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Sheep Notes
Spring 2021

In this issue:

Compiled by Agriculture Victoria's Jane Court and Rachael Holmes

Aborted foetus

This year has been a remarkable year for clinical listeriosis in sheep.

Between January and July 2021 infectious listeriosis causing neurological disease and abortion in adult sheep was diagnosed across 14 separate properties in Victoria. Recent outbreaks may be due to the good previous season, leading to standing rank and rotting dry matter in paddocks however in almost all cases seen, sheep have been in containment (risk of overcrowding and poor sanitation) and being fed a mix of hay, silage and grain (potentially contaminated). Most have been late pregnant ewes of mixed ages.

Go online to read the full article on the disease and prevention.

LiveFeed - Seasonal Feed webinar on successful ewe replacements
ewe lambs on pasture

Professor Andrew Thompson from Murdoch University talks about the management of maternal ewe lambs to get successful joining at seven to ten months of age, follow up performance and future reproduction.  This will guide some of the management requirements of ewe lambs from weaning to their first mating and lifetime performance.  Andrew touches on what we know about the effects of weight, mature weight and other genetic traits from his research in this area conducted in Victoria.

Myth Buster question

Is rumen development completed at weaning – i.e. can you recover from a tough start? (Hutton Oddy)

If you would like to listen to the recording contact

To feed or not to feed?
sheep on dry feed

With high stock prices and a favourable grain harvest looking likely, it can be a temptation to run a percentage of lambs through on grain for earlier turnoff or for sale at heavier weights.

This article covers some of the considerations on lamb performance and backgrounding as well as an example using a feedlot calculator that you can download. Read the full article. 

Barbers pole worm - is it changing?

"Several years ago, on a cold winter’s day, I conducted a post-mortem of a sheep on a well-managed property in the Upper Murray and found the contents of its abomasum (fourth stomach) swimming with Barber’s Pole Worm. Since then, I have heard of similar scenarios from throughout Victoria. Which leads to the questions – isn’t Barber’s Pole Worm supposed to be a summer parasite? Is something in its biology changing?"

Agriculture Victoria senior veterinary officer Jeff Cave outlines the disease, clinical signs and why we are seeing more of it in Victoria. Read here.

barbers pole worm
Grazing value of summer weeds

Weeds! They are always there, no matter how hard you try.

While some can have animal health issues (see article Summer weeds – which ones are toxic), others have nutritional value to sheep which may be worth considering before deciding to spray them out.

This article focuses on summer weeds. Read the full article.

Summer weeds - which ones are toxic?
Hairy panic

Every season has its own toxic plant risks. Most issues with toxic weeds follow summer rain and are especially seen in sheep grazing stubbles. Since all animals are co-grazing the same pastures, toxic weeds can affect a large portion of the flock.  Hairy panic and heliotrope are common examples.  Read more.

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Digital Tip
Sheep cartoon with bright idea

Our second digital tip comes from a reader who won our mystery prize.

SHARE and WIN If you have a handy tip that might help others manage simple (or more complex) tasks, we'd love to include some in our next edition.

There will be mystery prizes for the ones we use so send your ideas or tips to

Provided by reader, Louisa-Jane

The Do Not Disturb Function

There’s nothing worse than a text message or phone call disturbing you at the wrong moment.

The Do Not Disturb function is a fantastic way to ensure you’re not woken by an incoming message or call. You can automate this feature on your phone so it turns itself on at a specific time at night and then off again in the morning.

You can also use this feature when you’re driving so text messages etc don’t distract you.

On your iPhone

  1. Go to Settings, then scroll down until you get to the Do Not Disturb
  2. Tap Do Not Disturb and set up your settings
  3. Swipe right next to Do Not Disturb to turn it on and then fill in your preferences.

You can use this feature at any time or preset your preferences to automatically come on when you’re driving or sleeping.

Screenshot iphone on settings page
Screenshot iphone Do Not Disturb page
Screenshot iphone Do Not Disturb Repeated calls function
Sheep animation with light bulb picture
NLIS database webinars

Do you buy or sell livestock privately, online or through saleyards? Do you know the NLIS requirements for livestock movements?

Agriculture Victoria is delivering interactive online training sessions for livestock producers using the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database on 27 October and 24 November. You will learn about the Victorian traceability system, take a tour of the NLIS database features and practise how to complete a Property to Property (P2P) transfer.

