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

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Latest news
South West alert for fruit flies
Tractor sowing PBC March 2020

With recent Mediterranean fruit fly outbreaks declared in South Australia, South-West Victoria is at greater risk of fruit flies spreading across the border.

That’s why Agriculture Victoria is asking south-west residents to monitor their gardens for fruit flies.

Some fruit fly species can cause significant damage to a wide variety of fruit and vegetables crops, and have the potential to impact produce getting to market.

Anyone growing their own fruit or vegetables in south west Victoria can assist Agriculture Victoria’s efforts to monitor for the occurrence of fruit fly species in the region.

Victoria’s Senior Project officer Domestic Quarantine Lavinia Zirnsak said south-west residents could contact Agriculture Victoria if they suspected they have fruit fly larvae in their garden, fruit tree or vegie patch.

Mediterranean fruit fly is an exotic species to Victoria and is a significant threat to the state’s horticulture industry.

Anyone who reports a suspected fruit fly infestation within the region will receive a collection kit from Agriculture Victoria with instructions for submitting a sample for testing.

“It’s as simple as placing the larvae infested piece of fruit or vegetable into a sealed plastic bag and sending it to our laboratory for testing,” Ms Zirnsak said.

“The sender will be notified of the result once the sample has been identified by the Agriculture Victoria laboratory.

“With 2020 being International Year of Plant Health, it’s a timely reminder that everyone has a responsibility to monitor and manage pests and diseases in their garden.

“What you do in your garden doesn’t just affect your neighbours, but also our farms and commercial produce.

“Your support in our surveillance program will help assist with the early detection of exotic fruit fly ad protect Victoria's multi-million-dollar fruit and vegetable industries.”

If you suspect you have fruit fly in your garden in the south-west, please call Agriculture Victoria on 136 186 or email

For more information about the management of fruit fly, visit

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.

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 today 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.

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 affect 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 mid-pregnancy,” 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.

Ancient geology reveals future tech materials

Beneath the plains of Western Victoria, known geologically as the Stavely Arc, could lie the minerals needed to boost the State’s supply of advanced technologies.

Minister for Resources Jaclyn Symes today announced that Earth Resources Regulation (ERR) has issued Victorian-based Westrock Minerals a Minerals Exploration Licence for an area approximately 35 kilometres east of Hamilton and north of Warrnambool.

Major work over the last decade by the Geological Survey of Victoria and Geoscience Australia led to the 2018 Stavely Ground Release, which is expected to encourage an investment in minerals exploration of over $20 million with potential for more to come.

The third licence issued following the Stavely Ground Release is expected to generate more than $7.5 million in local expenditure.

Geologists believe that 500 million years ago Western Victoria was on the border of a super-continent called Gondwana, giving it a similar geological environment at the time to the copper-rich Andes in South America. One new mineral discovery has already been made on the back of renewed interest in the region’s geological setting.

Westrock Minerals has been supported by the Victorian Government with a $500,000 co-funded exploration grant from the TARGET Minerals Exploration Initiative program to help with early-stage exploration activity.

Further afield, ERR has also recently granted two Retention Licences to Stavely Minerals to allow it to conduct more targeted exploration and potential resource development on ground near Ararat. The company is expected to spend $10 million in the region as it searches for gold, silver and other base metals.

Minerals exploration spending in Victoria has outpaced the nation over the past four years, delivering jobs across regional Victoria. The pipeline of projects in the sector remains broad with 83 new mineral licence applications received by the regulator this financial year, and February marking a five-year high for applications.

Community engagement remains an essential part of the approvals process – new advertising guidelines for exploration licences introduced by ERR ensures communities have every opportunity to contribute to local minerals development decisions.

In Victoria, landholder consent is required before access to privately owned land to explore for minerals is granted. Information and templates to guide negotiations between landholders and explorers are available at

Digital gains for grains and ag students at Longerenong

Longerenong College near Horsham is ploughing ahead with providing agricultural students access to the latest in agriculture technology, backed by the Victorian Government.

New machinery and other equipment including a new airseeder, self-propelled boomspray, variable rate fertiliser spreader and remote sensing equipment have arrived in time for planting this year’s cereal, pulse and oilseed crops.

The investment is part of the AgTIDE Demonstration of Agricultural Technology Applications (DATA) Farm Project, establishing a 1000-hectare demonstration farm at the college supported by more than $2.5 million from the Victorian Government’s Agriculture Infrastructure and Jobs Fund.

