ALP slams bushfire buyback exclusions

Jacinta Allan.THE state government’s bushfire land buyback scheme has been criticised for being ”too narrow” because it does not apply to some high-fire-risk areas such as Cockatoo and the Otways that were not hit by bushfires in 2009.
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More than 500 properties destroyed by the 2009 fires are expected to be eligible for the voluntary scheme, for which the government has made available $50 million.

But Labor frontbencher Jacinta Allan slammed the program, saying it exposed as ”a sham” the government’s commitment to implement all 67 recommendations from the Bushfires Royal Commission.

”This Baillieu government scheme is for people affected by the 2009 bushfires only,” she said. ”It has no regard for people who live in high-fire-risk areas in other parts of Victoria and the [ commission] recommendation was to implement this policy in high-fire-risk areas.”

The buyback plan excludes high-fire-risk areas such as Cockatoo, Mount Macedon, and the Otways, devastated in previous bushfires, she said.

Ms Allan said the scheme did not give any detail on what would happen to land acquired under the buyback. ”Who will manage it to keep the fire risk down? If DSE [Department of Sustainability and Environment] is to be responsible, what additional resources will they be given and when?”

Recommendation 46 of the Bushfires Royal Commission final report urged the state to ”implement a retreat and resettlement strategy for existing developments in areas of unacceptably high bushfire risk, including a scheme for non-compulsory acquisition by the state of land in these areas”.

In a discussion of ”high-risk areas” attached to the recommendation, the commission said the government should consider a range of factors including ”giving priority to acquiring land that is in an area of unacceptably high bushfire risk and on which dwellings were damaged or destroyed by the 2009 bushfires”.

When asked yesterday why the buyback did not apply to high-fire-risk areas that did not burn in 2009, Bushfire Response Minister Peter Ryan said: ”When you have regard to the provisions of recommendation 46, this scheme is appropriate.”

Mr Ryan said the rules of the buyback were ”not set in stone” and the $50 million would be increased if needed. He also denied the buyback rules were too stringent, adding that people whose houses were destroyed in 2009 and had since built in a different location could still qualify for the buyback on their burnt property.

Mr Ryan said if acquired land was left vacant it would have a ”minimal” impact on country communities. Acquired land left in public hands would have to be maintained by the DSE to an ”appropriate standard” to minimise bushfire risk, he said.

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More carbon support for dairy farmers: Fonterra

JOHN Doumani, managing director of Fonterra Australia New Zealand says that the unique electricity demands of dairy farmers need to be understood when it comes to carbon pricing and compensation.
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Speaking as the nation faces the introduction of a carbon tax and several related impacts on business, Mr Doumani said that his company is advocating for greater assistance for farmers to help them transition to low carbon technologies.

“The reality is that dairy farmers engage in energy intensive processing, so they should be eligible for funding to help them adapt.

“We have been talking to Government about the special needs of dairy farming and so far, they are very receptive of the message,” he said.

“The biggest likely impact of carbon pricing for dairy farmers will be electricity price increases. Electricity is a major input cost in dairy farming as energy intensive milk processing starts on the farm.

“We expect the Government’s carbon pricing will have a direct impact of about $3,000 per dairy farm per year on average in terms of increased electricity costs. Predicting this, we want to help our farmers identify ways to reduce electricity use on-farm today, in preparation for a carbon-priced tomorrow.”

Mr Doumani said that he and Fonterra as a company accept that a low carbon future is an inevitability – and a challenge that has to be faced.

“But it is also an opportunity to innovate, invest and drive for a more competitive future; with lower costs, improved market access and greater consumer confidence,” he said.

“We have initiated a series of programs to reduce our carbon emissions across our manufacturing operations, and now we are turning our attention to how we can help our farmer suppliers.”

Fonterra said that this week it had launched a guide to provide dairy farmers with practical advice on how to manage the electricity cost increases of carbon pricing.

It covers the key areas of on-farm electricity usage and invites farmers to do a self-assessment of their operations.

Mr Doumani said the guide is just the first piece in an overall program to help Fonterra’s dairy farmer suppliers in Australia prepare for a new low carbon economy.