Book your free tickets online at: then select the ‘NLIS Database Webinar’ event of your choice. For more info, or if you have trouble registering call 0427 681 714.

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Pneumonia in lambs

Pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs while pleurisy refers to inflammation of the membranes that surround the lungs. These respiratory conditions can occur in all sheep, however, outbreaks are most common in weaners during summer. 

Dr Hayden Morrow outlines the causes, signs and prevention strategies for this disease. Read the full article online.

Changes to LPA (Livestock Production Assurance) site
Screenshot MLA YouTube

Livestock producers can no longer log in direct to the LPA site to access eNVDs (electronic National Vendor Declarations), accreditations, order NVD books, etc.

Instead, they will be redirected to the MyMLA single sign-on site and will need to set up an account before linking to their LPA account. It’s a good idea to do this early before you need a new NVD. Click here to watch a YouTube video to help you with this.

Sheep and goat property to property transfers
NLIS web page screenshot

Tagging requirements from 1 January 2022

From 1 January 2022 all sheep and non-exempt goats will be required to be identified with an electronic NLIS (Sheep or Goat) tag before being moved off a Victoria property.

Livestock PICs
To read about your requirements and how to update your details click here.

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AgTech Bytes

Technology for agriculture is a rapidly expanding sector, but there are still many issues with connectivity and requirements to ensure the technology is the right one and works for you.

AgTech Bytes are a series of short tech notes that provide simple and practical information about AgTech solutions. They have been created for producers and service providers to help in the understanding of:

  • the basic jargon and components used to describe AgTech solutions
  • how AgTech operates in farming enterprises
  • how AgTech solutions can be incorporated into management decision making processes.

The AgTech Bytes library includes

  • AgTech, what you need to know.
  • LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) is a network that allows battery-operated devices to wirelessly connect and send data over the internet.
  • A Dashboard is a website or application (app.) that is used to view and interpret real-time data from devices. It can be viewed on a computer, smartphone or tablet.
  • Mobile networks, also known as cellular networks, are made up of a series of base stations or mobile phone towers. These  include Cat M1- an example of LongTerm Evolution (LTE), third generation (3G) and fourth generation (4G).
  • Electric fence monitor is a device that remotely monitors and reports the voltage of your electric fence.
  • Labour Saving case study of how one family invested in several AgTech devices to see how they could better manage risks on their farm.

Click here and scroll down to the AgTech demo page

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Farm Business Resilience program

Are you a Victorian livestock or mixed farmer? Do you want to develop or refresh your farm business plan to take your business to the next level? Are you interested in improving your skills in risk management, business and succession planning, and the management of natural resources for improved productivity?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, Agriculture Victoria’s new Farm Business Resilience program may be the program for you.

Agriculture Victoria Project Leader Kit Duncan-Jones said while Victorian farmers successfully manage uncertainty and complexity every day, the business of farming is becoming more challenging as farmers face significant risks, such as future droughts, natural disasters, market uncertainty and other industry challenges.

“If you’re a farmer who wants to put your plans on paper and commit your time to strengthen your knowledge and skills, this program will assist you to set up your farm for success now and for your family into the future,” Mr Duncan-Jones said.

The program is being delivered between now and June 2022. It is delivered in five modules over the course of a few months. Farmers will have access to a Farm Business Resilience Resource Library during and after the program. The digital library contains program worksheets, presentation materials, videos, podcasts, eLearns and useful websites.

The Farm Business Resilience program is jointly funded by the Australian Government and Victorian Government through the Future Drought Fund.

For more information or to register your interest please contact Kit Duncan-Jones on 0427 749 466 or

A landholder’s guide to participate in soil carbon farming in Australia

Farmers or managers interested in entering the soil carbon market should consider reading a recently published paper A landholder’s guide to participate in soil carbon farming in Australia. This paper is written by experts from Melbourne University Robert E White, Brian Davidson and Richard Eckard.

Some of you may have heard Robert White present at the recent online conference held by the Grassland Society of Southern Australia? The paper outlines the options for contracting soil carbon credits such as to the Australian Government or in the more flexible voluntary market.

It warns that while foreign companies are also in this market, they may use ‘non-conforming or untested methodologies’ so cannot be counted as offsets and when sold to an overseas investor cannot be counted to offset emissions in Australia.

It provides a guide as to what is possible for a sustained increase in soil carbon in different environments and an estimate of the costs and benefits from making changes.

