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Barwon South-West Ag news
Thursday 4 June, 2020
In this edition:
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

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

As restrictions are being are eased, the Victorian Government continues to recognise the critical importance of the agriculture and food sector and will ensure our farms and agribusinesses keep operating - to keep the supermarket shelves stocked and food on Victorians’ tables.

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
New regional jobs for agriculture

Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaclyn Symes recently announced funding from the Agriculture Workforce Plan will be put towards job creation projects for five Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) across Victoria and create more than 80 full-time equivalent jobs benefitting the agriculture industry.

These new jobs will be focused on projects that provide benefits to Victorian farmers and the wider agricultural industry – a focus that is particularly important given the impacts of recent bushfires and seasonal conditions.

Funded projects include fruit fly control measures in the Goulburn Broken CMA which will target the removal of wild fruit trees from public land and supporting bushfire recovery work in Bunyip and other parts of the Port Phillip Westernport catchment.

Port Philip Westernport will also commence an innovative new program focused on agricultural education in schools involving excursions to farms and school incursions to put farmers and producers in front of students to talk about the agricultural industry and food.

In the Mallee CMA, a project will be delivered to aid weed and pest animal control, while Wimmera and Glenelg Hopkins will help agricultural landholders with land management measures such as re-vegetation and weed control.

The majority of the jobs are regionally based and will provide employment over a six-month period. Successful applicants will be matched with positions through Working for Victoria, the Government’s initiative to help jobseekers find work and employers find workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The $50 million Agriculture Workforce Plan is supporting businesses in regional, rural and outer metropolitan areas within key agriculture and food processing industries through job-matching, case management, worker relocation needs, transport and training.

To register interest in the program or other job initiatives, visit

More soil moisture information at farmers fingertips

The Victorian Government has announced improvements to the Soil Moisture Monitoring Program as it continues to support farm businesses impacted by drought and dry seasonal conditions.

The new set-up will mean easier and quicker access and the improved search function will allow farmers to distinguish between crop types being monitored, pasture and soil types and locations – all which influence soil moisture data.

Until now, the data had been only available via a monthly e-newsletter subscription or by using a verified login.

New tools featured on the platform will translate the data into real-time local information. These tools include a temperature gauge, current soil moisture profile and a one to three-month rainfall outlook for Victoria.

The improvements will also enable more farmers to see the daily ‘Speedo soil moisture graphs’, which are a real time soil moisture percentage measure.

These graphs are an important tool for farmers experiencing increasingly variable climatic conditions, specifically rainfall to make timely decisions.

Farmers can subscribe to the Agriculture Victoria Soil Moisture Monitoring e-newsletter to get further information and analysis of data. The new Soil Moisture Monitoring program portal can be found at

For more information on Drought and Dry Seasonal Conditions support and services visit or call 136 186.

Using rotations to grow more feed

Understanding the principles behind grazing rotations that deliver more feed is the focus of a new online presentation from Agriculture Victoria.

The Autumn Grazing Management presentation demonstrates how stock can undermine the persistence of plants leading to slower growing, thin pastures and weeds or undesirable species filing the gaps.

“This is where grazing management is really important,” Agriculture Victoria grazing expert Fiona Baker said.

In the presentation, Ms Baker highlights the principles used to determine grazing rotations and the science behind using a rotation to grow more feed.

She outlines the key changes that occur within the plant when rotationally grazing, which lead to healthy and vigorous plants, and in turn, to higher quantities of dry matter per hectare being available.

The webinar recording also discusses setting up a rotation; grass characteristics; knowing how much feed is available on offer; when to remove stock; and the importance of rest periods.

The Autumn Grazing Management presentation is one of three from a recent Agriculture Victoria webinar series, funded from the Victorian Government’s 2019-20 drought support package:

The third and most recent presentation in the series - Planning and designing a 5-star water supply – was presented by Agriculture Victoria farm water specialist Clem Sturmfels.

In the presentation Mr Sturmfels addresses water quality and quantity, climate impacts, water planning and design and encourages farmers to consider all available supply options before committing to a major investment such as a bore, larger dam or reticulated water supply.

Mr Sturmfels, whose background is in soil conservation, whole farm planning and on-farm water reticulation systems, provides advice on calculating the water needs of a grazing enterprise, while also considering strategies for a dry season or drought.

