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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday, 30 April 2020
In this edition
if you think you have coronavirus get tested today
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Farmers and producers are vital to all Victorian communities and play an important role during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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.

Continued support for drought affected farmers

Drought-impacted farmers will now be able to receive expanded grant support from the Victorian Government to ensure they have more access to the technology and expertise they need now and to prepare for future seasons.

Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes today announced the changes to funding programs to acknowledge the ongoing challenges farmers are facing dealing with drought, bushfires and coronavirus.

The maximum amount available for the On-Farm Drought Resilience Grant Program will increase from $5000 to $10,000.

This means farmers can use up to $5000 for farm business planning activities and $5000 for drought infrastructure investments.

The program now also allows applications for new equipment such as mobile phone booster technologies to improve access to the internet and online drought services, and items such as soil moisture probes.

Farmers in drought-affected areas also impacted by the bushfires will be able to reapply for the grant where their previously funded investment was destroyed or damaged.

The popular Farm Machinery Grant Program has also been extended to allow more farmers in the Millewa region to access these grants of up to $10,000.

Farmers interested in applying are encouraged to contact the Victorian Farmers Federation.

While recent rainfall across much of the state has been a promising sign, many farmers still face a long road to recovery from years of dry conditions.

The expanded funding grants will provide targeted help to where it is most needed.

These grant programs are part of the Victorian Government’s $31 million support package announced in October, providing targeted support for areas hit hardest by dry conditions.

For more information on drought and dry seasonal conditions support and services visit or call 136 186.

Arm yourself with the facts this season

As the 2020 cropping season gets underway, Agriculture Victoria is advising farmers to arm themselves with as much information about their paddocks as they can to increase the chances of a productive and profitable year.

Agriculture Victoria’s Grains Industry Biosecurity Officer Jim Moran said recent rainfall has provided perfect conditions in most cropping districts.  

He said to ensure successful sowing and emergence and to maintain excellent crop growth without pest, disease or weed pressures, grain growers should keenly monitor for, and act on, facts.

“Check what is going on and into paddocks. Collect evidence and act on fact,” he said.

To save time, money and effort, Mr Moran has advised growers to conduct soil or tissue testing before they sow.

“These tests will identify any nutrient deficiencies and will result in grain growers only applying what is needed to produce healthy crops,” Mr Moran said.

He said farmers should be aware of the origin, contents and quality of crop inputs to avoid importing pests, weeds and diseases from another region.

If farmers are backloading fertilisers and chemicals from the ports, it’s important to conduct proper hygiene protocols as per the Grain Trade Australia’s Transport Code of Practice*.

“They should check product labels to confirm the source, quality and the potential presence of other toxic substances or contaminants,” Mr Moran said.

“This will ensure that any soil fertilisers, ameliorants, conditioners, compost or other chemicals are what they say they are.”

Farmers are urged to survey their paddocks regularly.

If they notice anything unusual, they should contact their agronomist and have samples tested by the CROPSAFE laboratory at Agriculture Victoria in Horsham. You can request a sampling kit by emailing

These tests will not only help to rule out the presence of exotic pests and diseases but will also enable a rapid response to eradicate any incursions.

More information is available on the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline 1800 084 881.

Grazing of forage cereals

Richard Smith, Agriculture Victoria Dairy Extension Officer

Cereals have been gaining popularity in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District by dairy farmers for use as a forage crop. The major reason is they generally yield higher than ryegrass when soil moisture is limited.

Cereals should generally be grazed when at 20–25 cm high for upright standing varieties, and 10–15 cm high for flat/prone varieties. A good rule of thumb is stock should enter at gumboot height and be removed at work-boot height.

Before grazing, it is important to check the plants have anchored and have grown secondary roots. To check this has occurred, use the ‘pluck and twist’. This can be achieved by grabbing the plant at the target grazing height then pull and twist.

If it breaks off, the forage has an advanced enough root system for grazing. If the plant is pulled out of the ground the forage is not ready to graze as the plants will be pulled reducing plant density and future yield.

The ‘pluck and twist’ test should be conducted at multiple locations across the paddock, therefore representative of the whole grazing area.

After grazing, cereals like ryegrass need a residual amount of dry matter to allow for recovery. The paddocks should be grazed down to 10–15 cm for upright standing varieties and 5 cm for flat varieties to ensure sufficient residual for regrowth.

