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South East Circular

Edition 14, November 2015

Alternative fertilizers – an independent assessment

Fiona Leech
Senior Land Services Officer, Yass
Some 140 landholders recently descended on the Bookham Hall to hear the latest research on the use of alternative fertilizers for pasture and livestock production. The seminar saw the showcasing of six years of trial results from the well-respected alternative fertilizer field research project at Binalong and Bookham.
The field research project was initiated by producers within the Binalong Landcare group and has been a collaboration between Binalong Landcare, NSW DPI and South East Local Land Services. With the fluctuating cost of conventional fertilizers and concerns around environmental and long-term sustainability, producers were interested in comparing the performance of alternative fertilizers.

Producers were particularly interested in knowing whether alternative fertilizers could in fact boost production in a cost effective way. Many alternative fertilizer products are marketed using anecdotal claims around their effectiveness so this project set out to validate product performance using a scientific approach. All products trialled were compared to both a nil control and single superphosphate treatment.
'Glenroy' trial site, Binalong, 8 October 2015. Photo:James Landrigan
One of the key drivers of pasture growth from the fertilizers trialled is phosphorus. This response is in line with other pasture field research trials. The results have highlighted that the relative cost effectiveness of the products trialled have largely been determined by the plant availability of the phosphorus in each product as well as their pattern/frequency of application.

Products containing more soluble forms of phosphorus allows plants to access the phosphorus very quickly in contrast to those products containing less soluble forms of phosphorus which release phosphorus for plant growth at a much slower rate. The fertilizer products consisting predominantly of slow release forms of phosphorus became more cost effective in the latter years of the study while products consisting of predominantly more soluble phosphorus were more cost effective in the year of application.
The seminar also featured presentations from Phil Graham (NSW DPI), Dr Alan Richardson (CSIRO) and Dr Lewis Kahn (agricultural consultant).
Phil Graham provided an indication as to the differences in livestock production that may be realized using the products trialled based on pasture quantity and quality data that has been collected over the past six years at the Binalong and Bookham sites.
Dr Alan Richardson succinctly presented the key role phosphorus plays in pasture grazing systems and the importance of soil microbiology in mediating nutrient cycling. Dr Richardson stressed that carbon input is a key driver of soil microbial function along with sufficient nutrients, soil moisture and temperature.He also said that soil microbial populations are diverse, multifunctional and highly resilient to changes occurring in the soil.
Dr Lewis Kahn presented a summary of an analysis of five alternative fertilizer/soil treatments field research projects conducted across NSW Australia, one of which was the alternative fertilizer project near Binalong and Bookham. Interestingly, key messages coming from all research projects despite differences in pastures and rainfall patterns are very consistent. It was found in phosphorus deficient soil, products containing significant amounts of phosphorus (and which generally also provided some sulphur) were most effective in lifting pasture productivity and also proved to be the most cost effective. Dr Kahn also reported products that were most cost effective were those that addressed the primary nutrient deficiency.
The presentations gave producers a tight summary of the importance of phosphorus in productive grazing systems as well as a foundation for determining the suitability of a range of alternative fertilizer/soil treatments for their own situation.
Ross Watson (Ross Watson Agriculture P/L), a leading independent pasture agronomist, has undertaken many years of pasture fertilizer research and trials publicly thanked those involved in both the work in the alternative fertilizer arena as well as the detailed phosphorus cycling pasture/grazing research. Mr Watson indicated both areas of work have been outstanding and the seminar was one of the best days he has attended on this topic.