“We have been engaging with our farmer suppliers here in Australia in conversations around sustainability. What they tell us is that they want to operate a sustainable business and they want to reduce their carbon emissions, especially in light of the additional costs that will be associated with the carbon pricing, but that they don’t know how to do it or fund it.

“What they want is independent advice from someone who really understands dairying to advise them on what technologies to employ. Farmers are telling us that they are wary of the “snake oil salesmen” knocking on their doors offering a whole range of dubious solutions. They are concerned about unproven technologies and capital costs necessary to implement change,” he said.

The guide includes a calculator to help farmers consider their likely electricity bill increases and a self-assessment tool so they can understand how their operation rates against best practice electricity usage.

In addition, practical energy saving advice is provided across seven key areas:

Hot water heating Milk cooling Vacuum pumps Water and effluent pumps Lighting Energy sourcing Cleaning systems Fonterra is also running information sessions for farmers and providing expertise to assist with on-farm assessments.

“We have listened to our farmers’ concerns and now we want to help them make informed decisions for their businesses,” concluded Mr Doumani.

Copies of the Fonterra guide; “What does a carbon price mean for you?” are available by calling the Fonterra Supplier Administration Centre on 1800 266 674.

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Resilient Merinos one step closer

Sheep CRC post-graduate student Gus Rose.BREEDING Merino sheep that can withstand harsh summers across southern Australia without losing weight is a step closer to reality.
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Such sheep could potentially reduce feed costs and the risks of running livestock in areas of high seasonal variability and boost ewe reproductive performance and lamb production.

Sheep Cooperative Research Centre (Sheep CRC) post-graduate student Gus Rose has found that Merino ewes can be bred to lose less weight during summer when there is poor feed and gain more weight during the spring flush.

“This is a step towards breeding sheep that are better adapted to Australian pasture conditions and that will be more tolerant of climate variations in the longer term,” he said.

Mr Rose’s four-year PhD project is investigating the genetic and economic value of sheep resilience to liveweight loss in summer and autumn. He is being supervised by a team of Sheep CRC researchers in Perth, WA, and Armidale, NSW.

The Sheep CRC is a collaboration of industry, government and the commercial sector and aims to increase the productivity and profitability of the industry via new technologies for adoption by both the meat and wool supply chains. It is supporting 31 doctorate and masters students as part of its postgraduate education and research program.

Mr Rose said the problem of sheep weight loss during summer affected most livestock enterprises in Mediterranean environments in Australia and overseas.

He said reducing weight loss without incurring high feed costs, especially for breeding ewes, would be a major plus for livestock producers right around the globe.

“It would also reduce the risks and costs of maintaining sheep in good condition during summer in more marginal areas with inconsistent rainfall,” he said.

“There may also be potential to run more sheep than normal in these areas and increase returns.”

Mr Rose is also working in collaboration with the Netherlands-based Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre at Wageningen University, where researchers are assessing the genetic robustness and fitness of cows.

“The Dutch have developed a good scientific knowledge about animal adaptation and it is a good fit for my research,” he said.

Mr Rose analysed five years of data from a sheep resource flock in Katanning, WA, to discover the heritability of variations in Merino weight loss and gain.

His findings were recently presented to the annual European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) convention, where he won the prestigious prize for best scientific poster in the genetics category from a field of 100 participants.

This convention targets young scientists from across the global animal science sector and his award earned him the right to chair a session at next year’s event.

Stage two of Mr Rose’s PhD project will investigate the genetic and economic links between sheep resilience to live weight changes and other important production traits, such as wool weight and reproductive performance.

He said this process would include surveying farmers across Australia to identify the main profit-driving traits for Merino enterprises in a wide range of geographic environments.

“Once we know that sheep can be genetically robust and resistant to summer weight loss during times of low feed availability, then we can start to work out the best breeding objectives to target other economically important traits in these flocks,” he said.

Mr Rose said including an economic analysis in his research was vital because it would allow farmers to scenario-plan their most profitable options.

“If we can identify the more resilient sheep to weight loss and gain, we need to know the potential advantages and trade-offs with other breeding traits and what impact these will have on farm business bottom lines,” he said.

