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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday 19 December 2019
Christmas Dexters

This is the final Northern Ag News for 2019. I would like to thank you all for your support throughout the year.

Wishing you all a fabulous holiday season and a ho ho ho happy New Year.

NAN will be back in your Inbox on January 30, 2020.

In this edition


High temperatures can impact livestock health and productivity
Managing livestock in extreme tempertures

Dr Jeff Cave
District Veterinary Officer
Agriculture Victoria Wodonga

As we head into the height of summer, heat stress in livestock can become a major issue both for production levels and animal welfare.

By making some minor management changes and taking a little extra care of your livestock in extreme hot weather, the effects of heat stress can be substantially reduced.

The ideal temperature range for cattle is between 5 and 25°C, and for adult pigs is 18 to 20°C.

High producing livestock, such as dairy cows, are the animals most sensitive to heat stress. Poultry have been known to perish due to heat stress on very hot days.

As temperatures rise, livestock divert energy away from production to cool themselves. This is done via heat loss through their skin surface and respiratory tract.

Feed intake is also reduced and a decrease in milk production may be observed.

Humidity also plays a significant role, and for any given temperature, the degree of heat stress increases as the relative humidity increases.

Heat stressed livestock will seek out shade, drink more, eat less, stand rather than lay, pant, produce less milk and potentially be less fertile.

On hot days, livestock should be given access to shade and good quality, cool drinking water.

High quality feed should be given during the evening when it is cooler, and livestock are likely to have better intakes.

The yarding and moving of livestock should be avoided during the hottest part of the day. Your fire plan may need to be enacted on such days.

For further information please contact your local veterinarian, Agriculture Victoria veterinary or animal health officer, or go to For information specifically for dairy cows visit:

Beware of nitrate poisoning

With the ongoing drought and dry seasonal conditions there is a heightened risk of nitrate poisoning in livestock.

When an animal is poisoned by nitrate the ability of its blood to transport oxygen is reduced.

As a result, an affected animal will have difficulty breathing, followed by becoming weak and staggery before collapsing and dying. If clinical signs are noticed early enough, veterinary treatment is possible.

A range of different weeds, crops and pasture plants have been associated with nitrate poisoning.

Capeweed, variegated thistle, marshmallow and pigweed are well-known accumulators.

Other crop plants including maize, rape, soybean, linseed, sorghum, millet, wheat, oats and barley have also been associated with nitrate poisoning, under certain growing conditions.

The factors that typically lead to plants causing nitrate poisoning include:

  • rapid plant uptake of soil nitrate following rain after a prolonged dry spell
  • moisture stress and low temperatures
  • the use of nitrogenous fertilisers
  • spraying with hormone-type herbicides such as 2,4-D makes plants more palatable.

If you have any concerns, it is recommended that hay and other feed be tested prior to feeding to determine its nitrate levels.

Cattle and sheep can tolerate a certain amount of nitrate.

One way of reducing the risk of nitrate poisoning is to ensure that cattle and sheep aren’t overly hungry when introduced to a new feed so their intake of nitrate is moderated to a tolerable level.

If nitrate poisoning is suspected, animals should be removed without delay from the suspect paddock/ feed and placed onto low risk feed containing less toxic herbage.

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

For more information about managing during drought and dry seasonal conditions go to or call 136 186.

On-farm biosecurity: lessons learned from abroad
Biosecurity starts at the front gate

Victorian farmers have learned valuable lessons about the importance of rigorous on-farm biosecurity thanks to the experiences of Agriculture Victoria District Veterinary Officer Dr Jeff Cave.

At a recent state-wide webinar Dr Cave shared his recollections of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in the United Kingdom in 2001.

Dr Cave was deployed to Cumbria – the most severely affected part of the country – when the FMD outbreak was at its height.

His role as an epidemiologist involved aging mouth lesions on sheep and cattle to help authorities trace the disease and stem its spread.

“The outbreak resulted in the destruction of roughly six per cent of the nation’s livestock,” he said.

Dr Cave said the experience drove home the importance of early identification of disease and stringent biosecurity protocols, including the cessation of stock movement if the event of a disease outbreak.

“Foot-and-mouth disease is one of the biggest threats to Australia’s agricultural economy,” he said.

“If an outbreak occurred, it would have drastic impacts on the livelihoods of many farmers, and the sustainability of our livestock industries.”

During the webinar farmers heard how Dr Cave’s take home messages about good on-farm biosecurity could be practically applied on their farms.

South Gippsland beef producer Rob Liley explained how he implements biosecurity practices on his farm with a rigorous induction process for new stock and good record keeping, ensuring lifetime traceability of stock.

“New animals are kept in their buying groups for several weeks after their arrival,” he said.

Mr Liley said strategic biosecurity is paramount to good management.

“Often our biosecurity practices have a dual purpose,” he said.

“For example, fencing off dams to keep stock out not only ensures the water is kept clean, but also removes the risk of parasite transmission through dams.”

Joe Toohey, who runs a cattle breeding and trading operation near Ballarat, said he restricts the entry of visitor vehicles onto his farm to help maintain the integrity of his on-farm biosecurity.

“I have visitors park their vehicle and only enter the farming platform using a farm vehicle,” he said.