All five presentations were filmed and have been posted to the South East Local Land Services YouTube channel: Alternative fertilizer trial videos

Copies of handouts provided at the seminar may also be obtained by contacting Fiona Leech 0427 201 805 or emailing
Financial support was received from the Australian Government 25th Anniversary Landcare Grants Program, Meat and Livestock Australia, Sibelco and Sheep Connect NSW in order to conduct the seminar.
Where to next

In light of this discussion on the importance of phosphorus in our grazing systems, I would like to remind producers that mid to late spring is an ideal time to soil test in order to determine soil phosphorus as well as other key nutrient levels. Sampling in spring allows you time to make a decision regarding fertilizer use for the following autumn application. However a reminder that correct soil sampling technique is critical in order to obtain a representative sample that will provide a meaningful test result. Please seek advice from your South East Local Land Services office if you require clarification around appropriate soil sampling technique.
Five Easy Steps Fertilizer Workshop

The next step is then, what do the numbers mean and how much fertilizer (if any) do I need to apply? ‘Five Easy Steps’ is a highly practical fertilizer decision making workshop consisting of two half day sessions that helps producers work through this process. South East Local Land Services will be running a series of these workshops across the region in early 2016. If you are interested in participating in one of these courses please contact me on 0427201805 or email:

Calling all weeds on the Monaro

Luke Pope
Senior Land Services Officer - Partnerships
South East Local Land Services was proud to be a sponsor of the highly successful recent Weeds Conference held in Cooma 13-15th October. Cooma hosted the 18th Biennial NSW Weeds Conference which saw over 250 weed professionals visit from around Australia, but predominantly NSW. The conference is a chance for council weeds staff, researchers, landholders and government representatives to exchange what’s new to weeds.

Amongst the many highlights was a selection of bus tours across the Monaro. On one of these bus tours, South East Local Land Services showcased the work occurring along the Snowy River. Projects have been delivering rehabilitation outcomes for over a decade. The current work through the Snowy River Weaving the Web Biodiversity Project is re-establishing native communities along the river banks and out into the adjacent grazing areas.

The Weeds Conference also heard about success stories including the excellent containment work occurring in the Kosciusko National Park on new infestations of Hawkweed and Ox-Eye Daisy. Early detection, working with volunteers and even training weed detection dogs are all working towards eradication of these weeds.

Whilst the Weeds Conference is not aimed specifically at landholders, ask your local Weeds Officer what they learnt by attending. There are lots of new, novel and refined ideas the weeds community are working on make weed management for achievable for everyone.

New weed committees to improve weed management 

Local Land Services will establish 11 Regional Weed Committees in a bid to build on past work and enhance the effectiveness of weed management across NSW. 

The regional committees will replace the 14 existing Weed Advisory Committees and are in response to the Natural Resource Commission’s Weeds Review. 

The change is largely designed to streamline the complex processes currently in place and to reduce duplications in planning, delivery and funding arrangements. 

The new regional committees will include local control authorities, public and private landholders and community members. 

Further information:

Livestock and pasture outlook

Matthew Lieschke
Senior Land Services Officer - Livestock
One of the things that this spring has confirmed is the theory that a full soil moisture profile at the end of winter guarantees around 4-6 weeks of pasture growth. For many parts of the region this is exactly the scenario that played out – a full moisture profile at the end of August followed by well below average rainfall from early September through until mid-October.

In fact, records show total rainfall in this critical 6 week period was at record lows - around the 5th percentile mark and below for many locations across the Tablelands. Lack of rainfall since the end of August has significantly reduced pasture growth. Looking ahead, some regions are still sitting in a reasonably comfortable position, while other areas, particularly towards the west, the situation heading into summer is looking a bit tighter.

One of the upsides to growing less pasture in spring is that pastures tend to be of better quality, with stock performing better than expected. This was evident in the late spring/ early summer period of 2013. The downside of course is that we head into summer with less standing dry feed, which means there is a greater chance that supplementary feed will be required sooner.


Most flocks are at the point of weaning lambs.

Before weaning, it’s important that you take the chance to train lambs to eat grain (a shotgun mix of grain is best) while they are still on the ewe. It only takes 4-6 feeds of grain over a two week period to train lambs for life. Feed out a small amount of grain (i.e. 5 kg/100 ewes) in a long trail so that all sheep have access.