The range in scientific literature and recorded increases in soil carbon reported in this paper vary from 0.26 to 1 tonne carbon/ha/year. The highest increases are associated with high rainfall (potential to grow more grass and hence organic matter) and a low starting soil carbon level. Soil type, pasture/crop establishment, nutrient inputs and grazing management also influence the variation in potential results.

Soil carbon varies considerably across paddocks and so robust sampling and measurement are required to pick up ‘real’ changes in soil carbon over time.

Therefore, careful consideration of feasible and sustainable increases in soil carbon need to be considered, given the range and claims for far higher increases are being made.

The paper goes through some of the key questions landholders need to consider regarding changes they are prepared to make to increase and sustain soil carbon for at least 25 years. The costs to participate (such as testing, record keeping, consultants, etc.) are also outlined and potential benefits discussed.

The paper can be found at the Australian Farm Institute website

Further Reading

Another good reference on the Young Farmers Network page is “Selling soil carbon – an easy win?”

Other References on the Agriculture climate and weather webpage:
Making sense of Carbon booklet 
Selling carbon from trees and soils: This article provides some of the questions that should be addressed before landowners consider selling carbon from farm trees or soils.

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The time to save water is now

Getting to the middle of January to find that you only have one metre of water left for the stock in that paddock is not an ideal situation.

There are things that you can do now, or at least plan for, that will help save as much water as possible. If we look at what the water in the dam is used for and potential losses, we can put things in place to minimise losses.

An estimate of how much stock will drink should be made so that you know what you are likely to need until after the autumn break. How much each animal will drink will vary depending on the type of animal, weight, stage of growth or pregnancy and as temperature increases over summer. Knowing this with the total numbers of each class of stock, will give an amount you need for stock use. If the dam is connected to a pump system for domestic use or watering gardens, then these figures need to be included in your calculations of use.

The next biggest user (or loser) of water is evaporation. You lose the top one metre of water in your dam to evaporation each year. Having a small deep dam is a much better option than a large shallow one. Minimising wind across the dam will help to reduce evaporation.

The amount of water getting to your dam may have changed. Improved pastures, including deep rooted perennials and summer active species will use more water and may reduce runoff. This along with less rainfall means that at times you will get less run off into your dams. It may not be an issue this year if dams have filled after a wet winter but needs to be considered in the longer term for years when this does not occur.

Dam maintenance is critical to optimising water catchment, reducing water loss and erosion.

The following resources have been developed to help you maintain dams and water quality and to measure dam volume and estimate your water requirements. Once you know these, you are in a good position to plan for shortfalls and look for longer-term options to ensure water security on your farm.

Farm Water Planning

Agriculture Victoria, through the Water Technical Reference Group, can assist farmers with information, planning and design for stock and domestic water systems.

If you are interested in upgrading your farm water supply system, we are looking for participants for a new online workshop. This will assist producers to evaluate their current farm water supply and plan future changes.

For more information or to register your interest, contact Greg Bekker on 0417 340 236 or

Dam maintenance Kerri Goshnick, Agriculture Victoria, walks through the  major things to look for when checking your dam.
How much water in your dam?
Protecting your major water asset A video case study of farmers Neal and Myrtle  Bennetts who were burnt-out during the 2020  Corryong fires. They then experienced two very large  rainfall events.
Summer water calculator

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Open Gate Conversations

The Victorian Farmers Federation have initiated an online or virtual discussion to answer questions from the general public about farming. It is called Open Gate Conversations.

Their challenge is “Ask a question, and a Victorian farmer will provide the answer".

The VFF is ready to discuss the issues that matter to all Victorians; climate change, sustainability, use of chemicals and other technology, animal welfare and managing landscapes. "We want to talk about the value our farmers bring as stewards of the Victorian countryside and providers of fresh, nutritious food."

Open Gate Conversation logo

The Open Gate Conversation website hosts many questions and answers around a wide range of issues and food and fibre products covering food health; environmental and animal welfare issues as well as just general questions such as “what got you interested in farming…”

Other examples include:

  • “What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions on organic farming?
  • "Please advise why grass-fed animals are marketed as better”
  • “How much profit do dairy farmers make from milk we purchase at supermarkets? Is there a better option for us to be able to support these dairy farmers better?”
  • “Why are ewes and wethers shorn in winter?”

Any Victorian farmer can register their interest to answer questions. Register your interest on the VFF webpage. Open Gate Conversations is managed by the Victorian Farmers and supported by the Victorian State Government.

