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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday 30 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.

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
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.

Latest news
Arm yourself with the facts this season
Tractor sowing PBC March 2020

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 tactics for autumn management
take care with chemicals in the backyard

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 utilisation 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.

Grazing forage cereals

By Richard Smith, Agriculture Victoria Dairy Extension Officer

Cereals have been gaining popularity 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 visit

Climate webinar: Farm weather stations and what they can do
seasonal climate update webinars

The next offering in our lunchtime climate webinar series will focus on farm weather stations and what they can do.

At 12 pm on Thursday, 7 May, Agbyte Ag Technologist Leighton Wilksch will walk attendees through farm weather stations with examples of how they are being used to provide value for farmers.

In this webinar, Mr Wilksch will cover:

  • how to collect and interpret weather data
  • how to monitor fire danger, what to consider with soil probes
  • measuring and managing inversions.

Based on Yorke Peninsula, Mr Wilksch provides weather, soil moisture and crop monitoring hardware and solutions (backed up with agronomic service) across South Australia and Victoria.  He has over 20 years' experience in the dryland broadacre market, being a research agronomist for Landmark before starting his business Agbyte in 2009.  Agbyte provides innovative solutions for decision-making based around weather that enable users to intuitively decipher data to assist them with farm management. 

This webinar will be held on Thursday, 7 May 7 at 12 pm.

To join, log on at:

Recordings of other recent climate webinars are now available.

Visit our climate webinar page on the Agriculture Victoria website for more information.

Victoria strengthens bee biosecurity and Varroa mite preparedness

By Ally Driessen, Victorian Bee Biosecurity Officer

Agriculture Victoria’s apiary team increased the national award-winning State Quarantine Response Team (SQRT) in early March this year. Training was delivered to 25 new field team leaders (authorised Agriculture Victoria staff) and 35 industry members/beekeepers who wanted to help protect the industry from incursions of exotic bee pests.

The SQRT program proved its worth when Varroa was detected in the Port of Melbourne in June 2018.

For those not familiar with SQRT training, it’s designed to equip participants with the skills to conduct in-hive surveillance in the event of a suspect incursion (Varroa mite for example) and participate in the government’s emergency response.

Our pool of industry members and beekeepers has now risen to more than 180 trained individuals.

Industry members and beekeepers were taken through important aspects of the SQRT training, including:

  • International developments in Varroa and other exotic honeybee threats that may require SQRT involvement
  • Emergency response equipment
  • OH&S during a response
  • An apiary Incident Management Team
  • Arriving and conducting operations at suspect premises
  • Decontamination process.

Although the day’s agenda was tweaked to allow for unfavourable weather conditions, overall feedback was positive.

Training participant Tony said beekeepers generally could work in a vacuum, so it was great to share a day with so many other people and to gain a deeper understanding of biosecurity measures in practice.

Beekeeper Krista said she enjoyed the training and felt it equipped participants with the necessary skills and attitude to support the SQRT program into the future.

The role of the SQRT members is extremely valuable to Agriculture Victoria and the industry as it provides a large pool of trained in-hive surveillance experts confident in handling bees ready to be called on as part of a honeybee emergency response.

If you would like to be part of the next SQRT training please email and express your interest.

For anyone who is currently not part of the SQRT program, you can still be involved in early detection of an incursion of Varroa by conducting a sugar shake test. And remember, if you see anything suspicious (like Varroa mite or Braula fly) please call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881 immediately.

First case of resistance in mites a red flag to enact strategies

Grain growers and advisers are encouraged to revisit their redlegged earth mite (RLEM; Halotydeus destructor) management strategies following the detection of insecticide resistance in populations of the pest in Victoria for the first time.

And with recent rains and cooler autumn temperatures expected to promote egg hatching of RLEM, experts supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) are advising close adherence to best-practice management strategies.

Entomologist Paul Umina, of scientific research organisation cesar, said the recent detection of resistance in Victoria is the furthest eastern point in Australia that insecticide resistance has been recorded in this pest.

“While the level of resistance detected in Victoria is considered ‘low-level’, we can’t stress enough the importance of having a resistance management strategy at the forefront of RLEM control in south-eastern Australia,” said Dr Umina.

While RLEM has high levels of resistance to insecticides for more than a decade in Western Australia, cases of insecticide resistance are now being detected beyond WA.

Since 2016, resistance to both synthetic pyrethroids, including bifenthrin and alpha-cypermethrin, and organophosphates, including omethoate and chlorpyrifos, has been detected in RLEM populations in numerous locations within South Australia.

RLEM has a wide appetite, feeding on a range of plants including but not limited to canola, clover, faba beans and lupins.

