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

Latest news
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

Support for Victorian farmers continues

Agriculture Victoria remains available to assist Victorian farmers. We want to reassure farmers, particularly those impacted by bushfires and drought, that we will continue to provide support services to you and your farming business. However, the way we are doing this during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed.

What are we doing differently?
We are moving from our usual face-to-face client contact to other alternatives. This means we might call you on the phone, send you information via post or email, invite you to a video or teleconference, or even a webinar.

Our technical support remains available to help landholders affected by fires and drought in East and Central Gippsland, North East, Millewa and the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District. 

Farmers can call us to access information tailored specifically to their needs on a range of topics including:

  • feed planning and pasture recovery
  • supplying feed and water to livestock
  • land and farm water management
  • general technical information
  • other assistance available and grants programs.

Farmers affected by drought and bushfire
For support in bushfire affected areas contact our Agriculture Recovery Managers:

  • Gippsland – Keren Walker on (03) 5159 5118
  • North East – Kylie Macreadie on 0428 975 728.

For support in drought affected areas contact our Dry Seasonal Conditions Coordinators:

  • Millewa – Sue McConnell on 0418 572 087
  • Northern – Mick Bretherton on 0428 346 209
  • Central and East Gippsland – Nick Dudley on 0428 562 139.

Or email us at

Farmers can also continue to call our Customer Service Centre on 136 186 and access the website anytime at –   

There are many other agencies providing assistance too – this includes the Rural Financial Counselling Service:

  • in Gippsland call 1300 834 775
  • in the North East call 1300 834 775.

Rural Finance is administering many grants programs for drought and bushfire impacted farmers. Give them a call on 1800 260 425 or access online anytime at   

Dairy support
The Dedicated Dairy Support Program is available to dairy farmers in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District who are considering structural or significant changes to their business. Decisions could include leaving the industry, scaling back (or up), family succession or transitions to other enterprises.

For more information go to, call 1300 834 775 or email

Bushfire Recovery Victoria is also a great service to connect you with recovery services and information from the whole of the Victorian Government. Call them on 1800 560 760 or visit at

Financial literacy for farm business decision-making

Drought and dry seasons affected farmers in the Millewa-Carwarp region, the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) and East and Central Gippsland are encouraged to sign-up for a free program to build their farm business skills.

Meridian Agriculture Farm Business Consultant Paul Blackshaw said a deep understanding of your farm business is important, especially when recovering from significant impacts, such as drought.

“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).

“We 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.”

Mr Blackshaw said farmers who take part in the initial webinar will also be offered the opportunity to participate in individual remotely delivered sessions.

“During these one-on-one (remotely delivered) sessions we will explore basic historic and current financial performance of the farm business with the participant, as well as discussing their current strategic, tactical and operational plan, and assisting  them to develop a cash flow budget for their business or review a current cash flow budget.”

Mr Blackshaw said 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.

Webinars are being held as follows:

Millewa-Carwarp region (North-West Victoria)

  • Webinar 1: Tuesday 12 May, 2 to 4 pm
  • Webinar 2: Wednesday 13 May, 7 to 9 pm

East and Central Gippsland

  • Webinar 1: Wednesday 13 May, 2 to 4 pm
  • Webinar 2: Thursday 14 May, 7 to 9 pm

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID)

  • Webinar 1: Monday 18 May, 2 to 4 pm
  • Webinar 2: Tuesday 19 May, 7 to 9 pm

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:

For more information about drought and dry seasonal conditions support and advice go to

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

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 over 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 here.

For enquiries contact Tess McDougall on or 0409 841 492.

Panic grasses can be deadly for lambs

Dr. Jeff Cave, District Veterinary Officer

Panic grasses are 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.

PhD research fellowships now open

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.

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 social 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 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 2 May. 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.

Excellence in Agribusiness Awards – applications now open

Entries are open for the Food & Fibre Gippsland Excellence in Agribusiness Awards, with an expansion in the number of categories, and the introduction of a new premier award.

The entry process is an easy online application via the Food & Fibre Gippsland website –

There are 13 “excellence” categories including Service to the Food and Fibre Industry, Sustainability, Workforce Capability, Entrepreneurship, Excellence in the Fibre Industry, Excellence in Innovation, Excellence in Exporting, Excellence in Safety, Excellence in Collaborative Partnerships, Excellence in Research and Development and Excellence in Adaption to Change.

There are two awards for Excellence in Food & Drink Manufacturing – one for businesses with less than 10 employees, and one for those who employ more than 10 people.

As well as the new Gippsland Female Agribusiness Leader of the Year award, the premier awards also include the Gippsland Agribusiness of the Year and Young Agribusiness Leader of the Year.

