Ag recovery webinar recordings

Agriculture Victoria recently held a series of free flood recovery webinars, featuring technical specialists on a range of topics.

Feed budgeting – with Fiona Baker, Agriculture Victoria

In this flood recovery webinar, Fiona Baker discusses feed budgeting after floods for sheep and beef producers. Topics include:

  • Understanding energy, protein and fibre requirements of stock classes
  • Working out feed requirements
  • A simple tool to use to determine a ration for supplementary feeding
  • Costing supplementary feeds.

For more information, visit Feeding Livestock

Webinar recording passcode: Livestock

Watch recording
+ Expand all- Collapse all

Jane Court:

Welcome everybody to the webinar tonight. We'll just wait till seven 30 before we get going and get a few more on board, so we're pretty close to starting.

Well, Fiona, I think we might get going. We've only just starting to get people coming on now, but it's 7:30 and I think by the time we sort of get into it, there's time for more people to come on board. I would like to welcome you all tonight to the first of our Flood Recovery webinar series. We're going to run a few of these, so tonight's on feed budgeting after floods and our presenter tonight is Fiona Baker. I do also need to warn you, we are recording this because there will be quite a few people who won't be able to make tonight and they can listen to it afterwards, so it is being recorded. My name's Jane Court. I'm with Agriculture Victoria and I'm going to chair this evening and I'm sitting in Bendigo.

Before we start, I just would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we are meeting today. For me in Bendigo, we're on the land of the Dja Dja Wurrung people, I pay my respects to their elders, past, present, and emerging and the aboriginal elders of other communities and who may be here today. As I said, this is the first of our Flood Recovery webinar series and I just want to acknowledge that it's brought to you by our producer network. BestWool/BestLamb and Better Beef Networks and also supported by a donor company Sheep and Beef Networks project. That's a bit of a mouthful, so that's joint funding between Agriculture Victoria, MLA, and [inaudible 00:02:56] in there too. As said, tonight on feed budgeting, next week there'll be one on animal health, and we'll keep to run these webinars depending on the need and the interest over the coming weeks.

A brief agenda, we'll just start off with some quick housekeeping on using Zoom and hand straight over to Fiona Baker to walk us through feed budgeting. We'll hold the questions off until the end just to make the process sort of streamlined, and then some very quick wrap up at the end. Now, we just to get you working a little bit and just to get some feedback like where we're sitting with your knowledge of feedback, we can do a very quick poll, and this is about how your confidence in feed budgeting. I just launch just one question. I've just launched that first poll. So if you are happy to just click one to five and that'll just give us a bit of a starting base for where we're at and Fiona will be able to adapt to talk as we go.

I don't know if you can see the answers there, Fiona, but we're getting... We've got about half that are saying "not at all confident," a couple that "not very" and some "somewhat confident," so that's a good starting base and we hope that tonight it's going to be very, very useful. Thank you everybody. I think we'll move on.

This is just a quick bit of a... I suppose, bit of housekeeping on Zoom mainly for the questions. We're not using the chat box tonight, we use the Q and A. When you click on the Q and A, you can see on the left, you can type in your question there. You can tick the anonymous little box there if you prefer not to have your name displayed, you can look at your questions but it's really good to watch all the questions so that because somebody else might ask yours and you can actually vote or thumbs up if there's a question there that you're going to ask or that you really like.

The other point is that depending on the device or computer or phone or whatever you're using, you might need to change how you view your screen, like clicking on the view button and try a different combination so that you can see the Q and A better. And if all else fails and you click yourself out of the webinar, just go back to the link that you came in on and you should be able to get back in easily. With no more ado, I'd like to hand over to Fiona and I'll stop sharing, Fiona, so you can take over.

Fiona Baker:


Jane Court:

Just to introduce Fiona for those who don't know her and I think I saw her on maybe one of your social media pages. Fiona, forgive me if I get it wrong, I will. I think she described herself as beef extension officer in Gippsland, married to a dairy farmer. How good is that or something like that? Fiona's really passionate about what she does, very experienced in feed budgeting and pasture recovery and done a lot with floods and droughts and every season imaginable. We're very lucky to have Fiona tonight to walk us through this. I will hand over to you, Fiona.

