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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday 25 June, 2020
In this edition:
words - staying at home if you are sick
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

The Victorian Government is gradually easing restrictions currently in place to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

In all activities, farmers are asked to be considered. Be cautious. Use your common sense. And if you don’t have to do it – don’t.

Stay safe by maintaining good hygiene, keeping your distance from others and if you feel unwell stay home.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus you should get tested.

The situation continues to change rapidly so please regularly check the Department of Health and Human Services website for the latest update:

More information is also available on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Latest News
Latest Mallee podcast
words noting CTF podcast available

Agriculture Victoria has produced a new podcast series focussing on livestock and land management in the Mallee.

The new podcasts, hosted on the Mallee Sustainable Farming website, provide timely information for Mallee farmers through the winter months.

This Friday evening Agriculture Victoria Land Management Development Officer Rebecca Mitchell will be discussing how Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) can directly benefit Mallee farmers and share some innovative examples of how it has been adopted.

Also in production and ready to be released weekly throughout the coming winter months, will be:

  • Feed testing – with Agriculture Victoria Livestock Extension Officer Erica Schelfhorst
  • Marketing cattle – with Agriculture Victoria Livestock Extension Officer Greg Ferrier
  • Weaning livestock – with Agriculture Victoria Lamb Industry Development Officer Nick Linden
  • Cutting crops for hay – with Agriculture Victoria Grains Regional Manager Tony FayRisky Weeds – with District Veterinary Officer Jeff Cave

The podcasts are delivered by Agriculture Victoria with funding from the Victorian Government’s 2019-20 Drought Support Package and can be downloaded at

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

Old and new tricks for practical risk management
man in a paddock

Mixed farmers can hear about old and new tricks to manage risks during a Smart Farming webinar, hosted by Agriculture Victoria, next Monday 29 June. 

Whether it’s fire, flood, drought or unseasonal conditions, the webinar will help mixed farmers improve their ability to identify, understand and manage risks.

Presenter Dr Kate Burke will discuss strategies farmers can use to help them focus their decision-making and how they can go about assessing risk in terms of ‘actual versus perceived’, likelihood and consequence.

Dr Burke will also provide effective strategies to manage risk, including what high-performing farmers and business managers do well.

Agriculture Victoria Land Management Extension Officer Martin Hamilton said risk management boiled down to farmers having the right “tricks” on hand to make critical decisions.

“As we’ll show in the webinar, seeing how others have handled risk well is a practical way of developing your own skills.”

Mr Hamilton said Dr Burke is a highly experienced independent farm consultant with extensive experience in agronomy.  

“Dr Burke spent time in the corporate sector as a commercial manager of one of the largest grain producers in Australia and knows what it takes to run a profitable farm business,” he said.

Dr Burke has 30 years’ of experience in agriculture working with farmers, students, investors and regional communities in north west and northern Victoria.

The session will be recorded and made available for those who register.

Registrations can be made here

For more information and to register, contact Martin Hamilton on 0429 946 149 or or Adam Buzza on 0447 525 457 or

Seasonal climate update webinars for winter
map of victoria showing rain

Agriculture Victoria’s seasonal climate update webinars for winter kicked off this week with a thorough look at the next few months ahead for the state’s grains industry.

The one-hour webinars, in partnership with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), are available to farmers in four states and are particularly relevant to those currently nursing crops through the growing season.

Agriculture Victoria seasonal risk agronomist Dale Grey said his outlook presentations relied on the latest data from model projections for the key climate drivers as well as the oceanic, atmospheric and soil moisture conditions.

“Those joining a live webinar will be able to ask questions, but if you can’t make it on the day there’ll be a recording available that you can watch at a time that better suits,” Mr Grey said.

The link to the Victorian webinar recording (completed on Tuesday 23 June at 12 noon) can be found here

“At this stage of the season the majority of the world’s 12 weather models are ‘sitting on the fence’ when it comes to rainfall in the next three months, although three of them are signalling ‘wetter’ for most parts of Victoria,” Mr Grey said.

“Four of the 12 models are suggesting drier in the state’s South-West region, while all are split in terms of the possibility of a La Niña this year,” he said.