Weaning will obviously take the pressure off ewes. Weaning is the best time to check ewe condition so you can plan ahead for joining. Ewes that are in good condition (e.g. fat score 2.5 and above) only need enough feed to maintain condition. Lighter ewes should be allocated to better paddocks with the aim of increasing body condition.

Weaners should be allocated to your best pasture as they have higher nutritional requirements than adult sheep. Supplementary feeding will be required once pastures mature and hay off as dry pastures do not contain adequate energy and protein for weaners. See the
November 2014 article for further information regarding weaner management.


Breeding herds that are in good body condition will have a good buffer going forward if conditions remain dry. Remember to monitor cow condition and wean calves if body condition starts to fall below fat score 2.5. The main question you need to ask is ‘based on current cow condition, will I be able to get cows back up to fat score 3 in time for calving next year?’. It might sound strange to be thinking this far ahead, but management decisions in the next 3-4 months will have a large impact on conception rates when the bulls go out next year. Cows that need to improve by half a score or more will need to put on 40 plus kilograms, so if a cow is only just improving in weight, say 0.3kg/head/day then that is 130 days for that cow to reach that fat score target.

Download the DPI factsheet: 

Visual and manual assessment of fatness in cattle

When pregnancy testing cows, foetal aging can be used to identify early and late calvers. If conditions remain dry you can sell the late calvers rather than just focusing on culling age groups. Keeping a highly fertile, productive eight-year-old cow makes more sense than a four-year-old later calver who is more likely to drop out of the system. Early calvers (i.e. those that join up in the first two cycles) will have the best chance of getting back into calf.

Save money with the new Drought Feed Calculator App

The hardest thing with purchasing feed is deciding when to buy feed and how much to get. The recently released Drought Feed Calculator App is a great tool to help you work out:

i.Which feed is the most cost-effective?

The calculator lets you directly compare up to three different feeds on an energy (cents/megajoule) or protein ($/kg of protein) basis. Once you’ve chosen your feeds and entered in a price ($/tonne delivered on farm), you can then see which feed is the most cost effective. Remember, with adult stock, energy is the most important nutrient. Also note that the program has default values for dry matter, energy and protein. These can be changed to your own figures if you have them available.

ii.How much feed do I need?

The Drought Feed Calculator can also help you to quickly calculate how much feed you need to buy and the associated cost. Just go the ‘Livestock’ tab and enter the relevant information, including the type and class of stock, liveweight, feed option, feeding period and number of head. The calculator will then display a range of information, including daily feeding rates and cost as well as the total amount of feed required for the feeding period.

Further information: 
Drought Feed Calculator App

Local disease watch

Bill Johnson
District Veterinarian
District veterinarians investigated a range of diseases on farms during the month. Spring pastures encouraged lameness and scouring in sheep and goats. Calf deaths were associated with pestivirus and infectious diarrhoea. Anaemia and deaths occurred in coastal cattle (caused by Theileria) and tablelands lambs (caused by Mycoplasma). A bacterial infection killed free-range chooks, and brucellosis was diagnosed in half the rams in one flock. Hendra virus was ruled out when several horses died on one property. Bats which scratched people and animals tested negative for lyssavirus infection.
Lameness in sheep and goats

Warmth, moisture and dense pasture combine to create the ideal conditions for lameness in sheep and goats. Bacteria and other organisms thrive on the softened skin between the claws. Some bacteria are able to separate the hoof from the foot (virulent footrot) while others are restricted to a smelly, slimy infection mainly between the claws (benign footrot). Sheep and goats running on dense clover pastures concerned most producers, as even benign footrot (also known as foot scald) causes a large proportion of the mob to be noticeably lame. Ask your district vet to inspect any lame sheep or goats.

