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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday 23 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.

The Premier has implemented Stage 3 restrictions of non-essential activity aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Everyone who can stay at home must stay at home.

There are only four reasons to be out in public:

  • shopping for what you need – food and essential supplies
  • medical, care or compassionate needs
  • exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirements
  • work and study if you can’t work or learn remotely.

The measures include a limit on gathering to no more than two people, except for members of immediate households and for work or education and social physical distancing rules of 1.5 metres between people should also be observed outside the home.

Stage 3 measures were effective from 11.59 pm on Monday 30 March and have been extended until midnight 11 May 2020.

The agricultural supply chain is essential to maintaining the flow of food to our supermarkets and kitchen tables.

We are working closely with industry to ensure that the essential services provided by the agriculture sector continue to operate as we move to Stage 3 measures 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.

Backing agriculture businesses during coronavirus

The Victorian Government is working closely with the state’s agricultural sector to ensure its crucial supply chains can continue unbroken during the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes has established the Victorian Agriculture Industry Reference Group, bringing together Agriculture Victoria and industry representatives.

This has been done to share information from the Government, ensure farmers and producers have the most up to date health and business advice, as well being able to directly respond to feedback and concerns.

The group of representatives from 25 peak industry bodies are working with the Government to address the issues facing the sector.

This includes providing information about commuting and accommodating seasonal workers, along with answering frequently asked questions about how businesses can manage staff safety and the health of their workforce, and directives for people with responsibilities for animals.

Industry are aware that to slow the spread of coronavirus, it is vital that the entire agriculture supply chain adopts enhanced cleaning regimes, hygiene practices and physical distancing measures.

Many businesses have shown leadership and are stepping up to ensure agriculture businesses have continuity plans, know how to introduce strict cleaning regimes in the workplace and have processes in place to ensure work can continue should an employee have to self-isolate.

Any businesses seeking advice are urged to visit the Business Victoria website and hotline (13 22 15), with support staff trained to address specific concerns of the agriculture industry.

The frequently asked questions and the latest guidance on commuting and accommodating seasonal and contract workers during the coronavirus can be found at

For the latest general information and advice on coronavirus, visit

Latest news
Financial literacy for farm business decision-making

Drought and dry seasons affected farmers in the Millewa-Carwarp region, the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) and East and Central Gippsland are encouraged to sign-up for a free program to build their farm business skills.

Meridian Agriculture Farm Business Consultant Paul Blackshaw said a deep understanding of your farm business is important, especially when recovering from significant impacts, such as drought.

“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).

“We 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.”

Mr Blackshaw said farmers who take part in the initial webinar will also be offered the opportunity to participate in individual remotely delivered sessions.

“During these one-on-one (remotely delivered) sessions we will explore basic historic and current financial performance of the farm business with the participant, as well as discussing their current strategic, tactical and operational plan, and assisting  them to develop a cash flow budget for their business or review a current cash flow budget.”

Mr Blackshaw said 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.

Millewa-Carwarp region (North-West Victoria)

  • Webinar 1: Tuesday 12 May, 2 to 4 pm
  • Webinar 2: Wednesday 13 May, 7 to 9 pm

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID)

  • Webinar 1: Monday 18 May, 2 to 4 pm
  • Webinar 2: Tuesday 19 May, 7 to 9 pm

For more information and to register, please contact Yendon at Meridian Agriculture on (03) 5341 6100 or email: or Paul Blackshaw on 0427 546 643 or email:

For more information about drought and dry seasonal conditions support and advice go to

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

Support for Victorian farmers continues

Agriculture Victoria remains available to assist Victorian farmers. We want to reassure farmers, particularly those impacted by bushfires and drought, that we will continue to provide support services to you and your farming business. However, the way we are doing this during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed.

What are we doing differently?

We are moving from our usual face-to-face client contact to other alternatives. This means we might call you on the phone, send you information via post or email, invite you to a video or teleconference, or even a webinar.

Our technical support remains available to help landholders affected by fires and drought in East and Central Gippsland, North East, Millewa and the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District. 

Farmers can call us to access information tailored specifically to their needs on a range of topics including:

  • feed planning and pasture recovery
  • supplying feed and water to livestock
  • land and farm water management
  • general technical information
  • other assistance available and grants programs.

Farmers affected by drought and bushfire

For support in bushfire affected areas contact our Agriculture

Recovery Managers:

  • Gippsland – Keren Walker on (03) 5159 5118
  • North East – Kylie Macreadie on 0428 975 728

For support in drought affected areas contact our Dry Seasonal Conditions Coordinators:

  • Millewa – Sue McConnell on 0418 572 087
  • Northern – Mick Bretherton on 0428 346 209
  • East and Central Gippsland – Nick Dudley on 0428 562 139.

