Manager, Biosecurity and Emergency Services
South East Local Land Services is targeting foxes and wild dogs this autumn as part of a coordinated baiting campaign to significantly reduce these populations. The Feral Fighters 2015 autumn fox and dog campaign, from 16 March to the 31 May, will involve the prescribed use of 1080 poisoned baits.
Land manager participation is critical to the success of the Feral Fighters program and South East Local Land Services is encouraging neighbours and networks of land managers to participate because a group approach achieves better landscape outcomes.
Senior Land Services Officer, Pastures
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils. This campaign aims to promote awareness around healthy soils being an essential foundation for food, fuel, fibre and medicine globally.
Soils are also essential to our ecosystems, playing a key role in the carbon cycle, storing and filtering water, and improving resilience to floods and droughts. Soil is also the largest pool of organic carbon, which is essential for mitigating and adapting to climate change. In an era of water scarcity, soils are fundamental for its appropriate storage and distribution.
FAO estimates that a third of all soils are degraded, due to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinization, soil organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification, pollution and other processes caused by unsustainable land management practices. Unless new approaches are adopted, the global amount of arable and productive land per person will in 2050 be only one-fourth of the level in 1960.
Senior Land Services Officer - Livestock
Senior Land Services Officer - Pastures
On the livestock front, all of a sudden it looks pretty good! Summer pastures are growing and stock prices have improved; but what may the future hold?
The recent Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) outlook report paints an interesting picture for the future. The long term drought across much of Australia has reduced the national herd and lower herd numbers appear likely to be the case for some time. MLA expects sound, but slightly reduced overseas demand to continue (across live and processed markets) and cattle numbers to take 4 years to recover to the 2014 level (which were already low). All the projections assume the worst of the drought sequence is over and average years to occur. If seasons are below average herd recovery will be slower.
Managing pastures this autumn
As the cooler months approach a good question to ask is: “Will pastures continue through winter or is some transition needed?” Having an idea of what species are growing and the content of winter active species that may be in the pasture will guide this. Some improved and native species can grow year round, while others like kikuyu will provide little or no winter growth.
Depending on what pasture species are going to take over from the summer growers, some management or sowing may be needed. This strategy should repay you well provided it can be utilised to grow stock and prices stay buoyant.
Livestock owners in coastal districts are being warned to look out for liver fluke. Part of the life cycle of liver fluke involves a small, freshwater snail. Landholders in coastal areas report that swampy areas on properties that dried out more than a decade ago have been replenished by recent heavy rainfall. Some of these areas now pose a risk to grazing animals from liver fluke. Affected animals produce less milk, grow more slowly or lose condition. Tests on blood or faeces are used to identify liver fluke in stock.
With show season in full swing, cattle exhibitors are testing for pestivirus. Identifying persistently infected pestivirus carriers prevents the unintentional spread of this often costly disease. It comes as a surprise to occasionally find that a show-quality animal is a pestivirus carrier. There is more information on pestivirus in this and the previous edition of the newsletter.
The South East Local Board met at Yass last month to discuss the organisation's service delivery areas of productive agriculture, biosecurity, natural resource management and emergency management.
Now one year into Local Land Services, the South East Local Board is focussed on achieving improved customer service standards, effective governance and decision making based on a strong understanding of local land management issues, and on merging state Local Land Services strategy with the existing south east strategy.
Chair David Mitchell said the Board is also finalising the structure for the establishment of Community Advisory Groups.
Exhibiting animals at shows is steeped in tradition. However, there are some disease risks associated with placing animals from various properties together in confined spaces. Better biosecurity measures increases confidence, and encourages more producers to exhibit their livestock to shows.
Following are some tips for show exhibitors and show society organisers:
Request an animal health certificate for livestock entering the showgrounds, including Property Identification Code (PIC) of the home property
House livestock according to their animal health status and matching market assurance program scores
House livestock in their designated stalls throughout their stay
Clean the stall base and fill with new bedding on arrival
Supply animals with their own water in the stall and avoid communal water troughs
Bring your own feed and keep feed off the ground
Do not share grooming or handling equipment
Do not graze livestock in common areas such as the show ring
Ensure faecal matter run-off does not occur between stalls
Immediately remove all faecal matter from show rings and common grounds
Senior Land Services Officer, Pastures
Sowing a new pasture can be fraught with risks leading to a complete failure, or worse, the uncertainty of a partial failure. There are three often quoted critical elements at the point of sowing, they are absolute weed and pest control, adequate soil moisture and accurate seed placement.
In many producers experience the biggest risk is that posed by weeds germinating during or soon after sowing and smothering your sown plants. Each property and situation will have different weeds to contend with, but there are a number of regulars which cause issues in the south east.