Strip or rotationally grazing cereals is preferred as it allows the plant to re-energise. Set stocking can lead to crops being overgrazed and unable to recover carbohydrate stores, which results in bare patches.

If the cereal is going to be harvested for fodder, grazing must finish before the growing point or seed head starts moving up the stem.

This process is called jointing. The first visible indication is the occurrence of first node stage when the node is visible and ‘feelable’ 1–2 cm above the ground. This occurs on the main stem first, which in a grazed paddock will be the fattest of the tillers. Grazing off this node will stop the growth of this tiller and decrease the amount of fodder that is available in spring.

In summary

Start grazing at 20–25 cm high for upright standing varieties and 10–15 cm for flat varieties.

  • Assess by using the ‘pluck and twist’ test.
  • Strip graze rather than set stock.

Graze down to 10–15 cm for standing upright varieties and 5 cm for flat varieties to ensure sufficient residual for regrowth. Avoid over grazing as it will reduce yield and result in increased weeds.

If harvesting for fodder stop grazing before the growing point begins to move up the stem. The visible indication of this stage is a visible and ‘feelable’ swelling, 1–2 cm off the ground in the main stem.

A good rule of thumb is stock should enter at gumboot height and be removed at work-boot height.

For information about Agriculture Victoria support to dairy farmers preparing for dry seasonal conditions, contact Brett Davidson on (03) 5833 5206 or at

Grazing tactics for autumn management

Many pastures have suffered over the past few years with drought and dry seasonal conditions. With recent early rain across much of the state this could be a good year to nurse them back to higher levels of productivity.

Information and practical tips on autumn pasture recovery will be delivered by Agriculture Victoria pasture specialist Fiona Baker during a webinar / phone seminar being held next month.

“Our pastures are an investment, and in many cases are ‘recoverable’, despite many years of moisture stress and/or fire damage in some areas,” Ms Baker said.

With 21 years’ experience delivering in the areas of nutrient management, grazing systems, cattle nutrition and feed budgeting, as well as running a South Gippsland dairy farm with her husband, Ms Baker will share her insights into how producers can get their pastures to thrive.

During this event Ms Baker will cover a range of topics including:

  • How to determine if pastures are ready for grazing;
  • How long to leave stock in the paddock;
  • The type of grazing strategy producers should be aiming for; and
  • How much rest to give a pasture after grazing.

The specific signs producers should be looking for to determine if their pasture is recoverable will also be discussed.

Ms Baker said understanding these signs has the potential to achieve significant cost savings for producers, as full pasture renovation may not be required.

”In situations where the pastures are failing to meet the requirements for recovery, there are effective short term options to improve pasture productivity without extensive outlays, such as over-sowing with an annual species," she said.

“There are a number of management options farmers can also adopt to develop new grazing rotations, using existing infrastructure.”

Ms Baker said best practice grazing management is fundamental to the success of livestock enterprises, allowing for good pasture use and cost reduction, while maintaining optimum profitability.

“Effective grazing is also a vital tool in pasture recovery, allowing manipulation of pasture composition for more desired species,” she said.

This event is being delivered by Agriculture Victoria with funding from the Victorian Government’s 2019–20 drought support package.

The ‘Grazing tactics for autumn management’ webinar / phone seminar will be held at 7.30 pm on Wednesday 13 May.

Register online at

For enquiries contact Tess McDougall on or 0409 841 492.

Listen and learn: practical pulse growing explained

A new podcast series and workshop webinar recording are providing practical insights into boosting nitrogen fixation in pulses for growers and advisers.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Boosting On-Farm Nitrogen Fixation in Pulses podcasts and webinar cover some of the essential information to consider when inoculating pulses with rhizobia.

The podcasts are split into four informative instalments covering pre-sowing inoculation of pulses, in-season nodulation assessment, the impact of acid soils on nodulation and tips for best practice dry sowing when inoculating.

Meanwhile, the recording from an online pulse workshop held recently to replace the previously planned workshop series across South Australia and Victoria, provides a more detailed guided talk on best practice pulse growing.

Researchers Liz Farquharson and Ross Ballard from Primary Industries and Regions South Australia’s research division, the SA Research and Development Institute (SARDI), highlight the nitrogen fixation benefits from growing pulses, and discuss tactics that can help growers optimise the nodulation of pulse crops.