Fiona Baker:

Thank you, Jane. What I'm going to walk through today is just talking a bit about the energy, protein, and fiber requirements of your stock, whether they be cattle or sheep. I am a beef extension officer so I don't have a lot to do with sheep. I do have some information in there in terms of energy and protein requirements of sheep, but when I do the feed budget example, it is based on cattle, but it works exactly the same way for sheep. I'm also going to have a look at an example of a feed budget, if you do have an amount of pasture on hand, and then there's also a tool that we can use if you don't have any pasture on hand and you have to do it full hand feeding, so how do you work out? How much of... Maybe, some hay or some pellets and a combination, how do you actually work out how much you should be feeding to your stock?

And then, we'll finish off with a quick little tool there that just shows you how to calculate out the costs of feed based on energy so that if you are having to purchase feed in and you know what the energy content of that feed is, that you can actually work out which is the best bang for your buck. When we talk about stock feed requirements, we need to understand what their energy, protein, and fiber requirements actually are. When we talk about feed quality, a feed analysis is the only accurate way to determine the value of the feed that's being offered to your stock. Particularly, when you think about a bale of hay, just by looking at it visually, you don't actually know what is in that bale of hay in terms of energy, protein, and fiber. You can guesstimate, but sometimes you may be right off the mark.

It's important if you can to get a feed analysis done of that feed so that you can better budget for what you need to feed those animals. The key figures to know when you get that feed analysis done are the energy, protein, fiber, and the dry matter of that feed, and that's all reported back on a feed test. And it's important to provide stock with a ration that's going to enable them to achieve the desired level of performance. But generally when we're talking about recovery directly after whether it's a flood, whether it's fire, drought, quite often we're just trying to maintain those animals. When I talk about maintenance requirements, it's holding those animals in the condition that they're currently in. It's not trying to get them to grow at all. It's just trying to hold that condition and keep them alive.

And energy, protein and fiber are the essential components of a balanced ration. I'm going to go through some tables and show you where you can get some information on what the energy protein and fiber requirements are of different classes of stock and you might be thinking, "Well, where can I get some more information?" We've got a website called feeding livestock, so that's www.feedinglivestock... Oh, did I get that wrong, Jane, ""? I'll correct that. I've got a feeling I've just done it wrong, but that-

Jane Court:

I you put feeding livestock into your search browser, it should come up pretty quickly, so...

Fiona Baker:

Yeah, I've got a feeling it's .gov... Sorry. We are sending these notes out after the webinar, so I'll double check that and correct it if I've got it wrong so that you've actually got the correct website. But as Jane said, if you go into Google or whatever the search engine you use and put "feedinglivestock" as one word into that search engine, it should come up with our website. And that's got a copy of our drought books on there for both cattle and for sheep. And although they're called drought books, I call them our little bibles that they've got a lot of information in there about energy, protein, fiber, how to feed your livestock, so there are very good little reference to have and there's quite a bit of other information on that website as well.

So energy, when we talk about energy requirements, a feed analysis reports the metabolizable energy for the animal expressed as megajoules of metabolizable energy per kilogram of dry matter, so that's how we talk about stock feed, so the energy requirements of stock. If we know the metabolizable energy value of a feed or knowing it, it is important as the ability of the animal to maintain their weight and production level is highly dependent on meeting specific energy requirements. And stock energy requirements are going to depend on the species. Whether you've got sheep or cattle, what's the live weight of those animals because that will influence how much energy they need just to maintain themselves to start with? What's their expected performance? Is it maintenance or growth? And do they have a pregnancy or lactation status as well? Because if they're pregnant or if they're lactating, they require higher amounts of energy to be taken into account.

