsafe situation.

There are a range of health and safety risks for children on Victorian farms, with statistics showing that the main risks of serious injury and fatality are:


Drowning is the leading cause of child farm deaths, with dams the most common place children drown.

Farm vehicles

There are many examples of children being seriously or fatally injured when operating different farm vehicles.

Children should only ever operate age appropriate equipment based on the vehicle manufacturer's advice. It's important to recognise that children lack the body weight, strength and judgement to handle a full-sized vehicle, such as an adult quad bike. Children under the age of 16 are not permitted to operate an adult quad bike.

Machinery and attachments

All farm machinery can have potentially fatal consequences if used by children. Younger children are most likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries when playing on or near tractors. Older children are likely to be injured while driving, as passengers on machinery or when carrying out farm tasks.


Children can lack the judgement to deal with animals safely. A child might not have the size, speed and understanding of how to get out of the way safely.

Other hazards

Other hazards and causes of injury to children on farms include falls from height, silos, chemicals, contact with electricity, noise and firearms.

Why children are at risk

A child's age and development characteristics can increase their risk of injury.

When there are children on farms, it's important to remember that they:

  • have less strength, co-ordination and understanding of situations than adults
  • can get distracted easily
  • may want to explore, try new things or push boundaries
  • may be impulsive and take risks beyond their capabilities
  • may be overwhelmed and slow to respond in unexpected situations.

How to keep children safe – create safe play areas

Younger children on farms need a safe area to play where there are no hazards. Walk around the farm and look at it from a child's point of view. This will help you develop ways to keep children safe by:

  • creating a safe play area, especially for younger children such as a securely fenced house yard to define boundaries between safe and unsafe areas
  • ensuring children staying in a safe play area until someone can take them out under adult supervision
  • creating 'out of bound' areas in and around silos, grain loading areas, farm machinery, power tools and animal pens.

Know your legal duties

You have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017.
Some examples of these duties include making sure:

  • your farm is a safe working environment without risks to the health and safety of your family, other workers, farm visitors and contractors
  • people can enter and leave the farm safely, and without risk to their health
  • you report notifiable incidents to WorkSafe and keep the worksite undisturbed
  • the worksite remains undisturbed after an incident happens until an inspector arrives at the site or until an inspector directs when the Authority is notified of the incident.

Reduce the risks

Adults can most effectively reduce safety risks to children on farms.

Some ways to reduce risks on farms include:

  • making sure children always wear seatbelts when in any moving vehicle
  • preventing children from riding on tractors, attachments and the back of utes
  • using safety guards on all machinery
  • making sure children always wear helmets when riding any bikes or horses
  • keeping doors shut or locked, and removing the keys, so children cannot access unsafe areas
  • using suitable storage systems for dangerous chemicals
  • making sure that any bikes children ride, including motorbikes, are appropriate for their age and height and are in line with manufacturers' specifications
  • teaching children the dangers of speeding and riding on uneven ground
  • making sure children know what to do in an emergency, including what to do, where to go and who to call
  • teaching children about water safety and, where possible, fencing off dams, ponds, septic tanks, sheep dips, pools and creeks
  • preventing children from lifting heavy items.

For more information visit -

The Very Fast Break

Welcome to The Very Fast Break seasonal climate outlook for Victoria for May.

It’s a very bright green snapshot this month with just about everyone experiencing a ‘cracker of a start’ to the season.

There are promising signs of more moisture, but of course as is always the case with forecasting there are still a few climate triggers to be ironed out.

Regional climate update webinar

Agriculture Victoria has just run a series of webinars featuring Agriculture Victoria Seasonal Risk Agronomist Dale Grey on:

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

You can watch a recording of the webinars here:

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District
North East Victoria

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

PhD fellowships in the dairy industry – apply now

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

Back to business – one-to-one support for fire-affected producers

Producers in fire-affected regions can access up to three free one-on-one Back to Business sessions with a local farm management consultant to help put their business back on track.

All red-meat producers, including sheep, cattle and goat, who have been affected by the recent bushfires are eligible to apply.

The Back to Business program in Victoria is being coordinated by Agriculture Victoria. For more information or to register, contact:

Online registration is also available here.

For more info visit

CWA of Victoria’s Drought Relief Program

The CWA of Victoria’s Drought Relief program has been provided a funding boost by the Victorian Government for the provision of household financial relief

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.

Small Business Bushfire Support Grant

Grants of up to $10,000 are available to support small businesses (including primary producers) significantly affected by the 2019–20 bushfires to recover and rebuild resilient businesses.

Eligible activities include meeting standard business costs, seeking financial advice, adjusting the business to be viable in the changed local context following bushfire and improvements to make the business more resilient to future disasters.

The grants are available to eligible small businesses in the local government areas of East Gippsland, Towong and Alpine who have suffered a decline in revenue of 40 per cent or more in a relevant three-month period.