Some of those regular culprits are Silver Grass (vulpia), Barley Grass and Sheep Sorrel. All these species and more have the ability to germinate early or late in the season, establish with very high vigor rates; and dominate the ground cover effectively choking any desirable seedlings to death.
Most of our perennial grass species are relatively slow germinating and even slower to fully establish, especially when compared to the vigorous seedlings of weeds. Ryegrass is an exception to this rule as it has high seedling vigor.
Senior Land Services Officer – Livestock
Poor reproduction efficiency in your flock can be due to ‘wastage’ at one or more stages of the reproduction cycle. A low weaning percentage could be due to a big hit at a particular point (e.g. low conception rate or bad weather during peak lambing) or it could be a case of small losses at a number of points, which adds up to a disappointing end result.
For those producers that haven’t been happy with the reproduction performance of their flock over the years, 2015 presents a great opportunity to do some investigating and pinpoint where things might be falling over.
Why this year? The main reason is that ewes across the region (including maidens) are generally in good condition on the back of an excellent season and significant summer rainfall. We know that nutrition plays a key role at all stages of the reproduction cycle, starting at joining. Research from the Lifetime wool project backs this up, showing a clear relationship between fat score at joining and conception rate. This is a result of higher ovulation rates and in turn, more twin-bearing ewes.
Pestivirus infection in cattle is a complex, potentially expensive disease. Both trials and modeling indicate that despite the often hidden nature of the infection, it appears that doing nothing is a more costly option than doing something to manage the disease. Biosecurity (keeping the disease out), vaccination, risk management and monitoring are all valuable ways of managing this disease. Using a combination of these management strategies may be more cost effective and effective than vaccination alone.
As mentioned last month, published surveys of pestivirus prevalence show that about 80-90% of herds have had some level of exposure, and many of these are endemically infected, meaning the virus is still present on the farm. These herds show a large variation in the levels of exposure within the herd. Pregnancy testing and weaning are good times to either test to get an idea of your herd’s exposure to pestivirus, or to vaccinate. The District Vet or a private vet, can get an idea of your exposure by collecting 6-8 blood samples from your adult cow herd. More information is gained by also testing your replacement heifers/weaners as they may have a different level of exposure.
Bruce Watt, District Vet for the central tablelands conducted a survey of 17 mobs of heifers in 2006 and found that 76% of the mobs had evidence of exposure to pestivirus. However, when he looked at the level of exposure within the mobs he showed that in most herds the heifers were still susceptible to infection. Less than 1 in 5 of the mobs had the desired >80% exposure in the heifers. A larger study was published in the Australian Vet Journal in 2014. It showed that relying on natural exposure of heifers was an inefficient way to provide immunity. In two thirds of mobs using natural exposure less than half the heifers were immune 2 months before mating.
While we might comment on the weather, or the price of beef, we don’t generally strike up a conversation about biodiversity - but it has a big influence on the health of our landscape, our communities and our economy.
Biodiversity is the full range of all living things and their pattern in space. It goes way beyond gum trees and kookaburras including things such as bacteria - considered one of the largest groups contributing to species diversity on the planet.
Scientists have identified that even the differences from one individual organism to the next, in terms of their genetics, is an important and useful aspect of biodiversity. Interestingly, a large majority of the biodiversity on Earth is found under our feet - within the soil. The number of organisms under a single footprint has been estimated at somewhere between one billion and one hundred trillion.
Senior Land Services Officer - Landholders
Twelve Narooma residents participated in a bushcare basics workshop conducted by South East Local Land Services on 14 February, to learn about identifying local native plants and weeds and how to control weeds.
The workshop provided some useful tips on plant identification and involved a walk through the Bill Smyth bushland reserve to locate native and weed species growing there.
The group found weedy vines that are particularly vigorous around the Narooma area including moth vine, cape ivy, English ivy and Madeira vine. Some similar looking native vines like Stephania and native grape were also identified.
Nineteen participants gathered at Berry Sport and Recreation Centre for the residential component of the Shoalhaven/Illawarra Local Food Leaders cohort of the South East Local Leaders program. Participants included farmers, educators, co-ops, distributors, support workers and volunteers from the local food sector.
Local South Coast dairy farmer and Coop director Paul Timbs said that the South East Local Leaders program is a great program for people across a range of leadership roles or people looking to move into a leadership role. The content of the course gets everyone involved through networking and team participation.
The local food leaders program included a combination of information and experience based learning with participants completing a personality profile that would help them frame personal leadership style learning through the remainder of the program.
Cooma - 24 March
The river paddock can be one of the most productive areas of your farm for grazing, hay or cropping. How these areas are managed can help ensure that you get the most out of your river paddock for production, biodiversity and water quality.
Braidwood - 18 March This is a one-day introductory course for primary producers wanting to improve their financial literacy skills. It ideal for new and established land managers who are keen to take some of the mystery out of farm business management.
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.