The AgTIDE DATA Farm Project gives students and industry the opportunity to get hands-on experience with what the latest innovations in digital agriculture can do for a commercial grain farm.

The DATA farm will use a network of sensors and software platforms to help collect information, allowing students and farmers to see first-hand how this technology can be used to make evidence-based decisions for a season ahead.

One example is a top-soil mapper, which measures soil fertility across the paddock and shares this information so extra nutrition can be allocated only to the zones of the paddock that need it, allowing more efficient fertiliser use.

The new machinery and equipment will be complemented by an Innovation Centre where visitors to the college will be able to see real-time data from the farm and learn how agtech is driving improved farm performance.

Support for the DATA Farm is just one way the Victorian Government is helping farmers harness the benefits of digital technology to improve farm productivity and profitability.

Victoria’s On-Farm Internet of Things Trial is also supporting farmers to adopt digital technologies across horticulture, sheep, grains and dairy industries.

The Government is also helping provide farmers with the skills they need to make the most out of new on-farm technology through the Smarter, Safer Farms initiative.

Online cuppa and chat making a connection
country cuppas

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

Farm safety risks for children

With children staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, they're more likely to be living, playing and sometimes working on their family farms at the moment.

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 -

NLIS database management webinars

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.

PhD research fellowships on offer
sheep notes

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.

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.

Digital Opportunities Roadshow

The Victorian Government in partnership with Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) are delivering online workshops in regional and rural Victoria to provide your small businesses with practical actions and tips on how to make the most of the digital economy and reduce your cyber-security risks.

Register for a FREE online workshop in your region to build your own action plan of next steps and come away with digital skills to assist planning and growing your small business.

Your small businesses will develop digital skills across a range of areas including:

  • developing an online presence
  • understanding and using digital tools
  • managing your cyber security and safety plan.

The workshop will assist your small business in developing a fit-for purpose online presence, how your business can operate in a digital economy and identifying your online goals.

The next batch of workshops will target businesses in the following regions:

  • Warrnambool - 27 May, 9 to 11 am
  • Hamilton - 27 May, 2 to 4 pm
  • Camperdown - 28 May, 2 to 4 pm
  • Portland - 28 May, 8.30 to 10.30 am

For more information and a complete listing of events in all regions log on at:

What's on
Planning and designing a five-star water supply – 20 May

Date: Wednesday 20 May

Time: 7.30 to 8.30 pm

Register online here


Join us for in interactive webinar on autumn grazing management.

Presented by Clem Sturmfels, Agriculture Victoria Land Management Extension officer, Ararat.

Topics covered:

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

For enquiries contact Tess McDougall via email at or 0409 841 492.

NLIS database management webinars - 18 and 25 May

Date: 18 and 25 May

Time: 8 to 9 pm

Register: Eventbrite

Details: (03) 5761 1647


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.

Book online at Eventbrite – select 'NLIS Database Webinar'

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

Sustaining our food supply - 2 June

2 June, 1:30 (AEST)

Keen to hear the latest research into actions we can take to build the resilience of Melbourne’s fresh food supply?

Why we should protect farmland on the city fringe and ensure secure water sources?

And some practical ways in which consumers and households can help sustain our local food supply?

Join the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Melbourne for an insightful online conversation with Dr Rachel Carey, lead of the Foodprint Melbourne research project.

Understand more about:

  • The characteristics that make up Melbourne’s ‘foodbowl’ and a resilient food system
  • What the shocks and stressors to Melbourne’s food supply are
  • Suggestions for policy makers to make our locally produced food system more sustainable
  • Tips for each of us as consumers to help support local food producers and make our food system more resilient

The conversation will be facilitated by Dr Jennifer Henry, alum of the School of Agriculture and Food (BAgr(Hons) 1990, PhD 2001).

To join us for this informative online event, please RSVP here.

Further information is available in a recent article published by Dr Carey entitled Our food supply has problems with equity, not quantity, and discusses how shocks to our food supply, like coronavirus (COVID-19), provide an opportunity to transform our food systems in a way that is healthier, more sustainable and equitable.

Goat producers guide to the NLIS database - 2 and 9 June

Date: 2 and 9 June

Time: 12.30 to 1.30 pm

Register: Eventbrite

Details: (03) 5761 1647


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.

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

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

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