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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday, 7 May 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.

Monitor your farm business performance

Agriculture Victoria is offering sheep and beef producers the opportunity to participate in the Victorian Livestock Farm Monitor Project (LFMP).

The LFMP has been collecting detailed physical and financial farm information from producers for 50 years and providing them with a thorough and independent report of their farm’s performance.

Participants have said they use the report’s data for such things as obtaining or extending loans or to make short, medium and long-term business decisions.

Farm Business Economist Sam Henty said for a farm business to achieve its goals it must first establish whether it can pay the bills, understand how efficiently it uses its resources and determine whether the owner is increasing their net worth.

“The Livestock Farm Monitor Project provides producers and decision makers with this information,” Mr Henty said.

“It’s a good opportunity to step back and look at your figures and input costs and review these elements.”

Participating producers will receive an annual individualised report with graphs and data from the reporting year.

“A participating farm business can use the results from this report to compare its performance over time and help identify the critical variables to inform and provide confidence for on-farm decision making.”

Data collection occurs in July and August each year, to coincide with the availability of data from the previous financial year.

Data collected includes farm income and costs for the financial year, trading and breeding details, feed input and production, fertiliser and labour inputs and a complete stock, feed, land and farm machinery inventory, including all farm assets and liabilities.

Limited places are available for individual farms and farm discussion groups across Victoria to participate in the 2019–20 LFMP.

There is no cost for participants, and all information is treated as strictly confidential.

Previous reports are available on the Agriculture Victoria website

For further information, please contact Sam Henty on 0430 482 443 or

Upskilling the next generation of Victorian farmers

Young farmers across Victoria are being encouraged to take advantage of an opportunity to expand their skills, knowledge and agricultural expertise through the latest program backed by the Victorian Government.

Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes today launched this year’s Upskill and Invest Young Farmers Scholarships, which allows successful applicants to access study and training, as well as invest in on-farm initiatives and further professional development.

The program offers scholarships of up to $10,000 to support training and study in areas such as business and risk management, genetics and pasture management development.

Once recipients complete their studies, they will receive further funding of up to $5000 to invest in putting their new skills into practice in fields such as professional development and business planning, or to invest in on-farm practices, equipment and technology.

To ensure young people continue to develop the skills they need to build successful careers in agriculture, the Victorian Government is investing $375,000 in the scholarship program over the next three years.

The Upskill and Invest Young Farmers Scholarship program has successfully supported 63 young farmers to develop their skills across a range of agriculture sectors since 2015.

Applications for this year’s round of scholarships are now open to farmers aged 35 or under who have been working in farm businesses for at least three days a week for the past three months, with at least two years total experience on-farm.

As well as the scholarship program, the government is supporting our next generation of farmers through a range of other programs, including the Young Farmer Business Bootcamps, Young Farmer Business Network and the Young Farmers Advisory Council.

To find out more about the program and to apply for a scholarship, visit

Applications close on Sunday, 14 June.

Hay quality – is it good enough?

Bushfires and dry seasonal conditions have led to strong demand in hay supplies with many generous donations being distributed to those in need.

However, with hay quality varying more than most other types of supplements, an important question is whether it’s the best feed for livestock, especially when pasture is limiting and winter approaches.

Agriculture Recovery Manager Kylie Macreadie said livestock producers need to be assessing whether the hay they have received or have on-hand is sufficient quality to meet the energy, protein and fibre requirements of their animals.

“Occasionally the fibre level of a feed, particularly hay, can be too high and an animal cannot eat enough to meet its energy requirements, which may result in weight loss,” Ms Macreadie said.

“This is particularly important for an animal that is lactating as its energy and protein requirements essentially double.”

To maintain weight, ewes or cows require feed that contains six per cent crude protein, while weaned stock need eight per cent and lactating stock 10 per cent (as a minimum).

“Often the ewe or cow can easily consume enough hay while dry to maintain her weight, but once she has given birth and is lactating, she cannot eat enough of that same hay to meet her increased energy requirements,” Ms Macreadie said.

“Once lactating, if there is limited green pick available in the pasture, the stock will need to be supplemented with grain or pellets in addition to the hay.

"Poor quality hay is sufficient as a fibre supplement but should be combined with a higher energy supplement like grains if needed for stock with high energy and protein requirements.’

Ms Macreadie advised producers who are feeding hay as a large proportion of the diet to their sheep or cattle to closely monitor those animals for weight loss.

“It is recommended that hay samples be sent to a laboratory for testing, to obtain feed quality information,” she said.

“The producer can then make the necessary dietary decisions and improvements."