Pestivirus infection causes abortions and weak calves

Articles in previous editions of this newsletter describe the diagnosis and control of Pestivirus infection in cattle. A major report by Meat and Livestock Australia recently rated Pestivirus the most significant disease affecting cattle production in southern Australia. While the infection is also associated with respiratory disease affecting cattle entering feedlots, the most severe consequences occur in breeding herds.
A recent investigation into a large number of abortions and new-born calf deaths in one district herd showed pestivirus infection was most likely introduced with purchased cattle. Ensure cows and heifers have immunity prior to pregnancy, either through managed exposure and testing, or more reliably through vaccination.

Scouring in sheep

Worms (black scour and brown stomach worms), coccidiosis and bacterial infections have all been diagnosed in scouring sheep. Pastures heavily contaminated with worm eggs during autumn and winter rapidly reinfected recently drenched sheep. A worm egg count may not give the full story, with sheep profusely scouring before worm egg counts have time to rise. An autopsy may be needed to sort out the cause.

Diarrhoea kills calves

Investigations into the deaths of calves showed some to be the result of neonatal diarrhoea. This complex disorder leads to rapid dehydration and weakness of young calves, which often die unless treated with fluids. A virus, a bacterium and a protozoon often gang up to cause this disease. It is seen more commonly in calves on heifers, probably because of inadequate colostrum immediately after birth. Vaccines are available for some infections, but you should discuss their use with your district vet.

The lowdown on bloat

Helen Schaeffer
District Veterinarian
With all the lovely green grass that's around at the moment, you might have heard your neighbours talking about 'bloat'; you may have had problems in your own stock.
What is 'bloat'?

Bloat occurs when gas accumulates in the rumen, causing distension. This distension can cause abdominal discomfort, and if allowed to progress can impair breathing and blood flow to vital organs, ultimately leading to death.

There are two main types of bloat: frothy bloat (caused by formation of foam within the rumen which prevents release of gas via belching), and gas bloat (usually associated with obstruction of the oesophagus, e.g. due to a stricture or foreign body). With all of the lush green pasture present on many properties at the moment, the one which we are most concerned about is frothy bloat.
Which pastures pose the greatest risk?

'Highest risk' pastures in our area include lucerne (Medicago sativa), red clover (Trifolium pretense), and white clover (Trifolium ripens). However, bloat may occur on any lush, rapidly growing pastures including ryegrass and sub-clover. Danger is highest in young, actively growing plants in the pre-bud stage. The risk of bloat decreases as plants bloom and mature.
I want to move my cattle to a new pasture, but I'm worried about them bloating. What can I do to reduce the risk?

There are a number of strategies which can help to reduce the risk of bloat.
  1. Do not turn hungry animals out onto high risk pastures - where possible, pre-fill with coarse hay prior to turning animals out into a 'risky' pasture. This will help to 'dilute' the new lush pasture, and will reduce the risk of stock gorging themselves on lush pasture.
  2. Avoid grazing pastures when they are damp from rain or dew - this can be as simple as waiting until after lunchtime to move stock to a new paddock, which will give dew time to dry. The more dew or water that is present on a pasture, the less saliva a cow uses to chew and break down the food. Saliva contains naturally occurring anti-foaming agents; the less saliva a cow produces as she eats, the higher the risk of bloat!
  3. Talk to your agronomist about 'low risk' pastures - If you have (or are interested in having) improved pasture species, consider discussing your concerns with your agronomist. They may be able to suggest alternative pasture species that carry a lower risk of bloat. An example of such pastures includes Greater Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus uliginosus)
It is also important to recognise that the lush pastures that pose a high bloat risk also carry a higher risk of diseases such as enterotoxaemia ('Pulpy Kidney'). It may therefore also be prudent to administer a booster dose of 5-in-1 (or 7-in-1) to stock prior to grazing these pastures.
I’ve heard about 'bloat blocks' – will that help?