More information about the winter webinars, or other Agriculture Victoria climate information can be found at:

Targets for maternals

Dr Ralph Behrendt, Agriculture Victoria, Hamilton

Key findings

  • Maternal composite ewes eat more at feed on offer (FOO) levels between 700 kg – 1500 kg DM/ha than predicted using current feeding standards.
  • Guidelines for managing target Condition Score (CS) for crossbred and composite ewes are different from those recommended for Merino ewes.
  • Optimal CS for crossbred and composite ewes at lambing is similar to Merinos for single-bearing ewes (CS 3) but higher for multiple-bearing ewes (CS 3.4 – 3.7).
  • Single-bearing ewes need to be managed to ensure that they are not overweight at lambing, which increases the chance of dystocia.
  • Pregnancy scanning of ewes will allow single- and twin-bearing ewes to be managed to optimise ewe and lamb survival, and subsequent lamb growth rates.

Lifetime Ewe Management (LTEM) has been successful in promoting the management requirements of Merino ewes and the implications of not meeting identified targets.

Producers who have adopted LTEM practices have increased stocking rates and lamb marking percentages, and decreased ewe mortality.

Although some of these changes have also been implemented on farms with crossbred and maternal composite ewes, guidelines developed for Merino ewes with a focus on wool production may not be optimal for prime lamb production and maternal composite ewes.

This article outlines the results from a series of experiments that have been used to develop guidelines for crossbred ewes used for prime lamb production, such as first cross and maternal composite ewes.

Condition score and feed requirements of maternal composites

Field experiments on four sites across southern Australia using 6000 pregnant ewes were conducted in 2014 and 2015.

These experiments investigated the impact of different CS during mid- to late pregnancy on maternal composite ewes, and the impact of different levels of FOO at lambing and during lactation.

The results showed there were predictable impacts of manipulating ewe liveweight or CS during pregnancy on the birthweight of single and twin lambs.

Low ewe CS at lambing had a negative impact on birthweight and weaning weight, resulting in lower carcase weight at slaughter. The mating weight of ewe lambs and carryover reproduction of the ewe were also negatively affected.

Lower ewe CS (2.5 – 2.7) at lambing had little effect on survival of single lambs, but CS greater than 3.5 had negative effects due to increased incidence of dystocia.

Improving CS during pregnancy and at lambing increased twin lamb survival to marking, from 78 per cent to close to 90 per cent when ewe flocks achieved an average CS of 3.2 – 3.5 at lambing.

Having high levels of FOO at lambing and during lactation did not completely offset the negative impacts of poor nutrition during pregnancy on birthweight and weaning weight.

These experiments also showed that the maternal composite ewes were gaining weight during pregnancy at lower FOO levels than expected. These results raised questions about whether maternal composite ewes were more feed-efficient or just eating more.

Bigger eaters or more efficient?

Follow up indoor feeding experiments then investigated the maintenance energy requirements and energy efficiency of maternal composite sheep. The feed intake of crossbred ewes grazing at different levels of FOO was also investigated.

These experiments showed crossbred ewes had higher feed intake than expected at different levels of FOO under grazing, compared with the current feeding standards for sheep. The indoor feeding experiments showed the ewes also had higher potential feed intake than predicted, based on their size and CS.

In addition, these indoor experiments showed that the energy contained in their tissues also varied from the estimates used in the current standards to calculate nutritional requirements. This was most likely due to differences in body composition (fat and muscle).

New CS targets for maternal composites

These results were then used to update feed budgeting models and production responses within a whole-farm MIDAS* model to predict the optimum CS targets for different regions.

Optimum CS targets for a typical farm in the Hamilton region were determined for a prime lamb producing enterprise that purchased all replacement ewes. Three different times of lambing were evaluated for this farm using the whole-farm model (Table 1).

table of figures

Table 1. Optimum condition score (CS) for composite or crossbred ewes at joining, day 90 and lambing for each lambing date, if the flock is scanned for multiples, on a typical farm at Hamilton

While these targets have been developed for Hamilton, they are unlikely to differ for other areas, especially the targets at lambing.