“This not only minimises the risks of introducing foreign material, but also ensures stress free cattle handling techniques as the animals are adapted to the use of farm vehicles.”

While vendor-bred cattle are favoured, buying out of markets remains common practice for cattle traders.

Mr Toohey said new animals are kept in holding paddocks and after an induction period are moved to the paddock where they will reside for the remainder of their stay.

Cattle paddocks on the Toohey farm are also double fenced, even at the gateways, to stop nose-to-nose contact. These fence lines can also double as laneways.

Agriculture Victoria’s ‘Disease in Practice’ webinar was supported by the BetterBeef Network and is now available to watch online at:

For more information and tips on biosecurity go to:

On-Farm Emergency Water 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

The On-farm Drought Resilience Grant Program
On-farm drought resilience grant program

This program is now open to assist eligible farm businesses to invest in on-farm drought preparedness and to seek business advice.

A grant of up to $5,000 (GST exclusive) per farm business is available to assist eligible farm businesses to implement on-farm infrastructure improvements and or undertake business planning and advice activities.

The scheme is available to eligible farm businesses in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District. Eligible irrigation farm businesses, including those that have transitioned from irrigation production systems to dryland production since 1 July 2018, located in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID).

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.

Look Over the Farm Gate grants

Farmers and communities facing drought and dry conditions across northern and north west Victoria should apply now for funding under the Look Over the Farm Gate Program.

Look Over the Farm Gate events are an opportunity for farmers to take a break from the farm, reconnect with their community, access professional support and participate in mental health training.

You know what your community needs, so we encourage community groups to think creatively about what single event or series of events would be most effective.

It could be anything from a barbeque and comedy night, regular fitness meet-ups in the park, or a family movie night.

Look Over the Farm Gate is a mental health and wellbeing initiative funded by the Victorian Government and managed by the Victorian Farmers Federation in partnership with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Country Women’s Association, Country Fire Authority, and National Centre for Farmer Health.

Applications are still being accepted for events and are assessed on a first in best dressed basis.

For more information about eligibility and how to apply, visit the website at

What's on?

Agriculture Victoria will cancel workshops on Code Red fire danger days

Agriculture Victoria’s 2020 climate webinar series
Climate webinar series

Agriculture Victoria have an exciting program of climate webinars for 2020. Subscribe to notifications to ensure you don’t miss out.

Agriculture Victoria’s 2020 lunchtime climate webinar series will give participants the opportunity to hear the latest science, insights and innovation from a range of expert speakers.

While the team are busy planning the program, you can stay up-to-date by subscribing to their electronic notifications.

So far, speakers include:

  • Luke Shelley, from the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), who will discuss BoM’s new Local Climate Guides project.
  • Andrew Watkins, Climatologist also from BoM, will discuss the new BoM seasonal forecast products and new multi-week and seasonal outlooks.
  • John Clarke, from CSIRO, will share the new Victorian Climate Change Projections.
  • Cam Nicholson from Nicon Rural Services will share valuable insights on farm decision making.
  • Geoff Steendam, Senior Manager Hydrology and Climate Science, DELWP will discuss the Victorian Water and Climate Initiative and findings.
  • Agbyte’s Leighton Wilksch will walk attendees through farm weather stations and examples of how they are being used to provide value for farmers.

Speakers from Agriculture Victoria:

  • Climate Specialist, Graeme Anderson will talk about weather forecasts, seasonal outlooks and climate change projections and what they can and can’t do.
  • Senior Irrigation Officer, Rob O’Connor, will discuss our irrigation products and services and how using BoM evapotranspiration data can assist determine plant irrigation requirements.
  • Seasonal Risk Agronomist, Dale Grey will present the Break Seasonal Forecast updates, including both autumn, winter and spring outlooks.

For more information and to subscribe to stay up-to-date with these upcoming climate webinars visit: or contact Heather Field on 5336 6607 or

Post-harvest 2020 seminar and orchard tour

2019 is coming to an end and Christmas is nearly here, which means APAL’s annual Post-harvest Seminar is just around the corner.

After a surge in popularity last year, this year’s event will take place over three days and will include a Future Business workshop and an orchard tour.

Date: 22 – 23 January 

Time: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm followed by dinner

Location: The Woolshed @ Emerald Bank, 7719 Goulburn Valley Hwy, Kialla, Victoria

The seminar and orchard tour will feature a mix of keynote presentations, panel discussions and practical demonstrations in the heart of the Goulburn Valley growing region.

With a focus on managing production and packing for optimal post-harvest quality, themes will include:

  • Pre-harvest orchard management for post-harvest quality and storage
  • The future of packing and storage
  • Post-harvest food safety
  • The future for DPA
  • Quality and maturity testing
  • The changing retail landscape.

Held in Australia’s apple and pear growing heartland the seminar will provide apple and pear industry players with first-hand perspectives that will drive change in the way they manage fruit storage and leads to improved profitability and challenge our supply chain members thinking on post-harvest management techniques.

APAL’s 2020 Post-harvest program will offer attendees the chance to connect over a BBQ dinner, a one-day Orchard Tour taking in some of the Goulburn Valley’s state-of-the-art orchards and pack houses, research updates, and more.

To find out more or to register click

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Contacting Agriculture Victoria

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If you are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment
contact the National Relay Service on 133 677 or

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