Or email us at

Farmers can also continue to call our Customer Service Centre on 136 186 and access the website anytime at –

There are many other agencies providing assistance too – this includes the Rural Financial Counselling Service:

  • in Gippsland call 1300 834 775
  • in the North East call 1300 834 775.

Rural Finance is administering many grants programs for drought and bushfire impacted farmers. Give them a call on 1800 260 425 or access online anytime at   

Dairy support

The Dedicated Dairy Support Program is available to dairy farmers in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District who are considering structural or significant changes to their business.

Decisions could include leaving the industry, scaling back (or up), family succession or transitions to other enterprises.

For more information go to, call 1300 834 775 or email

Bushfire Recovery Victoria is also a great service to connect you with recovery services and information from the whole of the Victorian Government. Call them on 1800 560 760 or visit at

Autumn feed budgeting: an integral part of farm planning

Do you find yourself asking How long should I supplementary feed animals? What is the feed value of my autumn pasture? What are my animals’ nutritional requirements for their stage of gestation or lactation? What are the increased nutritional requirements for weaner management?

The answers to these questions and more will be provided during an interactive webinar / phone seminar on feed budgeting being delivered by Agriculture Victoria Veterinary Officer Dr Cathy Bunter next month.

Dr Bunter has more than 28 years’ experience working in mixed veterinary practices across Australia, including five years teaching students as a lecturer in animal nutrition, health and production at Longerenong Agricultural College.

Dr Bunter said developing an accurate feed budget, incorporating the introduction of early-season pasture to an animal’s diet, was critical to ensuring that animal nutritional needs and animal growth rate goals are met.

“Efficient supplementary feeding is key to ensuring profitability, as well as pasture persistence,” she said.

This event will assist producers to assess if they have adequate feed-on-offer and to understand the variable properties of early-season growth.

“Using feed tests and interpreting the results into real-time animal nutritional requirements confidently is an important skill,” Dr Bunter said.

“We will take a ‘step-by-step’ approach to navigating this through the beginning of the season.”

This event is delivered by Agriculture Victoria with funding through the Victorian Government’s 2019-20 drought support program.

The Autumn feed budgeting webinar / phone seminar, will be held at 7.30 pm on 6 May. 

Register online at

For enquiries contact Tess McDougall on or 0409 841 492.

Panic grasses can be deadly for lambs
red meat webinar

Dr Jeff Cave
District Veterinary Officer

One of the common perennial grasses in pastures and crop stubbles that would have responded rapidly to the recent rains are the panic grasses.

Panic grasses are also commonly known as fairy grass, witch grass and hairy panic.

These grasses can cause photosensitisation and death when ingested, particularly in lambs.

The young, rapidly growing grasses contain steroidal saponins, which when eaten can form crystals in the liver, damaging the liver cells and obstructing the outflow of bile.

The breakdown products of chlorophyll, which is found in green grass, are then no longer cleared by the liver and cause damage to skin tissues when exposed to light.

So, the thin skinned, wool-free parts of the sheep which are exposed to sunlight get damaged and show signs like severe sunburn. Typically affected areas are the ears, eyelids, nose, lips and vulva.

Affected lambs will seek shade and be reluctant to graze.

The liver damage may lead to jaundice, and with the swelling caused by photosensitisation the condition is sometimes known as ‘yellow bighead’.

This liver damage can kill the lambs before photosensitisation develops.

The only treatment is to remove affected stock from the toxic pastures and provide them access to shade.

If this happens promptly, affected stock can recover completely, as the liver has a remarkable ability to heal itself.

However, some livers may never recover totally, and this leads to ongoing poor metabolic processing of food consumed.  So, food conversion efficiency will be poor, and the animals may never thrive.

The best prevention is to avoid grazing risky paddocks.

If this is not possible, do not to put hungry sheep straight out onto risky pastures but give them a good feed of hay first, graze older sheep as they have better developed rumens and are more resistant to the effects of the toxin, and check the sheep twice daily until you are confident that they have no ill effects.

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

Climate webinars
take care with chemicals

RECORDING: Climate impacts on water supplies and availability and risks to water resources in Victoria

Presented by Geoff Steendam - Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)

This webinar focuses on the impacts of climate on water supplies and availability, and risks to water resources in Victoria. Geoff provides an update on the Victorian Water and Climate Initiative. The initiative supports research into the impact of climate change and climate variability on Victoria’s water resources. This includes three distinct but related research projects undertaken with the University of Melbourne, Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO.