An important conversation
Farmer working sheep in covered yards

Farmers are great at looking after their livestock or produce, land, and machinery, but often put their own health and safety at risk.

People working in agriculture make up about 14 per cent of workplace fatalities, despite the industry only employing about two per cent of Victoria’s workforce. Farms are homes where we live but they are also workplaces; so now is the time to prioritise safety for yourself, your family and employees and visitors to your farm. 

Starting a safety conversation means having honest conversations about safety and recognising that putting safety first is good for business. Farm safety is more than making sure the gate is shut, or putting on a seatbelt, it’s about building trust and developing a culture where everyone on the farm, including employees and family, feel confident to ask questions and raise concerns.

A good place to start is with a farm safety plan that can focus on topics like a safety induction, farm rules, safety policies and safe work procedures. Developing a plan will reduce risk and help secure the future of your farm business. 

There is support available to help you build a plan and consider what you and your farm business need. The Victorian Farmers Federation’s Making Our Farms Safer advisors can provide free occupational health and safety advice including developing a safety plan for your farm.

The farm safety advisors have a broad range of experience and provide free and confidential advice to Victorian farmers to improve safety in the most practical way. Advisors can help create a safety plan and provide resources and safety policies that are suited to the needs of your business.

For more information visit the Victorian Farmers Federation website: Making our Farms Safer or contact an advisor directly – John Darcy 0432 156 223 or Richard Versteegen 0499 772 472.

Making our Farms Safer is also on Facebook and Twitter.

The Making our Farms Safer project for all Victorian farmers is being delivered by the Victorian Farmers Federation. The project is funded through Smarter, Safer Farms, a $20 million Victorian Government commitment to improve safety and skills outcomes for Victorian farmers.

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Feeding Livestock - What's new?

Myth Buster Series
For anyone who has attended our Live Feed webinars, you will have been introduced to our Myth Busters segment. This is where we challenge a scientist to answer (in five minutes or less) a common issue or belief related to the feeding of livestock.

In the first series we asked Gaye Krebs (Charles Sturt University) to answer whether feeding too much protein to stock was wasteful (so this was about supplement feeding rather than pasture). In series two, Shawn McGrath (also Charles Sturt University) tackled whether animals self-medicate – or find what they need if it is available. These can be accessed from “Latest News” on the right-hand side of the website.

Pasture identification resources
We asked some of our staff to give us some of the resources they use to identify plant species in the field. This includes main pasture grass and legume species, native grasses and pasture weeds. We have included this list (which is by no means exhaustive) on the Pasture Resources page and includes both hard copy versions as well as a few apps.

Pasture growth curves and spring growth predictions
We have included a guide to some pasture growth rates on the Pasture Resources page which have come from ProGraze courses as well as a more comprehensive list of different localities and pasture types produced by EverGraze.

We are also including some predictive growth rates for spring for several sites involved in a Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) – Predicting spring growth using soil moisture. This is based on the premise that soil moisture in the bank (soil) at the beginning of spring is a reliable source of moisture to produce spring pasture growth.

Hence there are several programs that use soil moisture (and seasonal forecasts) to predict the spring season ahead. The PDS is having a look at this and doing some ‘actual’ measures to potentially validate this. The sites all have soil moisture probes installed and all have a phalaris base and a range of legumes (subclover; balansa clover and lucerne).

Melbourne University has used the soil moisture data at the beginning of each month (i.e. September and then October) plus the seasonal weather forecast to produce a pasture growth curve for each site – with a median and range provided so you can see the effect of low and high follow up rain if this did occur. The data is available for sites in central Victoria (Baynton) and south west (Harrow; Dartmoor and Cojar).

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Did you know?

Livestock producers can no longer log in direct to the LPA site to access eNVDs (electronic National Vendor Declarations), accreditations, order NVD books, etc.

Instead, they will be redirected to the MyMLA single sign-on site and will need to set up an account before linking to their LPA account. It’s a good idea to do this early before you need a new NVD. Click here to watch a helpful YouTube video to help you with this. 

Did you know? Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations introduced in December 2019, Regulation 6(4) stipulates that when the temperature is 28 degrees or above that an area of insulating material be placed on the metal tray of a motor vehicle or trailer to protect the dog Ag Vic
Agriculture Victoria contacts

Access here.

Read the full edition of the 2021 Spring Sheep Notes online via the Feeding Livestock website.

View previous editions.


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