There are a couple of products available at the local ag supply stores that can be used to help reduce the risk of bloat. BUT - it is important to keep in mind that none of these are 100% effective; you will still need to be careful about your grazing management to keep your stock safe. Options available include:

1.Bloat blocks - these generally contain a compound called Teric 12A23B, which helps to break down the foam that traps gas in the rumen. These blocks often contain molasses to increase their palatability. Cattle can be encouraged to use the blocks by placing them close to watering points (troughs, dams etc).

2.Sustained release anti-bloat capsules - these monensin-containing capsules are administered directly into the rumen via the oesophagus, and are effective for 80-100 days. If high risk pastures are present for more than 100 days, a second capsule may need to be administered.

3.Oral drenches - anti-foaming agents can be administered orally. In order to be effective, this must be done twice daily (and so may not be a practical option for many beef farmers!)

4.Water trough treatments - antifoaming agents (usually Teric 12A23B or alkyl-based detergents) can be mixed into water troughs. These treatments generally have poor palatability, so if you choose this option you will need to restrict access to alternative water sources.

5.Feed additives and pasture sprays - anti-foaming agents such as paraffin oil or mineral oil can be applied directly to hay or pastures. Again, these treatments generally have palatability issues, and need to be repeated daily.
Remember – these are aids to bloat control only – they are not a “set and forget” option
I have a cow that I think has bloat... what do I do?

If, despite using the above strategies to reduce the risk of bloat, you do see the odd animal showing signs of bloat - all is not lost! (especially if you regularly monitor your stock and detect cases early).

If you notice early signs of bloat (marked distension of the left hand side of the abdomen), but the animal seems otherwise well, you may be able to get away with administering an oral drench of oil (eg.250-500mls vegetable oil) and monitoring closely.
If the animal worsens and begins to show signs of distress (laboured or shallow breathing, distension of the right hand side of the abdomen, or severe abdominal discomfort), it may be time to enlist the help of your local vet! As an absolute last resort, after seeking advice from a qualified vet, puncturing the abdominal wall and rumen with a trochar to allow escape of gas may help to temporarily relieve the animal's discomfort until a vet can attend.
So there you have it; the low-down on bloat. For further information contact your district vet or refer to the DPI fact sheet below.

Further information: 

New district vet at Yass 

Fiona Kelk is well-known for her work with a local veterinary practice. She has degrees in Agriculture and Veterinary Science and experience working with livestock producers at Dubbo, Forbes and Yass. Her phone number is 61187700.

Consultation period on travelling stock reserves extended 

Local Land Services has extended the consultation process on the draft State NSW Travelling Stock Reserve (TSR) Planning Framework until 4 December 2015. 

The one-month extension has been designed to allow time for the wide range of interest groups and TSR users to have a chance to comment on the framework. 

The statewide framework will allow Local Land Services to develop a regional management plan for its TSRs, taking into consideration what matters to the community. 

This consultation process is an important opportunity to return decision making to the local community and to help strengthen our local environments. 

The Draft NSW Travelling Stock Reserves State Planning Framework can be downloaded from the Local Land Services website. Comments by email are welcome until 5pm on Friday 4 December to

War on worms gathers support

The War on Worms is building momentum, with strong attendances at the travelling roadshow as it moved through Bega, Milton and Berry. Land managers were keen to take advantage of the opportunity to learn the latest about combating worms in their livestock, watch demonstrations 
on foot health, trimming, drenching and injection techniques.