View the Recording

Password: climate&water

Duration: 59 minutes (including questions).

This webinar was recorded on Thursday 16 April 2020 at 12 pm AEST.

You may also be interested in:

Victorian Autumn Climate Update - 2020

This is the recording of the recent seasonal climate webinar for Victoria by Agriculture Victoria's seasonal risk agronomist Dale Grey.

View the Recording

Recording password: VICfastbreak1

Duration: 50-60 minutes.

This webinar was recorded on Wednesday 15 April 2020 at 12 pm AEST

Regional climate webinar - GMID

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 us 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, telephone: 0417 316 345; or email:

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

Goulburn Murray Irrigation District
Tuesday 12 May
12.00pm – 1.00pm
Register or join at:

New tool launched to help inform growers’ crop variety choice
april 2020 mallee sa-vic crop trials

Grain growers and advisers across Australia are being provided with a suite of unique new resources to inform crop variety decision making.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has launched its inaugural series of National Variety Trials (NVT) Harvest Reports which provide the very latest independent varietal information on yield, quality and disease ratings from the extensive NVT program.

GRDC NVT Senior Manager, Sean Coffey, said the 16 regional Harvest Reports contain the past five years of results (including 2019) for every NVT trial across Australia, with the information presented at a local site level to support grower and adviser decision making on variety selection.

“The reports are an exciting new addition to the stable of NVT resources, offering growers and advisers another layer of important information to help them with crop variety choice,” Mr Coffey said.

“We hope these publications will be seen as useful decision support tools, underpinning selection of varieties that offer the best fit for individual farming systems and growing environments.”

The reports are designed to complement – not replace – the GRDC-supported state-based Sowing Guides, which are published prior to harvest.

The 16 regional Harvest Reports are available via

Northern cropping region reports are for Central New South Wales; Northern NSW; Southern NSW; Central Queensland; and Southern Queensland.

Southern reports cover Eyre Peninsula South Australia; Mid North and Yorke Peninsula SA; Mallee SA and Victoria; Western Victoria, Lower South-East SA and Tasmania; Northern Victoria; and Wimmera Victoria and Upper South-East SA.

The five western region reports are for Albany Port Zone; Geraldton Port Zone; Kwinana West Port Zone; Esperance Port Zone; and Kwinana East Port Zone.

The NVT program evaluates more than 550 near-release or released varieties each year, providing independent, consistent, timely and robust comparative data on yield performance, quality and disease resistance ratings of commercially available grain varieties.

“NVT represents a huge logistical undertaking, evaluating varieties for the 10 major crop types – wheat, barley, canola, chickpea, faba bean, field pea, lentil, lupin, oat and sorghum – within trials across the country,” Mr Coffey said.

“Conducted to a set of predetermined protocols, trials are sown and managed to reflect local best practice, such as sowing time, fertiliser application, weed management, pest and disease control and fungicide application.”

The largest co-ordinated field trial network of its kind in the world, NVT is a 100 per cent GRDC investment that is fully administered by the GRDC on behalf of Australian grain growers and the Australian Government.

Mr Coffey said single site results from successful trials in 2019 were finalised earlier this year and this data has been fed into multi-year, multi-environment trial (MET) variety performance analysis.

“These multi-year, rolling datasets for all crops and growing regions provide the most valuable information to support decision making around what to sow each year.

“The new Harvest Reports feature the very latest information from the 2019 harvest that has been built into the rolling datasets.”

Results and analysis from the trials harvested in 2019 across the nation can also be viewed at

To support growers and advisers, the GRDC has produced instructional videos on ‘how to interpret NVT data (long-term yield results) using the NVT website’ and ‘how to navigate NVT’s website’. The videos can be viewed via the GRDC’s YouTube channel at

Mr Coffey said planning for the NVT program for 2020 is well underway, with the number of trials across the nation expected to be around 650.

In the meantime, growers and advisers are encouraged to keep an eye on their email inbox, as the GRDC is distributing electronic links to the new Harvest Reports as they are published.

To ensure they are receiving the latest NVT information from their regions, growers and advisers can nominate their Harvest Report preferences via the GRDC subscription centre.

One-year game hunting licence extension for 2021

Victoria’s 50,000-plus recreational game hunters will be compensated for lost hunting opportunities with the Victorian Government set to extend all current game licences by one year.

In recognition of the unprecedented impact on Victoria’s game hunters caused by mandatory social distancing measures, the expiry date of all current game licences administered by the Game Management Authority will be extended by 12 months, allowing hunters to get full value of their one- or three-year licence fee.

Health directives and restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have already impacted game hunting seasons for hog and sambar deer, stubble quail and gamebirds.

