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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday 19 March, 2020
In this edition:
Graziers warned to beware of phalaris toxicity

Sheep and cattle producers are being advised to keep an eye out for signs of phalaris toxicity which can lead to illness and sudden death in livestock.

With the flush of new growth across the region following recent rainfall after a prolonged dry period, there is currently an increased risk of livestock suffering from phalaris toxicity as a result of consuming young phalaris grass.

In its early stages of growth (usually the first six weeks) phalaris grass contains toxic alkaloids, which if grazed, can lead to animals developing phalaris staggers. In contrast, phalaris sudden death syndrome is caused by high levels of ammonia in the animal’s system.

Both sheep and cattle may suffer staggers or sudden death after grazing phalaris, although cattle are less susceptible than sheep.

Agriculture Victoria District Veterinary Officer Rachel Gibney said phalaris staggers can develop between ten days and four months after grazing pasture and animals can even show signs months after being removed from phalaris.

“Sheep that start staggering may improve, but may be left with staggers for life,” she said.

Physical signs that an animal has phalaris staggers include staggering or stumbling, a bunny hop gait, head nodding, trouble standing or trouble eating and weight loss.

Dr Gibney said sudden death syndrome usually develops 12 to 36 hours after the animal has been on pasture.

“Signs include breathing difficulties and blue-coloured gums and the animal will usually die,” she said.

“If phalaris toxicity is suspected stock should be removed immediately, but slowly, from pasture.”

To avoid phalaris toxicity it is best to avoid grazing phalaris during the first six weeks of new growth or to limit the intake of phalaris during the first two days to just a few hours per day.

“Farmers should also manage stocking rates and feed hay before giving animals access to pasture to ensure they are not overly hungry and consume less,” Dr Gibney said.

“Cobalt supplementation may help prevent phalaris staggers, but not the sudden death syndrome.”

For further advice contact your local veterinarian or Agriculture Victoria veterinary or animal health officer.

Farmer pleads guilty to animal cruelty charges

A sheep farmer from Corack near Donald, recently pleaded guilty to animal cruelty in the St Arnaud Magistrates Court for failing to appropriately care for his animals.

The farmer pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to provide sufficient feed, three charges of aggravated cruelty, and a charge for failure to comply with notices under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986.

The farmer was convicted and fined $5,000 and a Conditional Control Order imposed which would allow an authorised Agriculture Victoria inspector to monitor compliance with the Act.

Agriculture Victoria Compliance Manager Daniel Bode said the farmer had received a warning letter from Agriculture Victoria with respect to basic husbandry requirements for his sheep only a few months prior to the offending occurring in this matter.

The magistrate accepted the fact the farmer had taken his eye off the ball due to a difficult period, however, the consequences caused cruelty to animals.

The magistrate remarked these are living creatures and they had suffered.

Mr Bode said all farmers have a responsibility to maintain Victoria’s reputation in farming practices and the livestock industry.

“Throughout the period of offending, these sheep continued to suffer and were not provided with appropriate food or treatment, leaving no alternative for Agriculture Victoria officers but to euthanize several sheep that were severely unwell,” Mr Bode said.

“The case serves as a strong reminder that it is an offence for livestock owners to fail to provide for their welfare.”

Time to put the brakes on slugs and snails

Wimmera grain growers have been urged to monitor and manage slug and snail populations during a recent series of Agriculture Victoria-led presentations by crop pest specialist Dr Michael Nash.

Dr Nash advised growers with snail issues to use cultural methods as a first step in controlling white snails.

“You can kill over 90 per cent of snails by knocking them off stubble,” he said.

“Days with temperatures above 35 degrees are ideal.”

Dr Nash said that snail numbers tend to increase in seasons preceded by a wet autumn and winter.

“Summer rainfall is not a good predictor of snail numbers,” he said.

“Late March is generally the best time for baiting snails in the Wimmera and sometimes you need a follow-up application in April with a more expensive product.”

According to Dr Nash, cheap bran-based products quickly stop working after rain, while small sized pellets will also have much reduced efficacy.

