The latest news and ag extension advice

Welcome to the latest Ag Chat newsletter, offering advice, seasonal updates and information for landholders of what is happening at Western LLS across all areas of agriculture. First, let's meet the team:
  • Gemma Turnbull — Team Leader based in Bourke
  • Tanisha Shields — Senior Land Services Officer based in Balranald
  • Claudia Bryant — Land Services Officer based in Broken Hill
  • Luke Stacey — Senior Land Services Officer based in Buronga.
  • Max Brownlow — Senior Field Officer based in Broken Hill
See the contact details for the team at the end of this newsletter.

The Ag team is always working to bring projects, events and information that is current and relevant to all landholders in the Western region. This can be in the form of face to face  events, online webinars, fact sheets, case studies, newsletter articles and social media updates. 

All aboard for our cropping driving field days

Landholders and interested community members are invited to join two driving field days across the region post sowing. Participants will have the opportunity to see a variety of cereal and pulse crops while joining in informal discussions across several properties in the region.
Locations and dates 
  • Field day 1 — Gol Gol - Wentworth, Thursday 17 June. Meet at Golly Cafe Bakery, 30 Adelaide St, Gol Gol at 8:30 am. 
  • Field day 2 — Euston - Kyalite, Friday 18 June. Meet at Benanee fire shed at 8:30 am. 
  • Nigel Wilhelm, South Australian Research and Development Institute, crop rotation specialist and 40 years of research in crop nutrition and soil management. 
  • John Leys, CSIRO, Australian National University and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, formerly of Soil Conservation Service - Buronga.
  • Peter Baird, local agronomist, Grains Research and Development Corporation Grower network representative. 
Discussion topics (not limited to)
  • GRDC local soil erosion project update
  • dry sowing (false starts, weed germination)
  • paddock rotations
  • cropping new country
  • fallow management 
  • deep ripping
  • soil testing
  • groundcover levels 
  • deep ripping 
  • controlled traffic.
RSVP by 14 June

Please RSVP by 14 June to Luke 0419 518 307 or Lunch and refreshments will be provided on both days, while a 4WD vehicle is required. 

This project is supported by Western LLS, through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program. This program is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust. 

Lets MeatUp at the forum in Broken Hill

Red meat producers in Western NSW have a wonderful opportunity to get the latest in red meat Research, Development and Adoption (RD&A) at the upcoming MeatUp Forum which is hosted by MLA.

MeatUp Forums, like the one held in Cobar earlier this year, are purposely designed to be relevant to the needs and interests of the red meat producers in the local region where the forum is being held. Some of the features of the upcoming event include: 
  • improving enterprise profitability through breeding objective understanding, with Geoff Duddy
  • Etiwanda — improving rangeland business productivity and sustainability, with Andrew Mosely
  • MLA's RD&A program, plus a market update, with Michael Crowley
  • producers sharing practical, commercial insights via case study presentations
  • local catering with a red meat flavour and networking drinks to conclude the forum. 
Click here to visit the MLA website for further information and to register, or call 1300 746 466. 

Grazing management field day

Landholders are invited to attend this workshop which will focus on grazing management. The workshop will see a number of discussions around stocking rates and decision making, with local landholders encouraged to participate in conversation and ask questions. 

Where: Tiltagoona Station (located between Tilpa and Ivanhoe)
When: 12 pm - 5 pm, Monday 28 June
  • George Millear (workshop host) - George will provide a background of Tiltagoona Station and the grazing and management of the property. 
  • Dick Richardson (Grazing Naturally) - Dick will present on feed budgeting decisions, stocking rates and grazing management - Grazing Naturally style. 
Please RSVP by 22 June to Claudia on 0448 796 109 or with lunch and afternoon tea provided. This project is supported by Western LLS, through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

Improving tactical decision making — Call for EOIs

We have partnered with Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) to deliver a program that is tailored specifically for the Western region, focusing on practices which improve whole-property performance. 

Profitable Grazing Systems program

Participants in the program will learn from a small group of fellow producers, as well as local and industry advisors, through group discussions and collective thinking. This will challenge your business to establish processes for adjusting your decisions tactically, based on seasonal conditions and animal production targets. 

This group-based approach will provide you with a network for sharing experiences with other producers. 

What is involved?

The program consists of five sessions conducted over 12 months where you will develop your ability to monitor, measure and record pasture, resource condition and livestock condition. This will enhance how well your pastures are 'conditioned' to respond to rainfall or withstand a dry time and how effectively you manage your livestock to meet reproduction targets. 

Activities completed as part of the program are practical and you will be practicing skills to take home and apply in your business. 

Previous program outcomes to date

The program has been delivered to 59 groups of cattle, sheep and goat producers across Australia, working with 20 coaches. 
  • 593 red meat producers engaged
  • producers averaged a 39 per cent increase in profit achieved*
  • producers averaged a return on capital from 1.8 per cent to 2.5 per cent*
  • *based on the results from the pilot where participating producers saw an increased return on capital from an average of 1.8 per cent to 2.5 per cent. 
Submit an EOI today!