In response to public health advice, the GMA has also postponed all waterfowl identification tests and hound hunting tests until further notice. Anyone who has already booked a test will have their booking fee refunded.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has advised that to help slow the spread of coronavirus, people must not leave their property to go hunting.

Current State of Emergency measures to slow the spread of coronavirus remain in place until 11 May.

Duck hunting season opens on 2 May.

From that time, duck hunting other than on a property that you live on will not be able to be conducted until relevant restrictions are lifted.

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.

PhD research fellowships on offer
apply now more than 30 phd research fellowships on offer

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.

Managing dry conditions
Dry seasons hotline

Millewa and Carwarp district farmers can contact Agriculture Victoria on 1800 318 115 for dry seasonal conditions information and advice.

You may have questions about:

  • feed budgeting
  • stock containment areas
  • feed testing
  • livestock requirements
  • biosecurity
  • soil management

Our staff can also discuss other available support including grants.

Dry seasons support

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

With recent rainfall in the region, now is a good time to invest in on-farm infrastructure that will improve drought preparedness and better position your farm business into the future.

The infrastructure component of this grant must have been purchased or undertaken on or after 2 October 2019.

For more information and to access the grant call Rural Finance on 1800 260 425 or visit

For more information about other drought and dry seasonal conditions support from Agriculture Victoria go to or call 136 186.

On-farm drought resilience grant program

Victorian farmers impacted by drought and dry seasonal conditions are encouraged to apply for two grant programs offering both on-farm assistance and direct financial household relief.

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.

A grant payment of up to $3000 per individual applicant and/or household is available for farming families, farm workers and contractors that are drought-affected and reliant on farming as their primary source of income.

This program is being funded through the Victorian Government’s Farmers’ Drought Fund - Household Financial Relief program.

To access an application form or to find out more go to or email

The On-Farm Drought Resilience Grant Program is now available to assist eligible farm businesses to invest in on-farm drought preparedness or to seek business advice with a grant of up to $5000.

To access the On-Farm Drought Resilience Grant farmers should contact Rural Finance direct to discuss their eligibility on 1800 260 425 or go to

Both programs target farm businesses and farming families in the Wellington and East Gippsland shires, dryland farming in the Millewa region and irrigation farming in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID).

For further information on other available support and assistance contact Agriculture Victoria on 136 186, visit the website or drop into the closest Agriculture Victoria office in your area.

On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate

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

Feeding livestock website

Did you know that the Agriculture Victoria’s Beef and Sheep Drought Feeding and Management online books have a new home?

They are housed and updated on the Feeding Livestock website and can be downloaded or viewed in whole or as individual chapters on any device.

Other key features of the website, include:

Upcoming webinars
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.

Workshops taking place in the Loddon Mallee region include;

  • Inglewood – 27 April
  • Castlemaine – 27 April
  • Mildura – 29 April
  • Robinvale – 30 April
  • Kyabram – 6 May
  • Maryborough – 6 May
  • Swan Hill – 26 May.

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

Financial literacy for farm business decision-making

Drought and dry seasons affected farmers in the Millewa-Carwarp region, Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) and East and Central Gippsland are encouraged to sign-up for a free program to build their farm business skills.

  • Millewa-Carwarp region (North-West) - Webinar 1 - Tuesday 12 May - 2 to 4 pm
  • Millewa-Carwarp region (North-West) - Webinar 2 - Wednesday 13 May - 7 to 9 pm
  • Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) - Webinar 1 - Monday 18 May - 2 to 4 pm
  • Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) - Webinar 2 - Tuesday 19 May - 7 to 9 pm

For more information and to register, please contact Yendon at Meridian Agriculture on (03) 5341 6100 or email: or Paul Blackshaw on 0427 546 643 or email:

For more information about drought and dry seasonal conditions support and advice go to

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

Resilience webinar series

Five free 45-minute webinars on resilience thinking will be held during May and June 2020 for interested community members. In these turbulent times, resilience has become one of the most important capacities to build in communities, businesses, individuals and ecosystems alike.

  • Tuesday, 5 May. 10 - 10.45 am - Introduction - what is resilience and why does it matter
  • Tuesday 12 May 10 - 10.45 am - Social-ecological systems' - people and place
  • Tuesday 19 May - 10 - 10.45 am - How social-ecological systems change
  • Tuesday 26 May - 10 - 10.45 am - Resilience and planning for regional-scale change

Register now. Places are limited. To register for one of the webinars please visit

For further details or queries contact Ashley Rogers at or 0488 196 216.

The webinars are free thanks to funding from the Victorian Government’s Our Catchments, Our Communities Program and the Goulburn Broken CMA.

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