“Baiting in summer in the Wimmera can be very unreliable for a number of reasons, including high temperatures,” he said.

While research has found that 30 to 40 pellets per square metre is ideal for snail baiting, it’s also important that enough active ingredient is present to ensure snails receive an adequate dose. Applied bait can quickly run out where snail populations are dense, leading to poor control.

Dr Nash said that growers with slug issues should use a good quality product at a low rate if dry sowing canola.

“Be aware that not all slugs are pests; the striped slug does not damage canola, so there is no need to control it,” he said.

“Slug pests differ from snails in that you do not need to kill all the slugs; you just need to protect the crop for the first four to six weeks.”

A key learning for farmers at the slug and snail management workshops was that burning stubble would not reduce black keeled slug numbers as they actively burrow into the soil, becoming active after 75 to 100 millimetres of rain.

Black keeled slugs are particularly damaging to canola and can also damage cereals.

Dr Nash said a certain percentage of the slug population will be active each year so it was a good idea to bait annually.

He said that insecticides, including those used in seed dressings, can make slug problems worse, as they can impact populations of beetles that feed on slugs. Metaldehyde bait however, does not affect beetles.

While tiles or mats can be used to monitor slug and snail populations, in future, self-powered monitoring devices that provide population data through smart phones will be available.

The snail and slug management presentations were supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation and Agriculture Victoria.

Apply now for farming and community group drought funding grants

The Farming and Community Group Drought Funding program is open to Landcare and land management groups, industry groups, farming systems groups, farming discussion groups and not-for-profit and community organisations in Victoria.

Grants of up to $25,000 (excluding GST) are available to engage technical experts and/or specialists to provide relevant and appropriate technical advice, information and support to a group of farmers or landholders to help them prepare for, respond to and manage drought and dry seasonal conditions. 

This can include, but is not limited to, the following technical themes:

  • Irrigation and water
  • Livestock management, including animal nutrition, health, feed and water budgeting
  • Crop, pasture and grazing establishment and management
  • Land and soil management
  • Stock containment area use and management
  • Whole farm and business planning
  • Climate adaptation

Other targeted themes will be considered on a case by case basis.
Applications will close on April 1, 2020 at 11.59 pm.

A broad range of delivery options will be considered including activities delivered by teleconference, webinar, e-learning, podcast or other technology that can bring groups together.

Please review the program guidelines available at

For more information please contact

Soil moisture monitoring report

Soil moisture data from across the state has been summarised in the very first cropping report for 2020.

Despite a dry start to the year, the data is showing soil moisture profiles to have generally improved, increasing cropping confidence.

For a closer look at how the rains impacted your place, click on this link.

A guide for farmers in using seasonal forecasting tools

Year to year climate variability is a major source of risk to the profitability of our grain growers.

Yet, effective use of seasonal climate forecasts can assist growers in potentially reducing the financial impact of that risk, especially in years that sit outside the ‘average’.

To support growers in their efforts to better understand and utilise the seasonal forecast information available, the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) in conjunction with Agriculture Victoria has published - 'A guide for farmers in using seasonal forecasts in south eastern Australia'.

“Many growers and their advisers are aware of seasonal climate forecasts but are unsure how to best use the information in decision making,” GRDC Grower Relations Manager – South, Randall Wilksch, said.

“We want to address this challenge by encouraging the most effective use and uptake of the latest climate information to improve profit and risk management for our grain growers,” he said.

The guide, available at, provides examples of where and when seasonal forecasts can be particularly useful to growers and includes case studies of growers who detail their experiences and the tactics they have employed to reduce the impact of climate variability.

Among the growers featured in the guide are the Keam family at Lah in Victoria’s Wimmera region; Wayne and Therese Thomas at Youanmite in northern Victoria; the Baldock family at Kimba on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula; and Tony and Michele Andrews at Nalyappa on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula.