The optimum target for CS at joining may vary slightly based on time of lambing and the cost-effectiveness of feeding ewes to reach CS targets. For earlier lambing, the optimum CS at joining at the end of spring is the level that the ewes reach without supplementary feeding.

However, the highest CS attained at the end of spring needs to be managed so that the target lambing CS can be achieved without excessive liveweight loss during early and late pregnancy.

For later lambing, liveweight loss from the peak highest CS at the end of spring is managed with supplementary feeding to achieve the joining CS that allows the lambing target to be achieved without excessive liveweight loss.

The optimum target is to join ewes at CS 3.8 – 4.1 and to lose body condition (up to 1 CS) during pregnancy, resulting in lambing at CS 3.0 – 3.1 for single-bearing ewes and CS 3.4 – 3.7 for multiple-bearing ewes (see Table 1 for CS targets at Hamilton).

The difference from the recommendations for Merino ewes is the optimum CS in high-rainfall environments for unscanned Merino spring lambing ewes is to join and lamb at CS 3. Where ewes are pregnancy scanned and separately managed based on single or twin status the target at lambing is CS 3.3 for twinning ewes.

The higher CS at joining for maternal composites is driven by the higher CS at lambing and recovery of CS after lambing to reach higher CS at the end of the growing season, which will also support higher subsequent conception rates.

To achieve these CS targets, the challenge is to manage for gradual weight loss over summer, autumn and early winter when feed quality and quantity are usually limiting.

The difference in optimum guidelines for multiple- and single-bearing ewes reinforces the value of pregnancy scanning and managing ewes to their nutritional needs and targets.

Single-bearing ewes need to lose 0.7 – 1 CS between joining and lambing to minimise dystocia and can lose weight in both early and late pregnancy.

Multiple-bearing ewes can lose some weight in early pregnancy but must then maintain weight or have only a small, slow weight loss in late pregnancy.

This research was supported by Agriculture Victoria, Meat & Livestock Australia, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Rural Industries Skills Training and Murdoch University.

*MIDAS Model of an Integrated Dryland Agricultural System

Farm Business Resilience Webinar Series
canva tile saying farm business webinar

Agriculture Victoria is delivering a series of webinars to improve farm business resilience, hosted by ORM managing consultant Matt McCarthy. Farmers and farm business managers should register for the webinars to identify how to safeguard their core business operations when unexpected situations occur. Register for each of the webinars below to attend or receive a link of the recorded event.

Webinar 3: Your Resources

Thursday 2 July, 1.30pm

In this webinar, participants will be shown how to identify critical work flows, exposures and vulnerabilities, set priorities and access potential impacts using a risk matrix.

Register here

Webinar 4: Your Plan

Thursday 16 July, 1.30pm

In this webinar, an expert panel from across agriculture will discuss how farmers have successfully built business resilience over the last decade, where are the main gaps, and how can farms build resilience into the future.

Register here

Unique opportunity to help deliver frost outcomes
people standing in a field of crop

Grower groups, advisers, researchers and people involved in agribusiness are encouraged to put up their hands to assist in the delivery of frost research outcomes to Australian grain growers.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is seeking expressions of interest (EOI) from individuals and organisations interested in working closely with lead frost extension facilitators expected to be appointed in each GRDC region (west, north and south).

GRDC senior manager extension and communication, Luke Gaynor, said the successful respondents to the EOI would assist the facilitators to communicate and extend applied management options for mitigating frost.

“A collaborative approach will be required, enabling broad participation, geographic coverage and grower reach to identify and address local grower needs,” Mr Gaynor said.

A separate GRDC request for tender is seeking applications for the lead facilitator positions, and these positions should be appointed in mid-2020.

The financial and emotional impacts of frost to grain growers of winter grain crops are significant and well known. Photo by GRDC.

Mr Gaynor said the financial and emotional impacts of frost to grain growers of winter grain crops were significant and well known.

“For wheat alone, it is estimated that frost causes national losses of at least $400 million per year,” he said.

“The overall objective of the new investment is to provide growers in frost-prone areas with the knowledge, confidence and ability to implement the latest, best management practices to minimise the impact of frost on their profitability.

“It will continue to extend and apply local relevance to the known research outcomes of the GRDC’s considerable frost investment portfolio.