“For example, if labour costs are included, resilience to summer weight loss might be highly valuable to farmers because it has potential to reduce labour requirements and potentially free-up more time for other enterprises, such as cropping. This allows the whole farm to operate more efficiently.”

Mr Rose said he hoped his research would help sheep breeders breed animals that better coped with the environment, allowing them to concentrate on other production traits to optimise profits.

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$2m for Bendigo Showgrounds upgrade

THE 2012 Bendigo Sheep Show will be one of the big winners with the Bendigo Showgrounds set to receive a major upgrade by way of a new pavilion with the Coalition Government honouring a key election commitment.
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Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan and Member for Northern Victoria Region Damian Drum today announced $2 million of Victorian Coalition Government support for the Bendigo Showgrounds redevelopment.

“The Coalition Government is pleased to help fund Stage 2 of the Bendigo Exhibition Centre project, made possible through the Coalition Government’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund,” Mr Ryan said.

“Showgrounds play a vital role in our regional and rural communities and this important project will ensure Bendigo can continue attracting bigger and better agricultural events.”

Mr Ryan said the Bendigo Agricultural Show Society had a great history of accomplishment dating back to 1859 and the Coalition was pleased to help secure the show’s future.

“The Bendigo Exhibition Centre Stage 2 project is part of the Bendigo Showground Masterplan, which is a leading example of how show societies can forecast and plan for regional events of the future,” Mr Ryan said.

Mr Ryan said the $3.1 million Stage 2 project included a $300,000 contribution from the Bendigo Show Society, $600,000 from the Australian Sheep Breeders Association and $250,000 from City of Greater Bendigo.

“The Stage 2 project has been revised after the Bendigo Show Society was unsuccessful in its bid to attract $2.5 million of Federal Government funding,” Mr Ryan said.

The project involves the construction of a 6,150 square metre pavilion to be used for the sheep show and indoor equestrian events. The Pavilion includes foyer and meeting space and general amenities to ensure flexible use for show and exhibition purposes.

Mr Drum said the Coalition Government’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund played a key role in driving growth and prosperity in regional cities and country communities.

“The construction of the new Pavilion is expected to be completed and operational in time for the July 2012 Sheep Show,” Mr Drum said.

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Scalp per minute at first fox collection

FARMERS and hunters in Western Victoria are cashing in on the Victorian Coalition Government’s fox and wild dog bounty scheme, with collection centres opening across the region this week.
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Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh said the equivalent of a scalp per minute was collected at Ballarat yesterday with a total of 123 scalps handed in over the two hour collection period.

“Considering October is not the best time to hunt foxes, the bounty is off to a strong start with 82

scalps being handed in at Colac and a further 28 in Geelong today,” Mr Walsh said.

“The bounty, which can also be claimed on wild dogs, is rewarding hunters for their contribution to fox and wild dog control.

“Victorian farmers and hunters will receive $10 for each fox killed and $50 for each wild dog killed.”

In Ballarat for the first collection yesterday, Member for Western Region David O’Brien said feedback from hunters about the bounty had been very positive.

“The $4 million bounty was a key election commitment to help stop foxes and wild dogs from preying on livestock and native animals.

“To receive the bounty, hunters are required to submit an entire fox scalp including both ears, the skin surrounding both eyes and the nose,” Mr O’Brien said.

For the wild dog bounty, eligible applicants will need to submit a skin piece consisting of a single piece of skin and fur running from the snout, incorporating the ears, along the animal’s back and including the tail.

There are 21 collection points across regional Victoria for fox scalps and eight collection centres for wild dogs. They will be open two hours per session once every four weeks, excepting major holiday periods.

Mr O’Brien said other collection centres opening this week include Hamilton and Warrnambool.

For opening times and full details of the terms and conditions for the fox and wild dog bounty, go

to 梧桐夜网dpi.vic.gov419论坛/bounty or contact the DPI Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

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Interstate interest at Ouyen

NSW producer Matt Jackson, Rowena Station (pictured far right with sons Sam, 8, Archie, 7, and wife Sara) said they traveled all the way from Broken Hill to Ouyen on Thursday last week to chase strong prices received at the market.OUYEN’s reputation as a key market for the supply of early lambs is being further enhanced by increased numbers being sourced by interstate vendors.
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BR&C Ouyen agent Cameron McKay said numbers would normally start to drop this time of year in the lead-up to harvest.