The webinar also provides information about planning, designing, mapping and implementing a water supply system - the recording can be found here

Enquiries about any of the webinars can be directed to Tess McDougall at or 0409 841 492.

Building farm business resilience for challenging times

Farm businesses are being supported to build their resilience against economic challenges through a range of tools and webinars being offered by the Victorian Government.

Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes encouraged Victorian farmers to sign up for the webinar series and seek relevant support to ensure their business continuity in the face of challenges.

The series will help participants identify how to safeguard their core business operations when unexpected situations occur.

Although Victorian farmers are no stranger to disruption and volatility – having faced bushfires, floods, drought and dry seasonal conditions – the webinars are particularly timely as many businesses cope with the impact of coronavirus.

They will provide practical measures for farmers to identify how to measure their capacity to continue operating and to recover from any significant challenge through a framework that withstands disruptions, applying examples of continuity principles and sharing expert advice.

The webinars complement the Government’s ongoing drought support, which includes the recently expanded On-Farm Drought Resilience Grant allowing farmers to apply for up to $5000 for business planning and up to $5000 for infrastructure investment.

There are also new activities eligible for investment under the grant, including technologies to improve mobile phone connectivity, soil moisture probes and weed control.

The Victorian Government is delivering this support as it understands the critical importance of our agricultural and food sector, which relies on the continued operations of our farms and agribusinesses to keep the supermarket shelves stocked and food on Victorians’ tables.

For more details or to make an application, visit

Low survival for iodine deficient lambs

Dr Jeff Cave, District Veterinary Officer

Goitre, due to iodine deficiency, leads to enlarged thyroid glands seen as swellings in the neck of affected lambs, which are born weak and die easily from the cold.

Particularly after a wet season I hear farmers comment, "some of my newborn lambs have an enormous lump under its throat."

Invariably this is relating to goitre.

If you consider the main source of iodine is from sea salt, which is leached from soils during heavy rainfall, it is not surprising that many soils in Victoria are deficient in iodine. Cases of goitre typically occur after three consecutive months of 80 mm or more of rain.

Since a reasonably wet winter has been forecast following our effective autumn break, producers with flocks lambing from mid-winter onwards this year should be considering the prevention of goitre in their flocks.

Like other essential trace minerals, iodine is only required in small amounts.

The thyroid gland produces hormones, which are essential for life.

A lamb or kid with goitre will often be undersized or stillborn, have a reduced wool cover, and be weak and susceptible to cold stress.

Goitre in newborn calves is extremely rare. Property owners who have never seen goitre will often see it following a shift in their enterprise from producing cattle to sheep or goats.

An outbreak of goitre can be challenging to manage since any affected lambs or kids will have a low survival rate and the deficiency in the ewes or does needs to be corrected quickly before lambing or kidding occurs.

Iodine deficiency is easy to prevent, by providing iodised salt from the third month of the ewes’ pregnancy. This can be given in a variety of ways such as iodised salt blocks or potassium iodide drenches.

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

Grazing management to make the most of the winter

Sarah Clack Agriculture Victoria Dairy Extension Officer

There has been a good start to the season in many areas of Victoria.

To make the most of it grazing management of pastures can be used to maximise pasture growth and utilisation helping us to get the most out of the resources invested.

The aim of good grazing management is to balance the requirements of the pasture and the herd.

Grazing ryegrass pastures between the two to three-leaf stage allows the pasture to reach maximum production.

When the tiller reaches the two-leaf stage it has restored its energy reserves used to regrow after the last grazing and the pasture is nutritionally balanced for the herd.

Allowing the tiller to reach the three-leaf stage before grazing is a bonus, as the third leaf is an extra 30–-40 per cent larger than second leaf.

If the pasture grows beyond the three-leaf stage, the first leaf begins to die losing quality and increasing wastage.

The grazing rotation length is determined by the leaf appearance rate. As the temperature declines and day length shortens going into winter, the leaf appearance rate slows.

This means the grazing rotation needs to be lengthened to allow the pasture to continue to reach the two to three-leaf stage target.

If our leaf appearance rate is 15 days, the rotation length would need to be 45 days to reach the three-leaf stage.

This would make the pasture area on offer per day 1/45th of the total milking area.

Leave a post-grazing residual of 4 to 6 cm between clumps. This is where the tiller stores its energy or ’fuel’ to re-grow.