When we're talking about energy and if we're talking about pastures as well where people do have pastures on offer, the energy value of your pasture can change across the year quite dramatically. What this little graph shows, I'll just get my little laser pointer, that at the start in autumn, we've got high quality feed once we've got the rains and those pastures are green and actively growing. On the side, right hand side here, we've got the energy content of that grass at that time of the year. Sort of in that autumn period, we're sitting on probably the 11 to 12 megajoules of energy per kilogram of dry matter. When we hit this stage that we are in now, in that sort of October-November phase, we are getting a lot of seedheads being thrown up, so flowering they call it. As that seedhead, the plant becomes more stalky and a seedhead comes up, the energy content of that grass actually decreases. We're probably sitting around the 10 megajoules of energy per kilogram of dry matter in our pastures at the moment.

And then as those pastures continue to mature and dry off, if we do have a dry summer, the energy content can drop right down quite low around the sort of 7 megajoules of energy per kilo of dry matter if there's not much of a grain picking there. Just off to the right hand side here, I've just put a rough relationship, it's something you can refer back to down the track, a rough relationship between the energy and the fiber content of particularly pastures, but it also hay and silage. If you know the energy content of that feed and you haven't done a feed analysis, you can guesstimate the fiber level of that feed. And that's going to be important to know the fiber level when we're trying to do a feed budget because the amount of fiber an animal can eat or the amount of feed an animal can eat in a day is very dependent on the fiber content of that feed. NDF up the top stands for neutral detergent fiber, that's just how they measure it on a feed test.

This slide shows some examples of the energy requirement tables for sheep and where you can actually access more information from those tables. The two green tables have come from Lifetimewool and they just show you know that might be the condition score 3 to maintain weight whether they're small frame animals, whether they've got single lambs or twin lambs on them or whether they're larger framed animals and single or twin lambs on them as well. And also, if they're lactating and the same again, whether that's small frame versus large frame, singles or twins. If you've got lighter weight use in a condition score 2, there's a separate table for those lighter weight use to look at. If you go to the Lifetimewool, there's quite a few resources there to give energy tables for your sheep.

There's also that has quite a lot of information on there, and this is one example where they have energy requirements for dry sheep, whether they're 40, 50 or 60 kilo dry sheep, eve who's in mid-pregnancy, one that in early lactation and then your little weaners. Less than 20 kilos in life weight 20 to 25 or greater than 25 kilos. And then, they've got two lines here, one for confinement fed, so that's where they're not allowed to wander around a large size paddock all day. They're in an area where they're not expending extra energy, wandering around trying to find grazing versus if they're in a grazing situation where they are expending that energy looking for that feed.

This table here is for... It says feed requirements of stock, it should say feed requirements of cattle. So we've got steers and heifers after weaning. These come straight out of our drought books that you can find on the feedinglivestock website. So in this case, we've got steers and heifers post weaning, different live weights, different growth rates, different energy requirements depending on their live weight and growth rates and what their protein requirements actually are. And I'll talk about a bit more about protein shortly, but different really young animals have a much higher protein requirement than more mature animals, so if you had to do a lot of early weaning of calves because you just run out of a lot of feed, the conditions aren't good, so it would be better to possibly separate them and feed them the cows separately to the calves. They actually require about 16% to 18% protein in their diet because they can't get that off their mom's milk anymore.

Whereas a steer who might be 300 kilos and it's growing at half a kilo a day only requires 10% protein in their diet. And then, we've got on this side in the gray table, we're looking at actual mature cattle. So in this example, it's cows with calves at foot, so different size, so heifers at 350, 400 kilos and then we've got our cows going out to 600 kilos. The age of the calf at foot, whether it's one month of age right up to seven months of age because that impacts on her lactation, the cow's lactation requirements. And what their actual... Two different weaning weights. If you normally weigh your animals, when they were 250 kilos live weight or if you had larger animals and they were often 300 kilos live weight at weaning, it's got the different energy requirements based on the needs of those animals as well as the protein level.