“However Ouyen yard numbers seem to be maintaining because of the interstate attraction,” he said.

“We now have a bigger supply coming in from SA and NSW, which has helped to keep the yarding larger, when normally it would be dropping off.

“The quality is also similar to recent weeks. The recent rain has helped maintain condition instead of going backwards.”

On Thursday last week, nearly 15,000 head was yarded, in comparison to 14,000 the previous sale and 11,000 in the corresponding week a year ago.

Sucker lambs sold to $154, while this time last year, suckers made $130.

Full report in this week’s Stock and Land, Thursday, October 20 edition

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Beef carcase champ stands out at Geelong

Grand champion carcase, medium yearling class carcase winner and reverse hoof champion, Gill Elvers, Mount MoriacA LIMOUSIN Angus-cross, which was pushing almost the absolute maximum on the percentile range, has clinched the grand champion’s ribbon in the 26th Royal Geelong Show beef carcase competition judged at the MC Herd Abattoirs last week.
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Competing against 56 other entries and 31 in its medium, yearling 201 to 250kg carcase class, the 351.5kg live B-muscled steer amassed 90 points from a possible 100 points after weighing 217.2kg hot standard carcase weight to return a 60.8 per cent dressing yield.

Entered by past serial winner, Gill Elwes, Mt Moriac, the judge’s ultimate choice accrued maximum points for P8 fat cover, rib-eye muscle and pH plus near-perfect scores for fat colour and marbling.

The zero-tooth steer was also given the judge’s nod as Reserve champion in the earlier judged hoof competition.

Carcase judge, Jeff Walker, said the difficult growing season especially the poor September weather had its effects on overall presentation quality.

Carcases were darker in colour than would normally be expected which was a feed-related issue he said.

Mr Walker said a revised system of judging was used for the first time to assess the entries.

The new system was the equivalent of a full Ausmeat assessment (excepting for ossification) which meant that carcases scoring 90 points under the new criteria was similar to gaining a point score of 93-94 points under the old judging system.

He said the championship winner with its 90 points score would have performed extremely well in any competition anytime.

The reserve champion carcase was award to WK Richardson family, also of Mt Moriac, which was the judge’s second choice in the medium yearling classes.

Kay Smith, Wurdiboluc, with a pure Limousin steer entry, won the blue ribbon award in the heavy yearling class for carcases weighing 251-250kg while Nick Elwes, Moriac with a Limousin Angus steers was first-placed in the light yearling class for carcase, 160- 200kg.

The live judges’ grand champion award in the hoof competition was won by a Limousin Murray Grey-cross heifer exhibited by Shinae Vredenbregt of Geelong.

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Federal Govt must withdraw from Vic water market: VFF

THE VICTORIAN Farmers Federation has called upon the Federal government to withdraw from the Victorian water market, following the settlement of a deal which the organisation says will place Victoria in excess of its in-catchment commitments under a Basin Plan.
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Andrew Broad, Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) President welcomed the joint announcement from the Federal and State governments to provide $1.2 billion investment into Stage 2 Food bowl Modernisation and on farm projects in return for 302GL of water for the environment.

“Funding for Stage 2 modernisation has been three years in the making. This significant investment into our Northern irrigation region will boost economic development as well as providing benefits to both irrigators and the environment, Mr Broad said.

“Preliminary Basin Plan figures circulating in recent weeks have indicated that the environmental assets of Victorian catchments alone require the return of 640GL of water.

“From the VFF’s calculations, the combined volume of water available for the environment from State based water recovery projects, Commonwealth government buybacks to date and Victorian water saving infrastructure projects places Victoria over the slated 640GL. We are also starting to contribute water to the Southern Basin share reduction.

With the impending release of the Basin Plan, this announcement of significant funding into irrigated agriculture is timely and demonstrates the importance of investing in infrastructure projects to meet the demands of the Basin Plan.