Entries close on 21 May. More information is available online at

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.

Primary producers bushfire support programs
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

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

Victorian Bushfires Concessional Loans

Concessional loans of up to $500,000 are available to support small business, primary producers and non-profit organisations impacted by the Victorian bushfires that began on 21 November 2019.

The loans are for restoring and/or replacing damaged assets and/or to meet working capital expenses.

They are available for eligible wine grape growers in Ararat, Alpine, Ballarat, East Gippsland, Glenelg, Golden Plains, Greater Bendigo, Indigo, Mansfield, Moyne, Northern Grampians, Pyrenees, Southern Grampians, Strathbogie, Towong, Wangaratta, Wellington and Wodonga.

For further information contact Rural Finance 1800 260 425 or

Emergency Bushfire Response in Primary Industries Grants

Grants of up to $75,000 to assist primary producers directly affected by the 2019–2020 bushfire with recovery costs. Eligible activities include rebuilding or replacing damaged or destroyed on-farm infrastructure, including fencing and trellises.

Wine grape growers who are located in eligible fire affected local government areas and have had crops affected by smoke taint may be able to claim for costs associated with the salvage, harvest and disposal of the smoke taint affected crops. Where no fire has occurred on the property, evidence of smoke impact, such as smoke taint testing results are required.

Available in eligible fire affected local government areas across Victoria. In the areas of Ararat, Alpine, Ballarat, East Gippsland, Glenelg, Golden Plains, Greater Bendigo, Indigo, Mansfield, Moyne, Northern Grampians, Pyrenees, Southern Grampians, Strathbogie, Towong, Wangaratta, Wellington and Wodonga, and the alpine areas of Falls Creek, Mount Buller, Mount Hotham and Mount Stirling.

For further information contact Rural Finance 1800 260 425 or

Drought and dry seasons support services and information
Domestic and stock bore license fee waiver

The Victorian Government is waiving the $235 application fee for new domestic and stock bore construction licences (BCL) for landholders in eligible areas of Victoria.

This initiative will help landholders secure their domestic and stock water supply needs in areas experiencing drought and dry conditions.

Apply online at the Victorian Water Register

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.

Drought employment program

The East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority received funding for the Drought Employment Program from the Victorian Government last October.

The program provides off-farm employment training for farmers, farm workers and individuals affected by drought and dry seasonal conditions to expand or obtain transferable employment skills.

For further information:

Phone East Gippsland CMA on (03) 5152 0600


Visit Gippsland drought employment

On-farm drought resilience grant program

Farmers in Wellington and East Gippsland shires are reminded that the $5000 On-Farm Drought Resilience Grant can be used to purchase seed and fertiliser to restore drought affected pastures.

With recent rainfall in the region, now is a good time to invest in on-farm infrastructure that will improve drought preparedness and better position your farm business into the future.

The infrastructure component of this grant must have been purchased or undertaken on or after 2 October 2019.

To access the guidelines and eligibility criteria, contact 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.

On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate

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 Feeding Livestock website and can be downloaded or viewed in whole or as individual chapters on any device.

Other key features of the website, include:

Upcoming webinars
Repeated this Monday – whole farm planning webinar/phone seminar
Details – repeat session

Monday 27 April
1 pm

No registration is required. Simply, join online here


Due to the technical difficulties experienced by some people, a repeat session will be held this Monday (27 April).

This introductory session to whole farm planning will provide you with an understanding of the principles and process involved in developing a whole farm plan.

The session will be recorded for those unable to attend. Please register to receive a copy of the recording.

Presenter: Clem Sturmfels, Land Management Extension Officer, Ararat

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

Financial literacy for farm business decision-making


Webinar 1:
Wednesday 13 May
2 – 4 pm

Webinar 2:
Thursday 14 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.

For more information contact Paul Blackshaw on 0427 546 643 or

To register visit or contact Meridian Agriculture on 03 5341 6100 or email

The financial literacy workshops are supported by the Victorian Government through its 2019–20 drought support package.

Autumn webinar series

This webinar series 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.

Each webinar will be recorded for those unable to attend. Please register to receive a copy of the recording via email.

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

Autumn feed budgeting

Wednesday 6 May
7.30 – 8.30 pm

Register online here


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

Online registration address:

Autumn grazing management

Wednesday 13 May
7.30  –  8.30 pm

Register online here


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?.

Online registration address:

Planning and designing a five star water supply

Wednesday 20 May
7.30 – 8.30 pm

Register online here


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:

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Call 136 186 from anywhere in Australia for the cost of a local call (except for mobiles and public telephones).

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