Other case studies involved the Hunt and Fenton families at Normanville in Victoria’s Mallee; the Carn family at Quorn and Umberatana Station in South Australia's far north; the Modra family at Port Lincoln on Eyre Peninsula; and Barry and Kristina Mudge at Port Germein in the far north of South Australia.

The information presented in the guide draws on the knowledge and experiences of not only grain growers, but also advisers and researchers around how and when seasonal forecasts can aid in farm enterprise decision making.

The guide has been generated out of the GRDC’s ‘Using seasonal forecast information and tools to manage risk and increase profitability in the south region’ investment.

This project is being led by Graeme Anderson and Dale Grey from Agriculture Victoria who also lead the extension of the successful ‘The Break’ suite of communication products across the southern region.

More guidance on interpreting weather forecasts can be found in a GRDC Paddock Practices at

Artisanal advisory group members sought

Producers in Central Highlands with experience in artisanal production are encouraged to apply to join the Project Advisory Group (PAG) guiding a three-year project for the artisanal sector being undertaken by Hepburn Shire Council on behalf of the Central Highlands region.

Members of the PAG will represent diverse range of producers and may include meat production, beverages, fruits and vegetables, preserves, apiary, egg, poultry and other livestock.

Applicants need to have an interest in promoting the sector and overcoming barriers to building artisanal agriculture in the region.

Expressions of interest close on 27 March 2020.

For more details visit:

How secure is your farm?

Growers and advisers are invited to join Simon Grant and Max Mudge from Victoria Police, Craig Martell from the Game Management Authority and David McDonald from Jim’s Antennas to learn about improving on-farm safety and security.

Held at Goroke Bowling Club from 4.30 pm to 7.30 pm on Tuesday, 31 March, this event will provide attendees with information and tips on how to improve security and avoid property theft.

Topic covered will include:

  • the role of Farm Crime Liaison Officers
  • reporting livestock and farm theft
  • tips and tricks to prevent farm theft
  • safe storage of firearms
  • disposal of unwanted firearms
  • the role of Game Management Officers
  • on-farm security and water trough monitoring systems

This event is free, and a light supper will be provided.

Registration is essential. To RSVP or for more information visit the Agriculture Victoria Eventbrite page.   

Increase pulse inoculant in dry conditions this seeding

Growers planning to dry sow pulses on soils responsive to inoculation this season are encouraged to double the rate of peat inoculant or use a granular inoculant which delivers a high number of rhizobia at sowing to increase the likelihood of successful nodulation and nitrogen fixation.

This approach can allow growers in drier climates more flexibility when sowing pulses in suboptimal conditions.

Liz Farquharson, senior research officer with Primary Industries and Regions South Australia’s research division, the SA Research and Development Institute (SARDI), said pulse grain prices and nitrogen fixation benefits make pulses an attractive crop option.

However, dry sowing can hinder the survival of the applied rhizobia bacteria as they are sensitive to desiccation. The longer the ‘dry period’ between sowing and germinating rains, the higher the risk of an inoculation failure.

“Dry sowing is less of a concern where a legume nodulated by the same rhizobia group has been grown recently in the paddock and the soil is favourable to rhizobia survival,” Dr Farquharson said.

“In these conditions, the risk of nodulation failure is much lower.”

Research to optimise legume inoculation for dry sowing was recently funded by the SA Grain Industry Trust (SAGIT) and is currently included in the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) investment, ‘Increasing nitrogen fixation in pulse crops through the development of improved rhizobial strains, inoculation and crop management practices’, led by SARDI senior scientist Ross Ballard.

Inoculants that carry the ‘Green Tick’ logo (approved by the Australian Inoculants Research Group) meet minimum quality standards (purity and number of rhizobia per gram of product). This rating will soon be available for granules.

Dry sowing is discouraged on hostile soils, especially acid soils (pHca<6.0) for bean, lentil and pea.

Dr Farquharson also advised growers to take particular care if they intend to inoculate seed which has been treated with pesticides.

“Where pesticide application is necessary, the rhizobia are best applied to seed as close to sowing as is possible and sown into moist soil, or granular inoculant may provide a better option as this reduces direct exposure of the rhizobia to the pesticide,” she said.