Agriculture Victoria livestock officers can assist with putting a feed budget together to ensure the ration will meet livestock requirements going into winter. 

Drought feeding books for sheep and cattle contain information on cow and sheep requirements as well as a guide to conducting and interpreting feed tests (Chapter 5 in the cattle book and Chapter 3 in the sheep book).

The books are available from the Feeding Livestock website or by ringing the Customer Service Centre on 136 186, who can also refer you to a livestock officer.

Child safety on farms

Children who live on farms are more likely to be injured or killed on the farm than their parents or other farm workers.

With children staying home amidst the coronavirus (Covid-19)  pandemic, children will be living, playing and sometimes working on their family farms. During a time when families are staying home it is more important than ever to ensure children are always in safe areas and there are no serious injuries.

This can be achieved by creating safe play areas, appropriate farm tasks and having safety conversations with your children in your home.

The National Centre for Farmer Health has more information and several fact sheets available at and WorkSafe is also a great source

Early-sown canola may escape blackleg clutches

Canola crops sown early in warm conditions over recent weeks may escape potentially severe blackleg disease during the growing season.

Many crops are being sown earlier than usual this year following decent summer and early autumn rains.

Marcroft Grains Pathology principal Steve Marcroft, who is co-ordinator of the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) National Canola Pathology Program investment, said crops sown before 30 April into warm conditions that allowed them to quickly progress through the seedling growth stage are at the lowest risk of developing blackleg.

“Crops sown from May onwards are likely to face more disease pressure from blackleg, with crops sown from June onwards at the highest risk.”

This advice is contained in the GRDC Blackleg Management Guide autumn 2020 edition which also features the latest blackleg ratings for canola cultivars.

Dr Marcroft said results from the latest blackleg screenings of canola cultivars have been factored into the updated ratings for 2020.

Blackleg ratings can change from year-to-year if the fungus overcomes cultivar resistance.

Leptosphaeria maculans, the causal agent of blackleg disease, is a sexually reproducing pathogen that may overcome cultivar resistance genes.

Fungal spores are released from canola stubble and spread extensively via wind and rain splash. The impact is more severe in areas of intensive canola production.

“Blackleg can cause severe yield loss, but can be successfully managed,” Dr Marcroft said.

“Growers are advised to closely follow the recommended strategies for reducing the risk of disease which are contained in the GRDC Blackleg Management Guide.”

The guide, available at, can be used by growers to determine whether they are in a high-risk situation and the best management practices to reduce or prevent yield loss from blackleg.

The guide also emphasises that fungicides will only provide an economic return if a crop is at high risk of yield loss.

“Fungicides complement other management practices,” Dr Marcroft said.

“Growers should never rely solely on fungicides to control disease as this poses a high risk for development of resistance.”
The BlacklegCM blackleg management app has also been updated with the latest disease ratings.

The app, a GRDC investment, provides growers with a tool that can forecast the likelihood and severity of the disease, associated yield loss and economic returns on a paddock-by-paddock basis.

Dr Marcroft said the tool provides growers and advisers with “an interactive interface” to explore and compare the economic outcomes of different management strategies for blackleg, which can cause up to 90 per cent yield loss where a cultivar’s blackleg resistance has been overcome.

The app, available for use on iPads and tablets via the App Store and Google Play, is an extension of the Blackleg Management Guide which is updated twice a year to reflect any changes in the resistance status of individual cultivars.

“BlacklegCM assists growers to manage blackleg by integrating the information provided in the Blackleg Management Guide and producing a predicted economic outcome,” Dr Marcroft said.

“It can be modified to account for some of the major factors that relate to risk of yield loss due to blackleg in a particular paddock.

"It allows the user to compare the likely relative profitability of different disease management strategies, including paddock selection, cultivar choice, seed dressing, banded fungicide and sprayed fungicide.”

BlacklegCM factors in costs, yield benefits and grain prices to give the best case, worst case and most likely estimates of economic return.

It also accounts for the major factors that influence blackleg severity and can be used during the growing season to assist with foliar fungicide application decisions.

Dr Marcroft said the severity of blackleg disease in 2020 will be dependent on seasonal conditions.

To further assist growers in determining the level of risk in their area, the GRDC-supported National Variety Trials (NVT) Online website,, provides the latest information from blackleg monitoring sites across Australia.

Representative cultivars from all blackleg resistance groups are sown in trial sites in every canola-producing region and monitored for blackleg severity.

This data provides regional information on the effectiveness of each blackleg resistance group.