“If higher levels of insecticide resistance were to evolve to multiple chemistries and across larger areas, RLEM would be far more difficult to control on vulnerable establishing crops than what it is today in south-eastern Australia,” Dr Umina said.

Through a GRDC investment which supports scientific surveys and testing of suspect RLEM populations, cesar research scientist Aston Arthur collected RLEM populations in Victoria’s north in 2019, after an agronomist reported a spray failure with omethoate in 2018. The mites were collected from three paddocks in close proximity.

Back in the laboratory, Dr Arthur tested two organophosphate insecticides, omethoate and malathion, against these RLEM.

To determine if the test populations were expressing resistance, Dr Arthur ran a bioassay to compare their LC50 (the lethal concentration required to kill 50 per cent of the population) values to that of a known insecticide-susceptible population of RLEM.

Dr Arthur found at most a seven-fold increase when mites were tested against omethoate, and a 70-fold increase with malathion.

The test populations also underwent molecular testing to screen for resistance to synthetic pyrethroids. No synthetic pyrethroid resistance was found in any of the test populations.

Dr Umina said the ubiquity of the RLEM across many broadacre crops and pastures means that it is frequently exposed to insecticides and faces a high selection pressure to evolve resistance.

With sowing of winter crops and pastures already underway or starting for others, growers and advisers can source recommended best practice information on RLEM and resistance management in broadacre crops and pastures via two resources.

The first resource is the GRDC’s Redlegged earth mite best management practice guide – Southern, which can be found at

Dr Umina said this guide is a useful tool to not only help minimise the incidence of RLEM but also to minimise the need for insecticide application.

The second resource is the Resistance management strategy for the redlegged earth mite in Australian grains and pastures, which can be found at

This strategy outlines various chemical control approaches based on scenarios where there is no resistance, resistance to synthetic pyrethroids only, resistance to organophosphates only, or resistance to both synthetic pyrethroids and organophosphates.

RLEM may be mistaken for other crop-feeding mites. For help with mite identification, cesar’s PestBites episode on crop and pasture mite identification can be viewed at

A GRDC podcast featuring Professor Ary Hoffman from the University of Melbourne discussing the evolution of pesticide resistance in RLEM can be found at

Alongside cesar, project partners in this GRDC investment are CSIRO, the University of Melbourne, and the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

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:

  • Colac - 11 May, 1.30 to 3.30 pm
  • Lorne - 11 May, 9 to 11 am
  • 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
Autumn feed budgeting webinar/phone seminar – 6 May

Date: Wednesday 6 May

Time: 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm

Register online here


Join us for in interactive webinar on incorporating early pasture into your feed budgets.

Presented by Dr Catherine Bunter, Agriculture Victoria District Veterinary Officer, Ararat.

Topics covered:

  • The value of feed on hand in paddocks
  • Animal requirements
  • Step by step approach to feed budgeting
  • Other nutritional considerations.

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

Dung beetles webinar - 6 May

DATE: Wednesday 6 May

TIME: 7 pm


The South West Prime Lamb Group (SWPLG) is hosting demonstration sites to learn about dung beetles and their benefits to sheep farms in south west Victoria.

Please join the online webinar hosted by the SWPLG to learn more about dung beetles and what the group are finding locally. 
(The field day planned for autumn 2020 has been postponed until spring 2020).


  • Benefits of dung beetles for grazing systems and how to encourage them
  • How do we know if we have dung beetles and what type they are?
  • What species are we finding locally?


  • Dr. Russ Barrow – Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers project (DBEE), Charles Sturt University

For information contact: Bindi Hunter, Agriculture Victoria, 0428 589 016, or Kate Joseph, SWPLG, 0428 541158,

Regional climate update webinars

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District
Tuesday 12 May, 
12 pm – 1 pm
Register or join via this link.

North East Victoria
Wednesday 13 May, 
12 pm – 1 pm
Register or join via this link.

South West Victoria
Thursday 14 May, 
12 pm – 1 pm
Register or join via this link.


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 Seasonal Risk Agronomist Dale Grey will take participants through:

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

Dale has been working in seasonal climate risk for over 14 years. Over this time he has built a national profile for expertise in explaining climate drivers and climatic model predictions, including rainfall and temperature, for the agriculture sector.

If you need help registering or would like more information please contact Sarah Clack, Agriculture Victoria, on 0417 316 345 or email

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

Autumn grazing management webinar/phone seminar – 13 May

Date: Wednesday 13 May

Time: 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm

Register online here


Join us for in interactive webinar on autumn grazing management.

Presented by Fiona Baker, Agriculture Victoria 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?

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

Planning and designing a five-star water supply – 20 May

Date: Wednesday 20 May

Time: 7.30 pm 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.

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