Businesses can apply for this grant in addition to other bushfire grants. For more information contact Rural Finance 1800 260 425 or

On-Farm Drought Resilience Grants program expanded
Resilience grant

The maximum value of the On-Farm Drought Resilience Grants has increased from $5,000 to $10,000 to boost farmers’ access to professional services whilst still enabling farmers to invest in drought preparedness infrastructure.

Eligible farm businesses can now apply for:

  • up to $5000 for business decision making activities (with no-contribution required)
  • up to $5000 for infrastructure investments (with at least 50 per cent co-contribution required).

There are three new eligible infrastructure investments under the resilience grants:

  • technologies to improve mobile phone connectivity
  • weed control (e.g. purchase of registered herbicide)
  • soil moisture probes (as an explicit investment under soil moisture monitoring activities).

For more information and to access the On-Farm Drought Resilience Grants program, call Rural Finance on 1800 260 425 or visit

Farmers are encouraged to apply early to ensure they do not miss out on funding.

Upcoming webinars
Digital Opportunities Roadshow

The Victorian Government in partnership with Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is delivering ONLINE workshops in regional Victoria to provide small businesses with practical actions and tips on how to make the most of the digital economy and reduce cybersecurity risks.

By registering for these FREE ONLINE workshops, small businesses will develop digital skills across a range of areas.

The following topics will be covered:

  • developing an online presence,
  • understanding and using digital tools and
  • managing your cybersecurity and safety plan

The workshop will assist small business in developing a fit-for purpose online presence and identifying online goals.

It will give practical advice on how businesses can operate in a digital economy, understand and use the digital tools and services that are available.

Guidance will be provided on how to manage cybersecurity and safety to help small businesses invest time in developing a practical cybersecurity plan.

The next workshop is in Swan Hill on 26 May.

For more information and a complete listing of events in all regions use the below link:

Financial literacy for farm business decision-making


Webinar 1:
Monday 18 May
2 – 4 pm

Webinar 2:
Tuesday 19 May
7 – 9 pm


A deep understanding of your farm business is really important especially when recovering from significant impacts, such as drought.

Join farm business consultant Paul Blackshaw to explore the basics of farm business management, simple ways of identifying the current farm business position, the importance of evidence-based decision making, developing a fair and realistic cash flow budget, including relevant scenarios; and, strategic, tactical and operational planning.

This free program will commence with a two-hour webinar which will focus on the basics of farm business management and simple ways of identifying the current farm business position (analysis of recent financial performance, balance sheet and cash flow).

It will also look at a SWOT analysis, the importance of evidence-based decision making, developing a fair and realistic cash flow budget, including relevant scenarios and strategic, tactical and operational planning

There is no cost to participate in the program, but registrations are required.

Ideally farmers will participate in the webinar focused in their region, however, this isn’t essential.

For more information and to register, please contact Yendon at Meridian Agriculture on (03) 5341 6100 or email: or Paul Blackshaw on 0427 546 643 or email:

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

This event is delivered by Agriculture Victoria and funded by the Victorian Government 2019–20 drought support package.

Planning and designing a five star water supply

Wednesday 20 May
7.30 – 8.30 pm

Register online here


This webinar series (see details below) is designed to assist with autumn decision making and will be delivered by Agriculture Victoria, with funding from the Victorian Government’s 2019–20 drought support package.

Presented by Clem Sturmfels,
Land Management Extension officer, Ararat

Topics covered:

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

Online registration address:

For further information, please contact Livestock Industry Development Officer, Ararat
Tess McDougall on 0409 841 492 or at

NLIS database management webinars
NLIS data management two-part webinar


Monday 18 and 25 May

8  – 9 pm

Book online at Eventbrite – select 'NLIS Database Webinar'


Agriculture Victoria is delivering a two-part webinar for livestock producers using the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database.

Participants will learn about the national traceability system, how to complete a Property-to-Property (P2P) transfer and use the NLIS database features.

Topics include:

  • Overview of the traceability system
  • Setting up, navigating and using the NLIS database
  • Completing Property-to-Property (P2P) transfers on the database.

Participants are required to set up their NLIS account prior to attending the webinar. Further information on how to do this and how to join the webinar will be provided at registration.

For more information or if you have trouble registering, please call (03) 5761 1647.

Goat producers guide to the NLIS database


Tuesday 2 and 9 June

12.30  – 1.30 pm

Book online at Eventbrite – select 'NLIS Database Webinar for Goat Producers'


Agriculture Victoria is delivering a two-part webinar for goat producers using the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database.

Participants will learn about the Victorian goat traceability system, how to complete a Property-to-Property (P2P) transfer and use the NLIS database features.

Topics include:

  • Traceability system overview
  • Purchasing electronic NLIS tags for goats
  • Setting up, navigating and using the NLIS database
  • Completing Property-to-Property (P2P) transfers on the NLIS database.

Participants are required to set up their NLIS account prior to attending the webinar. Further information on how to do this and how to join the webinar will be provided at registration.

For more information, or if you have trouble registering, please call (03) 5761 1647.

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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

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