Comprehensive information on management of canola diseases can be found in the GRDC’s Diseases of Canola and Their Management: The Back Pocket Guide, available

Videos featuring Dr Marcroft diagnosing and explaining how to control blackleg upper canopy infection can be found at and respectively, while a podcast on upper canopy infection can be downloaded via

Keeping backyard chooks

Dr Jeff Cave, District Veterinary Officer

Chickens can be a great addition to your garden, fulfilling various roles such as producing eggs, fertilising gardens and eating your food scraps.

The most trouble-free chickens to purchase are vaccinated hens at the point of lay (16 – 18 weeks) from a reliable commercial source.

Chickens need a well-drained and well-ventilated pen. Make sure the chicken pen is fox and wild bird proof and, unless the sides are attached to a wooden or concrete floor, dig them into the soil to a depth of at least a half a metre.

Part of the pen needs to be under cover, particularly where the chickens roost and lay. It works well if the chicken house/coop is located under a tree for shade.

The chicken coop should be north facing with an eve about a metre long to protect from the summer sun and the rain but to still let light in during winter.

It is easier to manage the chickens if the chicken coop is high enough for you to stand up in. Cover the floor with sawdust or straw to form a deep litter with the chicken’s droppings.

Nesting boxes need to be off the ground, dark and have fresh, clean straw that should be replaced regularly. Ideally build the chicken coop with outside access to the nesting boxes.

Perches for roosting need to be wide enough for the chickens to comfortably stand on.

Commercial layer pellets or crumble that can be bought in 20 kilogram bags at your local rural store are a satisfactory food source but chickens can be supplemented with food scraps. Don't feed more scraps than the chickens can consume, or the leftovers will attract vermin and create odours.

A round feeder is good for the pecking order as the weaker chicken can be on the other side of the circle and not beside the dominant chicken. Provide enough feed for no more than three days to prevent it from becoming stale.

An automatic chicken feeder is preferred; these are suitable for all backyard chicken flocks and the step-on mechanism helps prevent vermin, wild birds and rain from ruining the feed.

Chickens also need continual access to clean, fresh water.

Finally, monitor your chickens daily for their health, egg production, and food and water availability.

If you have more than 50 chickens, you are required to have a Property Identification Code (PIC) and also a unique egg stamp. You can apply for a PIC online at          

Additionally, you must either be in a recognised industry or commercial quality assurance program, or complete and follow Agriculture Victoria’s food safety management statement.

Check your local government requirements, as many have by-laws on flock size and housing.

For further advice please contact your local veterinarian, Agriculture Victoria district veterinary or animal health officer, or in NSW, your Local Land Services.

PhD fellowships in the dairy industry – apply now

In partnership with The University of Melbourne, Agriculture Victoria is offering 17 PhD research fellowships in the dairy industry.

Based at our world-renowned research centres at Ellinbank and Hamilton, successful applicants will be rewarded with a $33,000 per annum scholarship, access to state-of-the-art facilities and opportunities for professional development and overseas travel.

To find out more visit

Soils community of practice newsletter

“The earth is what we all have in common.” – Wendell Berry

In this edition:

  • Editorial
  • Feature article: Why do farmers adopt soil management practices?
  • Local news
  • National news
  • International news

**SUBSCRIBE** to the newsletter here.

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

CWA of Victoria’s Drought Relief Program

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

The program can provide up to $3000 to eligible farming families, farm workers and farm dependent contractors to reimburse them for household expenses like school costs, utilities, food and medical bills.

For more information and to apply contact the CWA online at or email them at

For more about the program and other available drought support visit or call 136 186.

Small Business Bushfire Support Grant

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

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

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

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

On-Farm 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

On-Farm Drought Resilience Grants program expanded
Resilience grant

Jaclyn Symes, Minister for Agriculture has announced changes to the On-Farm Drought Resilience Grants program.

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

Eligible farm businesses can now apply for:

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming webinars
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 Opportunities Roadshow

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

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

The following topics will be covered:

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

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

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

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

The next workshop is in Swan Hill on 26 May.

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

Financial literacy for farm business decision-making


Webinar 1:
Monday 18 May
2 – 4 pm

Webinar 2:
Tuesday 19 May
7 – 9 pm


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:

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

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

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

Autumn webinar series

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

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 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:

NLIS database management webinars
NLIS data management two-part webinar


Monday 18 and 25 May

12.30  – 1.30 pm

Book online at Eventbrite – select 'NLIS Database Webinar'


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

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

Topics include:

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

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

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

Goat producers guide to the NLIS database


Tuesday 2 and 9 June

12.30  – 1.30 pm

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


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

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

Topics include:

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

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

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

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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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