So just using that table, if you had a 600 kilo cow with a five-month-old calf at foot, if looking at that table, she'd need 166 megajoules of energy per day. And if the feed was being that they were eating, so if they had pasture available and they're eating that pasture and it had an energy value of 10 megajoules per kilogram of dry matter, all we do to work out how much they require as a cow-calf unit is take that total amount of energy they need divided by the energy that's in the feed that they're eating and that tells us how many kilograms of dry matter per day they actually require as a cow-calf unit. So in this case 16.6 kg of dry matter per day.

Protein, it's required for almost all bodily functions, and animal requirements are going to vary according to the age of that animal, the growth rate that you're expecting them to grow at or want them to grow at, their pregnancy status and their lactation status if they have one. And a lack of protein in the diet actually adversely affects the microbial protein production in the Rumen. What we're actually feeding is rather than the animal, we're feeding the rumen, which is full of microbes and bacteria, which actually break down the feed and help release that energy to those animals for them to use.

A lack of protein in a diet, stock may even start breaking down muscle to overcome a protein shortfall, so it's important when we're thinking about what we're feeding our stock that we give them adequate protein. But then, there's a flip side to it as well. Too much protein in a diet can also cause an inefficient use of energy by the animal. When the animal has excessive protein, and when I talk about excessive, I don't mean just a couple of extra percentage higher than what they need, but probably 5%, 10%, 15% I've seen sometimes higher than what they need in their diet, they have to use energy to process that excess protein and excrete it out so wee it out of their system. That's quite an energy inefficient system to do, so it actually robs the animal of some of that energy they could have used to either maintain themselves or to grow. We don't want excessive amounts of protein in the animal's diet.

You don't have to match it perfectly, but you want to get close to what they need. What are some of the protein requirements? This table here outlines it for the young stock. We've got both cattle and for sheep on here. Young cattle for maintenance just to hold them in the condition they currently are in need 8% protein. If you had young cattle growing at a kilo a day, they need about 13% protein. Dry cows is a good one. Dry cows only need, and it's the same with dry sheep, so a non-lactating cow or sheep only requires about 6% protein in their diet. They can actually be fed quite easily on some rough hay, whereas a young animal who requires higher levels of feed, hay is generally not good enough. Most hays are generally not good enough to supply the protein needs to those animals.

Cows with young calves, so a lactating cow or a lactating ewe only requires 10% protein, and then we've got pregnant ewes requiring 8% protein as well. That's just to give you an idea of what the different protein levels are for the different classes of stock. And fiber, what's the story with fiber? It's reported as neutral detergent fiber as a percentage of dry matter or NDF percent, and it's a measure of the total fiber in the feed and indicates how bulky that feed is. What we've got to remember for our cattle and sheep, they have a minimum requirement of about 30% fiber in their diet. If their feeds drop below 30%, it can actually cause acidosis and that can kill animals. We always aim for 30% and normally aim for 35% and slightly above to make sure it's a definite safe feed.

The thing though, if we get really high NDF or fiber percentages, it's going to result in low intakes in the animal because it takes so long for them to digest that feed and that can impact on how much energy they can consume in a day. If you think about something like hay, that can have a fiber level up around 65%. An animal who's trying to grow or lactate may not be able to eat enough of that feed in a day to be able to draw out that energy that they need to continue to do those processes they need to do without losing weight. We're trying to balance our feeds somewhat in terms of fiber, protein, and energy.

As I said, too little fiber can result in acidosis, and low-fiber feeds include things like grains and pellets and so byproduct feeds such as potatoes, which occasionally we see particularly during droughts can be fed out, so that's why they need to be balanced out with a higher fiber feed such as hay. We often recommend if you're feeding pellets, make sure you got hay or straw on hand so the animals can select the feed they need.

The amount of fiber in the feed directly impacts on the intake of livestock, and if you wanted to get scientific about it and do the equation, if you've got a feed analysis done, you can use 1.2, which is just a constant, divide it by the NDF percentage, the fiber percentage in the feed, and multiply it by the live weight of the animals that you're trying to feed and that will give you a maximum intake for the day. As an example, if we had a 300 kg steer who was eating a feed that had 45% NDF, we do 1.2 divided by 45 multiplied by the live weight that is 300 and it says as a maximum intake for that particular feed they're eating, they can consume kilograms of dry matter. That's sort of... We use it as a check to make sure that when we balance out a ration that can actually consume enough of that ration to meet their needs based on the fiber level of that ration.