Through this deal, 88GL of Victorian irrigator entitlement which had held back by the Victorian 4% cap will be transferred to the government in addition to 214GL of water savings from the Northern Victorian Irrigation Renewal Project and on farm efficiencies. This clearly shows that there is much which can be done through infrastructure projects to deliver water to the environment, without compromising existing user’s rights.

“Recent comments made in the media by the Australia Conservation Foundation exhibit a failure to comprehend the importance of infrastructure projects in providing dual benefits for irrigators and the environment while minimising the socio-economic impacts on communities which have been seen from Federal water buyback”.

“Right now the Basin Plan numbers are uncertain and there is still a 20 week public consultation period ahead which should shape the final outcome.”

The VFF said it is calling upon the Federal government to suspend buyback of Victorian water entitlement, other than strategic purchase.

“Jumping into further water purchase with so much uncertainty would be simply Mr Broad said.

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Blankets off in near-record warm night

BLANKETS were kicked off last night in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania as temperatures stayed 10 degrees above average, near-record in places.
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In SA, Clare, Snowtown, Nuriootpa and Roseworthy all had their warmest October night in at least 15 years. The temperature stayed above 20 degrees nearly all night.

Adelaide stayed warmer than 22 degrees all night, making it the warmest October night in the city in four years, and second warmest for October in more than a decade.

It was the warmest October night in at least 15 years for Luncheon Hill and King Island, in Tasmania and in Mortlake in western Victoria.

Hobart’s minimum of 16.8, was a five-year high for October, and Melbourne’s 19.7 a three-year high.

Most of these three states will be cooler tonight as a weak front and trough cross the region, but it’s going to be a few degrees above average and also fairly muggy.

Friday night will be more comfortable for sleeping with temperatures nearer average for this time of year. Blankets may be required.

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The ultimate break crop

Matt Curtis.DON’T EXPECT it to be hitting the paddocks commercially any time soon, but Mallee Sustainable Farming (MSFP) have been experimenting with what they call the ‘ultimate break crop’.
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As part of a crop sequencing project MSFP agronomist Michael Moodie said an experiment had been done using a mixture of canola and field peas.

The trial is being done at the Merbein South farm of Matt Curtis (pictured).

He said it would be simple enough to take the dual crop to harvest.

“You’d just have to grade the small canola seed out of the peas, it would be easy to do.”

He said there would also be potential to use the mix as a hay crop.

Mr Moodie said there were good disease management benefits, mixed with the nitrogen boosting capacity of pulse crops

“You’d get the benefits of growing canola, which is the one mainstream crop that doesn’t allow rhizoctonia in the soil, combined with the nitrogen fixing properties of peas.

“Along with this, you’d be able to get on top of your grasses, with two broadleaf crops grown together.”

Mr Curtis said the canola also provided a canopy for the field peas to grow onto.

“Peas can be a bit low on the ground here, so that would be useful.”

Mr Moodie said that as canola was not as competitive as cereal crops such as oats, it would be the best option to get the trellis effect.

However, Mr Moodie said the novel crop mix was unlikely to feature on a commercial scale.

“The yields just aren’t there at the moment, compared with straight peas or straight canola.

“We’re still looking at growing two break crops in a row as a means to get control over problem grass weeds, in particular brome grass.”

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Qld bans pigeon importations from Vic

QUEENSLAND has joined other states in banning the importation from Victoria of pigeons, pigeon eggs, and fittings such as cages and egg boxes used with pigeons, to prevent the introduction of a virus.
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Queensland Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Rick Symons said in recent weeks avian paramyxovirus had caused illness and deaths in 44 pigeon flocks around Melbourne and northern Victoria.

“Most affected flocks have been fancy breeds, but a small number of racing pigeon flocks have also been affected,” Dr Symons said.

“The disease has also been found in wild pigeons at sites near infected lofts. So far, no other species of birds have been affected.”

Avian paramyxovirus occurs widely around the world, but the recent Victorian infections are the first detections in Australia. The disease is spread mainly by the movement of birds.

The Victorian Department of Primary Industries has banned aggregations of pigeons, such as for shows, exhibitions and races.

Dr Rick Symons, said the disease had spread in Victoria by the movement of pigeons.

“The Queensland ban on Victorian pigeons is designed to protect our birds,” he said.