Grazing below 4 cm will reduce the energy reserves available for regrowth resulting in smaller tillers and less pasture available at the next grazing. Grazing above 6 cm has no benefit to growth and increases pasture wastage.

Don’t allow stock to have access to the pasture for longer than two to three days as this will result in new shoots being grazed and a reduction in growth.

Increasing the rotation length decreases the area of pasture available and often the amount of pasture available, leading to lower post grazing residuals. Supplements, for example. grain, silage and hay, are used to manage the residual height.

If post-grazing residuals are below 4 cm more supplements should be offered to the herd to increase the residual. If residuals are above 6 cm less supplement should offered to the herd to minimise pasture and supplement wastage.

Remember, keep an eye on the leaf stage of the pasture you are offering to the herd and the post grazing residual as the cows leave the paddock each day to see if you are reaching your target leaf stage and post grazing residuals.

Lengthening or shortening the grazing rotation is about reaching the desired leaf stage, ideally two to three-leaf stage.

The post-grazing residual, a measure of feeding level including supplementary feeding, is used to maintain a residual height of 4 to 6 cm.

For information go to

wild radish
'Intelligent' weeds evolve to evade control

Findings from one of Australia’s longest running paddock surveys have confirmed some plants will change the way they grow and reproduce to avoid all forms of weed control.

“This is one of the first studies in cropping systems to prove the ‘intelligence’ of weed plants, and their ability to evolve over time to evade control strategies in an attempt to survive,” Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) research agronomist Mike Ashworth said.

“In simple terms, this study has shown us how weeds, particularly wild radish, can evolve and adapt their growth habit or life cycle to evade weed control, not only in regard to herbicide resistance, but also non-herbicide control strategies that growers now use.”

Conversely, the far-reaching study, conducted with investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), also found a lack of any clear evolutionary response of annual ryegrass to harvest weed seed control (HWSC).

Dr Ashworth, who managed the biological sampling, analysis and interpretation of research findings from the weed control study, said this is exciting news for grain growers because it reaffirms the value of HWSC.

AHRI used the information from long-running paddock surveys, that began in 2001 in Western Australia’s northern agricultural region, to ascertain the evolutionary consequences of weed seed control on long-term weed populations.

Dr Ashworth said one of the most interesting findings highlighted by the research was the ability of wild radish populations to evade HWSC.

“The achilles’ heel of wild radish is that it retains nearly all of its pods on the plant until harvest, making it an ideal candidate for interception and destruction using HWSC,” he said.

Despite this fact, the research has shown that wild radish is capable of responding to HWSC measures by lowering the height of its pods to reduce the number of pods captured at harvest time.

The height of the lowest-retained wild radish pod changed significantly between the in-crop population and the control.

This is important because it directly affects the maximum cutting height and interception efficiency at harvest, with seeds located under a nominal cutting height of 10 cm unlikely to be intercepted, thereby replenishing the soil seed bank.

Dr Ashworth said the data indicated the pods in the crop were, on average, 12 cm lower than the pods on the plants in the control plots.

The height of the lowest pod in the control population was 20.3 cm, while the average lowest pod in the in-crop population was 8.3 cm. So, in this situation, HWSC would be less effective, although still worthwhile as significant amounts of seed would still be captured.

In terms of time of flowering, the wild radish patches in-crop flowered 11.5 days earlier than the control populations.

In regard to annual ryegrass, the research demonstrated early flowering time was found in all intense cropping situations but wasn’t directly correlated to the use of HWSC.

Likewise, on all sites, germination percentages of all ryegrass seeds were lower in the intensively managed in-crop samples when compared to the control, indicating there is a shift towards an increase in ryegrass seed dormancy.

What this means for growers, Dr Ashworth said, is while HWSC is effective, so too is an early sown crop to outcompete the ryegrass, particularly those weed seeds that are germinating later.

Dr Ashworth said the intensive research points to a simple message for growers which is to use as much diversity as possible in their weed management strategies.

The only long-term solution, he said, is to continually modify strategies to be one step ahead of this evolutionary process.
The other message, which is just as critical, is for growers to continue to invest in HWSC.

AHRI attracts an annual investment contribution of more than $1.5 million from the GRDC and is based at The University of WA School of Agriculture and Environment.