“The investment will involve practical and flexible approaches to communicating management options, and activities will vary depending on the needs of the growers in each sub-region and opportunities to raise awareness of frost-related issues.”

Mr Gaynor said the investment had been identified as a result of analysis by the GRDC revealing that immediate opportunities exist in further extending existing proven research outcomes relating to frost.

“However, in addition to frost extension, the GRDC continues to have a strong focus on identifying new areas of future research and development and this investment will facilitate discussion that will help inform these approaches,” he said.

More information about the EOIs is available on the GRDC website and details of the separate request for tender for the lead facilitator positions is also on the website.

EOI proposals must be sent by email to by 5 pm AEST on Tuesday, 30 June.

Need help controlling gorse?
humans in front of gorse
Fox and wild dog bounty collection resumes
fox walking through grass

Designated fox and wild dog bounty collection centres will open from this Monday 29 June, operating in line with physical distancing requirements including established drop off and exclusion zones.

During the suspension period, bounty participants were encouraged to continue to collect fox scalps and wild dog body parts on private properties as part of pest control activities, and to freeze or air dry them.

Hunters are encouraged to refresh their knowledge of the terms and conditions of the bounty to ensure what they submit is acceptable.

Participants can submit entire fox scalps for a $10 reward and entire wild dog body parts for a $120 reward during scheduled collection times.

For more information visit

Red legged earth mite video
close up of red leggged earth mites on a leaf

Redlegged earth mites are active between Autumn and late Spring and in this video director of cesar Australia, Dr Paul Umina, talks about monitoring and managing this destructive pest.

A new publication called Redlegged Earth Mite Best Management Practice Guide (2020) is available online at the GRDC.

Match the video at

More info:

PhD research fellowships on offer
sheep notes

In partnership with the University of Melbourne, Agriculture Victoria is offering 32 PhD research fellowships in the grains, dairy and horticulture industries.

The fellowships will be based across Victoria at the department’s world-renowned research centres. Successful candidates will be rewarded with a $33,000 per annum scholarship, access to state-of-the-art facilities and opportunities for professional development and overseas travel.

To find out more visit the Agriculture Victoria website.

Young farmer business network
young farmer business network

Young Farmers of Victoria – this is your network to talk about farm business management with other like-minded young farmers through social media, articles, online and face to face forums.

Click here to join and learn more about the Young Farmer Business Network Facebook group.

What's On

Details about Agriculture Victoria events can now be found in one spot on our website. Log on to to find out what's on.

Beanstalk Drought Innovation Program: Workshop No. 2

A chance to understand how world leading technologies can help future proof your farming operation.

Date: 30 June

Time: 7 - 9 am

What: Focusing on sheep, wool and prime lamb producers in the Wimmera region.

Register at:

Contact:Peter Velthuis 0428 990 907 or

Date: 30 June

Time: 7 - 9 pm

What: Focusing on croppers in the Wimmera region

Register at:

Contact:Peter Velthuis 0428 990 907 or

Date: 1 July

Time: 1 - 2.30 pm

What:Focus on Beef Producers in the Upper Murray region

Register at:

Contact:Belinda McKimmie, 0488 760 517 or

GRDC Farm Business Update - developing management and decision-making skills

Improving the effectiveness of management capabilities, can reduce the stress associated with making complicated decisions.

Date: 10 July
Time: 1 - 2 pm
More details at 

Pig producer webinars



Date: - 30 June, 2 pm

To register follow the link:

flyer for AFS webinar
Victorian Climate Projections 2019 – findings and tips for interpreting

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is running this webinar to give an overview of the information from Victoria’s Climate Science Report 2019 and the local-scale Victorian Climate Projections 2019, as well as guidance on understanding and using the information.

Date: 1 - 2 pm, Friday 26 June. Topics include:

  • What do the projections say for Victoria?
  • What are the benefits of local-scale climate data?
  • How to understand and work with the different sources of uncertainty in projections
  • Top tips to interpret the projections correctly
  • Lots of time for Q&A with DELWP and CSIRO scientists.

Join via this link on the day

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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

All contact points can be found at:

Don't forget to check out Agriculture Victoria's social media sites for up-to-date information and news.



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