The series of events organised by South East Local Land Services also attracted strong media interest, with a full-page article in the Bega District News. For further information contact Helen Schaeffer: 02 6491 7821 or

Wingecarribee Schools Environment Day

More than 600 primary school students from across the Southern Highlands enjoyed the 10th Wingecarribee Schools Environment Day, held on 13 October.
19 schools took part in the event, supported by South East Local Land Services.
The students enjoyed a range of activities including learning about local Aboriginal culture, protecting native fauna and flora, catchment management and local food production.
Photo: Anthony Stimson from Aust Wildlife Displays

NRC pest animal
management review

The Natural Resources Commission is reviewing the management of pest animals in NSW across all land tenures and has released an issues paper that identifies priority issues and opportunities:

Customer survey calls
starting soon

How are we going? What can we do better? These are the questions we want our customers to answer this spring.
In a bid to understand how we are performing and what our customers think we could do better, we will be surveying 2300 randomly-selected land managers across NSW this October and November. An independent company will be conducting phone interviews to find out how well we are delivering our services.
This is your chance to help guide improvements and changes to how we deliver our services, in keeping with our strategic direction. The survey will take about 10 to 15 minutes.  Even if you don’t receive a call to take part in the survey, you can provide your input:

South East Wild Dog Management Strategy

This paper provides recommendations on this issue and others with a focus on delivering an effective and sustainable long term wild dog management strategy in the South East Local Land Services region: Wild Dog Strategy

South East Local Strategic Plan 

The draft South East Local Strategic Plan is now on public exhibition.You can read the plan and provide your feedback by visiting:

DPI water established

DPI Water replaces the NSW Office of Water, with a focus on water planning and policy in urban and rural areas. 

Further information:
DPI Water website


Best Practice in Dairy and Oyster Industries - Greenwell Pt - 13 Nov
This event aims to highlight examples of best-practice in both sectors, and encourages communication between two neighbouring industries.

Who's Living On My Land - Wingecarribee - 14 Nov
Join our FREE workshop to learn about who's living on my land, an innovative citizens science wildlife survey for landholders whilst equipping yourself with the latest knowledge and tools on how to control pest species.

Soil assessment workshop (day two) - Bredbo - 14 Nov
Learn how to interpret a comprehensive soil test and identify any soil condition restraints that may have an impact on your farm's productivity. A recent soil test of areas of your property is useful for this workshop.

Soil assessment workshop (day two) - Bungendore -15 Nov
Learn how to interpret a comprehensive soil test and identify any soil condition restraints that may have an impact on your farm's productivity. A recent soil test of areas of your property is useful for this workshop.

Paddock plants - Berry - 16 Nov 2015
Paddock Plants is a paddock walk style workshop that will help you recognise pasture plants to better understand their management implications and production potential, biodiversity and landscape factors.

New Small Farm Walk 'n Talk  - ACT region - 21 Nov
Come along to Susan and Michael's property in Rossi to learn about the things to consider when starting out managing a property, whether you're planning to buy, just bought or thinking about how to manage your block. 

Whole Property Planning - Moruya - 25 Nov 2015
Whole Property Planning gets landholders to consider important factors such as soil management, land degradation control, water resources, pasture management, climate and drought management, livestock management, property infrastructure and nature conservation. 

Seasonal Update: Illawarra/Shoalhaven - Bomaderry - 3 Dec
Producers, land owners and managers join us for a FREE information session about seasonal issues and opportunities as we head from Spring to Summer and into Autumn. 

Low Cost Erosion Control Workshop - Berriedale - 5 Dec
Combining theory and practical, the workshop will provide an understanding of how to use low-cost solutions to stop active erosion, kick-start natural repair processes in gullies and begin the re-hydration of the surrounding landscape.

Managing native vegetation
on rural properties

Tuesday 24 November, 2015
Dougherty Community Centre, Victor Street, Chatswood

Do you live in Sydney but also have a property in the country? Want to know more what you can and can’t do with native vegetation on your rural property?

Greater Sydney Local Land Services is running a free workshop on managing native vegetation on rural properties for absentee rural landholders living in Sydney.
Further information: Managing-native-vegetation-on-rural-properties


South East Circular is a monthly email newsletter containing information about our services, biosecurity alerts, technical articles and notices of upcoming events, training and funding opportunities. It also celebrates the innovations and achievements of the wide variety of land management partnerships, projects and programs across our region.
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Local Land Services South East
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