We are now taking EOIs for the program in the Packsaddle and Hillston areas, which close on Friday 25 June 2021, with a cost of $400 per business. To register your EOI or find out more, contact Tanisha or Claudia (see contact details at bottom of newsletter). Click here to view producer case studies

Manging the growth of ewe weaners — producer demonstration site

The aim

The aim of this producer demonstration site (PDS) is to demonstrate that differential nutritional management of ewe weaners in a self-replacing flock improves retention rate of replacement ewes leading to an increased net reproductive rate of the ewe flock. 

Sites selected, work underway

Sites have been selected to demonstrate the benefits of increasing weaner nutrition and weight gain during puberty on their subsequent lifetime net reproductive rate (NRR) as ewes. Throughout the project we will be tracking the performance of both the heaviest and lightest ewe weaners, recording key measurements at scanning, lamb marking and weaning. 

A total of 3,749 ewe weaners have been assessed on six core properties, with 1,528 identified as 'lights' with liveweights ranging from 21.5 kg to 51.5 kg, and 659 identified as 'heavies', with liveweights between 45 kg and 85 kg. Based on previous research, it is expected that the lighter groups of ewe weaners will have lower lifetime reproductive performance, when compared to the heavier group. 

Using the results of this demonstration site, we will be able to develop a cost-benefit analysis of differentially feeding future drops of ewe weaners, based on their liveweight at puberty. The results will be communicated to the industry through webinars, field days and case studies. 

Want to get involved?

We are seeking EOIs from producers, ag resellers and other industry professionals to receive regular updates on the outcomes of the project and invitations to webinars and other special events. 
This demonstration site is funded by MLA through their Production Demonstration Site program. 

More good news from the latest roadside surveys

The autumn DustWatch survey of cropping lands in the south of the Western LLS region was completed in mid-April 2021. The survey does not include the rangelands. 

The survey found the autumn groundcover levels were equal to the 2017 and 2018 levels (2020 was not undertaken due to COVID-19 restrictions) with 90 per cent of sites having above 50 per cent groundcover which is the threshold to protect the soil from wind erosion (Figure 1). 

This is an increase from 65 per cent of sites in 2019. Groundcover levels have continued a linear increase while rainfall decreased. 

Figure 1: Mildura annual rainfall (March-April) and percentage of monitoring sites with greater than 50 per cent groundcover. 

Best management practice of sites recorded the highest score (74 per cent) since the surveys commenced (Figure 2). This is largely driven by producers adopting chemical fallows and maintaining standing stubble, or cultivating, if unavoidable, as close to sowing as possible. 

Figure 2: Best management summer fallow management 

It is important to stay vigilant, avoiding overgrazing stubble and annual pastures by keeping groundcover levels above 50 per cent. Continuing to use chemical methods to control weed germination is also encouraged, reducing erosion risk. Another recommended action is move away from fallow years on light soils prone to wind erosion, to sowing a crop, cereal, break or cover crop depending on your system, increasing groundcover, even in dry seasons. Click here for more information on the DustWatch program. 

Looking at pasture — Wallaby grasses

Wallaby grasses (Austrodanthonia), also known as white top, are native perennial grasses that grow in semi-arid to temperate environments. There are 33 species of Austrodanthonia in Australia. 

These grasses can grow up to 1 metre tall with grey-green and dark green leaves. They can be highly variable in grazing value depending on location and species. 

Wallaby grasses can be identified by their white, fluffy seed heads. Seeds germinate from autumn to spring with the main growth occurring between winter and spring, while they flower from late-spring to summer. These species may remain productive through summer if they receive adequate rainfall. 

Wallaby grass is a valuable pasture species in low rainfall zones. They are cool season grasses which can produce green leaves year round if adequate moisture is available. Wallaby grass is intolerant of high intensity grazing for long periods of time and therefore should be spelled to allow seeding and establishment in spring or summer after good rainfall. Click here for further information.

In case you missed it

Webinar recording — Understanding livestock biosecurity and an introduction to integrity systems 

This webinar was recorded on Wednesday 19 May with Sophie Hemley, Biosecurity Extension Manager with Animal Health Australia, presenting on all things livestock biosecurity and an introduction to understanding integrity systems. 
For further information contact Tanisha on the details below. 

Still time to get involved in the Rangelands Living Skin project 

The Rangelands Living Skin project focuses on regenerating the NSW rangelands to support production now and into the future, and is aiming to increase productivity on up to one million hectares. We are looking for 20 producers to form part of the project observer group, as well as stakeholders and producers who are interested in keeping in touch with the project as it progresses. Find out more about the benefits for producers involved in observer groups and register your interest through the Rangelands Living Skin project EOI form

Until next time...

Thanks for reading this newsletter. We encourage you to save the contact details for Gemma, Tanisha, Claudia, Luke and Max and feel comfortable to contact them if you have any questions about your enterprise from an agricultural perspective. If there are any topics you want covered or questions answered in the next edition of Ag Chat, simply hit reply or contact one of the team.
We welcome your feedback about this newsletter.  Please feel free to pass it on to anyone you think may be interested. 
If you would like to be added to our mailing list, subscribe here.

Western Local Land Services 
Free call: 1300 795 299

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