Mr Ballard said the podcast series and webinar complement existing GRDC inoculation resources and guides the listener through key factors that can affect the success of the process.

“Inoculation and pre-sowing preparation can set you up to fix a lot of nitrogen in a good season if you make the right decisions,” he said.

“However, there are some key considerations around inoculation, including dry sowing and acid soils, that we’re able to explain and expand on in these podcasts.

“In-season nodulation assessment is also important to understand if inoculation was successful and we talk the listener through how and when to make a nodulation assessment.”

The podcasts can be listened to via the following links:

To watch the webinar recording, visit

The Occasional Counsellor webinars for service providers

Agriculture Victoria is hosting three The Occasional Counsellor ™ webinars run by David Cherry, a clinical and forensic psychologist with 40 years’ experience.

The webinars on 26 and 28 May are for service providers who aren’t employed in a counselling role but are called upon to give others emotional support, for example, those experiencing the impact of prolonged dry seasonal conditions.

The webinar on 27 May is targeted at service providers in Gippsland and North-East Victoria who may be working with communities impacted by dry seasonal conditions, drought and bushfire.

The focus of these webinars is on teaching participants strategies for assisting individuals who are sad, upset, bewildered, confused, angry or depressed while clearly remaining in their role.

They will cover:

  • skills of the helper, including the importance of empathy and when not to empathise
  • understanding professional boundaries, including understanding your role and the limits of your role
  • the difference between emotional support and counselling
  • simple, practical strategies for supporting individuals who may be acutely emotionally distressed, including making appropriate referrals, while keeping yourself safe and remaining in your role
  • self-care for the worker.

Date: Tuesday 26 May
Time:  10 am to 1 pm

Date: Wednesday 27 May (for Gippsland and North-East Victoria)
Time: 10 am to 1 pm

Date: Thursday 28 May
Time: 10 am to 1 pm

Where: Online using a Webex link that will be provided.

Register online:
Or contact Sarah Clack 0417 316 345 or if you need help registering.
RSVP: essential as places are limited.

For more information about assistance available to help farmers manage during drought conditions call 136 186 or visit

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

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

On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme

The On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme is now available for the purchase and installation of emergency water infrastructure for livestock.

The scheme is available to eligible farm businesses in a number of local government areas, including: Campaspe, Gannawarra, Greater Bendigo, Greater Shepparton, Loddon, Strathbogie, Swan Hill, Mildura and Buloke.

Farm businesses outside of the above 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, call 1800 260 425 or visit

GMID farmers – use the drought resilience grant to restore your pastures
Resilience grant

Farmers in the GMID are reminded that the $5000 On-Farm Drought Resilience Grant can be used to purchase seed and fertiliser to restore dry 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.

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.

Upcoming webinars
Dairy Australia: Dairy business stimulus package webinar

Monday 4 May
10.30 am – 12 pm

Register here

Wednesday 6 May
7 – 8.30 pm

Register here

Thursday 7 May
12 pm – 1.30 pm

Register here


Want to better understand Federal and State Government support available for dairy farm businesses?

Dairy Australia is running online sessions with Andrew Ellem from A.E. Consultancy, who has extensive farm financial experience across government.

Andrew will outline the government support available for dairy farm businesses, eligibility and how to access it. You will be able to ask questions relevant to your circumstances.

There are three online sessions open to all Victorian farmers. The same content will be covered in each session.

For more information, contact Melva Tyson at Murray Dairy on 0439 667 425 or

Regional climate update webinars
climate webinars

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 is running a series of webinars in May where our 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.

If you need help registering or would like more information call Sarah Clack on 0417 316 345 or email

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District
Tuesday 12 May
12  – 1 pm

Register or join at:

North East Victoria
Wednesday 13 May
12 – 1 pm

Register or join at:

South West Victoria
Thursday 14 May
12 – 1 pm

Register or join at:

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

Digital Opportunites 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.

Workshops taking place in the Loddon Mallee region include:

  • Kyabram – 6 May
  • Maryborough – 6 May
  • Swan Hill – 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


Webinar 1:
Wednesday 13 May
2 – 4 pm

Webinar 2:
Thursday 14 May
7 – 9 pm


Webinar 1:
Tuesday 12 May
2 – 4 pm

Webinar 2:
Wednesday 13 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:

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.

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

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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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:

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