Podcasts hghlight Agriculture Victoria research

Two of Agriculture Victoria's senior research scientists are featured on GRDC podcasts that are now available to download.

To hear Dr Garry Rosewarne discuss research seeking to identify how to increase the productivity of pulse crops by ten per cent click here.

For information on crown rot, presented by Dr Grant Hollaway, click here.

The full list of GRDC podcasts can be found at:

Funding boost for agricultural and pastoral societies

Victorian agricultural and pastoral societies will be supported to continue putting on events and upgrade infrastructure through support from the Victorian Government.

Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes recently announced $300,000 in funding will go to 39 societies from across Victoria as part of the 2019–20 Agricultural and Pastoral Society Grants Program.

Grant packages of up to $10,000 will help societies to upgrade or establish new facilities, encourage greater local involvement in show activities, create opportunities for agricultural businesses to engage with the community and enhance business activities to help in show planning.

This year’s recipients will use their funding for a variety of purposes, including:

  • air-conditioning and heating in a multi-purpose pavilion
  • lighting upgrades for a homecrafts pavilion area to improve safety
  • construction of permanent horse-holding enclosures
  • installation of sheep yards
  • multi-use shearing competition stage
  • animal nursery upgrade
  • display tables for craft and cooking pavilion
  • relocatable tiered grandstand seating.

These projects will enhance facilities that can be used for occasions other than agricultural shows and ensure communities that had to cancel or postpone shows due to the coronavirus pandemic can have upgraded facilities for future events.

The funded projects will deliver exciting events that provide a direct benefit to agricultural communities, which will in-turn build confidence in agriculture and support regional economies and jobs.

For a full list of the successful recipients, visit

Discover more about local minerals exploration

The Department of Jobs Precincts and Regions is holding online information sessions to update locals about minerals exploration between Glenthompson, Caramut and Mortlake.

The sessions will cover explorer obligations, environmental safeguards and tools available to help landholders. There will also be an opportunity for questions and answers.

Recently Earth Resources Regulation issued Victorian-based Westrock Minerals a Minerals Exploration Licence following the 2018 Stavely Ground Release. Westrock Minerals representatives will attend the online sessions and be available to answer questions.

Attendees can register to attend one of three online sessions at

Date: Wednesday 10 June

Session times: 12.30 - 2 pm and 3.30 - 5 pm

Date: Thursday 11 June

Session time: 7 - 8 pm.

Agroforestry survey – have your say
row of trees facing a paddock

If you are a farmer, researchers from the University of Tasmania would like to hear from you!

Dr. Dugald Tinch and PhD Candidate Zara Marais are working on a project that aims to understand how farmers make decisions about planting trees on their farms.

They hope to find out which factors are most influential in these decisions: does tree species and arrangement make a difference, and what about cost? Which ecosystem services (e.g. shelter, erosion control) are most important to farmers when it comes to planting trees, and does that change depending on the size or the type of the farm?

The end goal is to gain a better understanding of farmer preferences and priorities, which will ultimately help to improve extension efforts in farm restoration and agroforestry.

You can contribute by filling out a 10 minute online survey, with a chance to win a $50 Bunnings voucher. If you have any questions about the survey, you can contact the researchers directly at

Farm Business Resilience Webinar Series
canva tile saying farm business resilience

Agriculture Victoria is delivering a series of four 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 2: Your Financials

Thursday 18 June, 1.30 pm

Our expert guest will be Jane Foster, Agribusiness Consultant, ORM. Jane has more than 15 years’ experience in agri banking and industry before joining ORM. In this webinar, Jane will provide tips on how to work with the ‘new norms’ around accessing and extending bank finance and discuss the use of other financial buffers.

Register here

Webinar 3: Your Resources

Thursday 2 July, 1.30 pm

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, 1.30 pm

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

Beetle benefits webinar
dung bettle on a human hand

Sometimes referred to as ‘nature’s architects’, dung beetles are a desirable part of a healthy landscape and can significantly improve the overall health of your soil.

Join renowned expert Dr Bernard Doube for an online webinar on the benefits of the soil-enriching and pest-control qualities of dung beetles.

Bernard is dedicated to teaching farmers how to work with dung beetles.

He has worked with CSIRO for 29 years, including seven years as OIC of the CSIRO Dung Beetle Research Unit in Pretoria, South Africa.