The project will also develop enhanced inoculation and crop management practices to maximise nitrogen fixation in suboptimal conditions and avoid any impact of crop protection chemicals and fertiliser on nodulation. This includes the development and release of improved rhizobia for bean and lentil on acid soils.

It is hoped the new rhizobia strain will have a substantial impact in the southern cropping region where pulse production is expanding into high rainfall areas with characteristically low pH soils.

Expressions of Interest: Rural Minds Training

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) can now deliver Rural Minds training to your community.

Rural Minds is a comprehensive program designed for people living and working in rural Australia by people living and working in rural Australia.

We are currently seeking expressions of interest for anyone who would like to attend a Rural Minds mental health and suicide prevention workshop.

Rural Minds training aims to:

  • Improve your awareness and understanding of mental health issues
  • Make the connection between mental health and personal safety
  • Give you the confidence, strategies and pathways to support your mental health and that of your family and friends.

Rural Minds Training options:

Rural Minds Community Workshop: This three to four-hour workshop combines practical, culturally relevant information about risk factors to mental health, signs and symptoms of mental health problems, advice about self-help and coping strategies where and how to seek support via local referral pathways.

Rural Minds Briefing: This one to two-hour workshop builds knowledge, understanding and confidence in participants about the prevention of mental illness and suicide. The briefing provides opportunities to identify and promote local pathways to support and clinical care.

A minimum of eight attendees are required to run these workshops in your community. Participants are required to pay a small fee of $15 to cover the costs of materials provided in the session.

If you are interested in attending/running one of these workshops in your community, please contact Molly Stilo at or call on (03) 8412 0430.

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.

What's on
Fox bounty collections for April
Collection dates

5 Vickers Street, Sebastopol
Monday, 6 April
1 – 3 pm

180 Horsham-Noradjuha Road, Vectis
Wednesday, 16 April
1.30 – 3.30 pm


The Victorian Government’s fox and wild dog bounty has resumed.

Next month Agriculture Victoria Biosecurity officers will be at designated collection centres, including at Ballarat on 6 April and Horsham on 16 April.

Program participants should check the collection schedule website as there have been changes for 2020.

It’s important that everyone participating knows the requirements, so they can benefit from the bounty.

For full details on bounty collection times and locations, terms and conditions, and frequently asked questions, visit or call the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

NLIS database management workshops – 31 March
Horsham workshop

Date: Tuesday, 31 March

Time: 9.30 am

Venue: Grains Innovation Park, 110 Natimuk Road, Horsham


Topics include:

  • Setting up, navigating and using the NLIS database - practical exercise. Computers will be provided on the day or you can bring along your own laptop
  • Management of livestock movements onto your property
  • Property to Property (P2P) transfers on the NLIS database.
  • Sessions will run for up to five and a-half hours, with light meal and refreshment provided.

Numbers are limited to allow for a hands-on practical session. please register early at

If you have any problems with registering online please call (03) 5761 1647.

Farm safety forum - 31 March
Event details

Date: Tuesday 31 March

Time: 4.30 to 7.30 pm

Venue: Goroke Bowling Club, Camp Street, Goroke

Cost: Free, registration is essential for catering

Light supper provided


With farm and livestock theft on the increase, join us and learn about improving on-farm safety and security.


Sergeant Simon Grant is a Farm Crime Liaison Officer at Victoria Police with skills in livestock theft and farm-related crime investigation.

Senior Constable Max Mudge is a Divisional Firearms Officer at Victoria Police.

Craig Martell, Senior Game Officer at the Game Management Authority.

David McDonald is an Antenna Engineer at Jim’s Antennas with expertise in on-farm security system installation.


  • Role of Farm Crime Liaison Officers
  • Reporting livestock and farm theft
  • Tips and tricks to prevent farm theft
  • Safe storage of firearms
  • Disposal of unwanted firearms
  • Role of Game Management Officers
  • On-farm security and water trough monitoring systems

Register via Eventbrite:


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