“I am calling on pigeon associations and racing clubs to postpone shows, exhibitions and races until the current risk is resolved.

“Queensland pigeon owners should avoid introducing any birds or mixing their birds with those of other flocks to prevent disease spread. Owners should also be vigilant for any signs of ill-health.”

If unusual signs of disease occur in pigeons or other birds, or a number die within a short time, you should immediately seek veterinary advice and report the incident to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 during business hours or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch hotline after hours – 1800 675 888.

Further information, including recommendations for protecting flocks, is available at 梧桐夜网biosecurity.qld.gov419论坛

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Student scoops the pool at Geelong lamb carcase comp

Champion carcase and most successful lamb competition exhibitor, Sam Box from Maude.Lethbridge primary school student, Sam Box, Maude, has walked away from the Royal Geelong Show lamb carcase competition clutching a fist full of placegetter ribbons including the champion carcase award and the gong for the most successful exhibitor.
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The 12 year old loves nothing more than mustering the family’s 80 head ewe breeding flock on his motor bike and beat a number of seasoned-campaigners claiming award ribbons in each of the competition’s three live judging divisions.

These included two sectional winners, a third placing plus two third placings in the carcase judging.

Sam, who farms for fun at Maude with his water-carter dad, Michael (and a bit of help from their good neighbour, Graham Johns) entered a team of three in each of the three weight divisions.

The Box family lambs which were Lucerne-fed were sired by Suffolk rams and bred from traditional Border Leicester Merino-cross ewes.

South Suffolk stud breeder, Barry Shalders, who farms of the edge of the laver flow at Derrinallum, won the Stock & Land sponsored grand champion award for the best pen of three lamb carcases.

The Shalders’ lambs were South Suffolk-cross and bred from English Leicester Merino-cross dams.

This combination won Barry Shalders blue ribbons both live and on the hooks in the 16- 19.9kg trade weight class, and champion pen of three live as well as on the hooks.

A total of 81 lamb entries were judged in this year’s competition with BA, HA & TR Jorgenson of Antwerp awarded the blue ribbon for best three heavy weight carcases weighing 24-29.9kg.

Laurie and June Forster of Sutherland gained the judge’s nod for the best pens of three carcases weighing 20-23.9kg along with a second placing gained in the light weight, 16- 19.9kg carcase class.

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Working on risk management

Michael Moodie.MALLEE Sustainable Farming (MSFP) agronomist Michael Moodie believes the key to successful farming in the low rainfall zones of the group’s catchment area across eastern SA, south-west NSW and north-west Victoria is risk management.
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He said there was a strong possibility of a changing climate, including hotter and drier conditions, so farmers had to plan for that and mitigate its impacts.

“The idea is to best capture as much of a season’s potential upside, while minimizing losses in a bad year,” he said, speaking at a recent MSFP field day at Ouyen.

Mr Moodie said farming practices such as earlier sowing dates, shorter season varieties and reduced sowing rates could all be used to cut the risk of crop failure.

However, while he said that cutting sowing rates, and plant numbers per square metre, was a good risk management strategy, he also warned growers against cutting rates too far.

“The question has to be asked, how low can you go?”

“You don’t want to limit yourself on the upside should the season pan out favourably.”

Mr Moodie said farmers should not simply lock into one variety, but spread their risk over different maturity dates.

“Early maturing varieties such as Axe are less exposed to spring droughts and late heatwaves, but on the other hand, longer season lines such as Estoc and Yitpi will be better yielding in average years and are less prone to spring frost damage.

“The idea is to mix sowing dates among the various varieties with different maturity dates, so plant some of the longer season varieties, go into some shorter season stuff and then back into longer season lines.

“You’ve then got a range of maturities and flowering dates to spread the risk of frost and heat damage in spring.”

Nitrogen application in the Mallee has already adapted to mitigate risk, with much of the urea being top-dressed in-crop, rather than pre-drilled, so farmers had a clearer idea of seasonal prospects when making nutrition decisions.

Mr Moodie said farmers did not have to think just of the negatives of climate change.

“Projections suggest that climate change will actually increase the yields of lines like Axe, with the plant able to use the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and if it gets warmer and less prone to spring frosts, that would also be a positive.”

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