Since 2003 he has been the lead researcher and director of Dung Beetle Solutions International (DBSI) where he is strongly involved in research and farmer education.

Read more:

As a dung beetle ambassador, Bernard will discuss the benefits of the soil enriching and pest-control qualities of dung beetles and how they can improve pasture profitability and sustainability.

Date/time: 11 am – 12.30 pm, Friday 5 June


The one and a half hour session will cover:

  • which dung beetle species suit your property
  •  native and introduced species
  • how to maintain your dung beetle populations
  • which chemicals kill dung beetles
  • farmer nurseries to breed the new spring species on-farm
  • biochar to increase soil carbon and animal health.

Preparing to join the webinar

Joining the webinar is easy!  We’re using Microsoft Teams (MS Teams) and the good news is you don’t need an account or software installation.

You will be prompted to download the MS Teams app or join via their browser.

During the webinar

The webinar will start with a short introduction, followed by a presentation. Please use the chat function to ask questions.

After the session

The webinar will be recorded and available on the North Central CMA’s website after the session.

Climate webinars
Seasonal soil moisture probe network update online

In this webinar, Dale Boyd will provide an explanation and walk-through of the new Agriculture Victoria soil moisture monitoring website.

This will include navigating the website to find the soil moisture probe nearest to you and interpreting the data collected at that site.

Dale Boyd shares his expert knowledge in how soil moisture information can be used to make valuable and informed seasonal risk decisions.

When: Wednesday 17 June, 12 – 1pm

Register online.

Contact: Alice Ritchie on 0429 386 781 or

Livestock Biosecurity Funds grant program

The Livestock Biosecurity Funds Grant Program is now open for applications.

Apply now for support for projects or programs that prevent, monitor and control diseases in Victorian cattle, sheep, goat, swine or honeybee industries.

Go to:

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.

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

Weeds and rabbits project
weeds and rabbits logo

The Weeds and Rabbits Project is seeking support from private and public land managers to help combat pests and weeds which cost Victoria more than $1 billion a year.

Landholders are being invited to take part in a statewide survey about how they manage weeds and rabbits on their property.

The results will provide a better understanding of the barriers people face with implementing weed and rabbit management practices.

Agriculture Victoria is the lead agency in the delivery of programs to combat established invasive species, which is underpinned by the Commonwealth Government-funded Weeds and Rabbits Project.

Complete the survey at

The survey closes Sunday 24 June.

What's on
Controlling worms in beef cattle - 10 June

DATE: Wednesday June 10

TIME: 7.30 pm to 8.45 pm

VENUE: Online or via phone


Join us for an up-to-date discussion on the control of parasites in beef cattle including the latest developments in diagnostics and treatment.

Worms have a big impact on the health, welfare and productivity of beef cattle herds. As they live in the internal organs, they are difficult for farmers to see, diagnose and control. Learn how recent advances in diagnostic methods have made testing more accurate, faster and cheaper.

At the conclusion of the presentation participants will have the opportunity to ask questions.

To register and take part in this event log on at:

For further information or if you have any problems registering contact Cathy Mulligan at
or 0438 341 970.

The best age to wean prime lambs - 16 June

Date: Tuesday, 16 June

Time: 8 - 9 pm

Contact: Meat and Livestock Australia, 1800 023 100


This MLA webinar features Dr Bruce Allworth of Charles Sturt University who will be discussing when is the best time to wean crossbred lambs off crossbred ewes.

Tune in to hear:

  • When do ewes cease lactation?
  • Is 14 weeks still the best option for weaning if you lamb in July?
  • What are the factors to consider when determining your weaning date?

More details at

Beanstalk drought innovation program - 16 June

Date: Tuesday, 16 June

Time: 7 - 9 am (sheep, wool and prime lamb group); 
7 - 9 pm (grain growing group)

Contact: Peter Velthuis, 
0428 990 907,


Presented in partnership with Wimmera CMA, this programs offers farmers a chance to understand how world leading technologies can help future-proof their farming operation.

The program will be delivered in two groups - grain growers and sheep wool and prime lamb producers.

The Drought Innovation Program is a Victorian Government supported initiative bringing a problem-led approach to sourcing solutions from the emerging technology provider and startup ecosystem.

For details go to:

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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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