For those who don't like doing math, we do have these quick reference cards that's sitting here on the screen, so that's using that exact equation we just did, but it's looking at all the different live weights of... possible live weights of animals and the different fiber levels in feeds. If you had a 300 kg animal and they were on a feed that was 45% fiber, it's saying that it could only eat a maximum of 8 kg per day of that particular feed, so that's how you'd use that look up table. It's just a little resource that you can use if you're to do a bit of feed budgeting. What I'm going to run through quickly now is just a quick little example of a tactical feed budget. If you do have a bit of pasture on hand, how can you work out how much supplementary feed you're also going to need to feed those animals? This tactical feed budget is also in our drought books, definitely in the beef drought book that you can find on a feeding livestock website.

In this example that I'm going to go through, we've got 120 cows weighing 600 kg with five-month-old calves at foot. The current average pasture cover is pretty low at 1200 kg of dry matter per hectare, which is about 4 cm in height. The pasture quality is roughly 10 megajoules of energy per kilo of dry matter. We've only got 50 hectares available on our farm of pasture for them to graze at the moment. The timeframe we're looking at is for the next month going forwards, and we're expecting because the weather's meant to be okay and this 50 hectares isn't underwater that we should get at least 30 kg of dry matter per hectare per day of growth, and we don't want to graze below that 1,200 kg of dry matter per hectare in this case.

Our first one thing we do is: where are we now? This is step one going across here. We've got 120 animals, they weigh 600 kg roughly, current food on offer, that's our pasture cover is 1200 kg of dry matter per hectare. Our pasture quality is 10 megajoules of energy per kilo of dry matter and our grazing area of 50 hectares. Where do we want to get to? We're looking forwards for 30 days. We are not looking at any live weight gain on these animals. We're just trying to maintain them in the condition they are. The calves that are on mum will be growing due to the milk content, but overall we call it maintenance as such, so we're not trying to get growth out of mum. Using those tables we had earlier in the slides or straight out of the drought book or whatever reference you choose to use, it was saying that for these particular cows with calves at foot, we needed 166 megajoules of energy per day.

What we then do is we look at the animal feed requirement, which is "f", so we've got little letters after here. We've got the equations and little letters after each box. It says "f" being the energy requirement of each animal divided by the quality of that feed. We're trying to work out how many kilos they need to eat. It's saying 16.6 kg of dry matter per day each individual animal needs to eat, the cow-calf unit. What's the actual total herd intake for the day? We've got 120 cows multiplied by that individual animal requirement. We need 1,992 kg of dry matter per day to feed those animals. And then, we're looking at the timeframe going forwards. For the whole herd, we need the 1,992 kg of dry matter multiplied by our 30 days says that we are going to need a total of 59,760 kg of feed or close to 60 tons of feed.

How do we get there? How much feed is the pasture going to grow us in that 30 days? This... You can notice there's multiple lines here. You can do it for 30 days. You can do it for 60, 90 days. It's up to you how long you want to look forward. In this case, we're looking at the month of November, 30 days in the month, pasture growth rate we expect to be possibly around 30 kg of dry matter per hectare per day, and we've got 50 hectares available in that period of time that we can graze. The total grown from that pasture this month will be 30 by 30 by 50. We are going to grow a total of 45,000 kg of dry matter to feed those animals.

What we then need to look at is what's our minimum pasture cover? What do we not want to graze below? In this case, we don't want to graze below 1200 kg of dry matter per hectare. If we had it as a 1,000 kg of dry matter per hectare, this next box here, instead of saying zero would say 1,200 minus 1,000, so we'd have 200 kg of dry matter available multiplied by the 50 for the 50 hectares. It would actually tell us we'd actually have some feed available from what's currently standing there as the pasture cover, but in this case, we don't want to graze, in this example, below our 1,200, so we're just relying on growth going forwards. Our provision from the current pasture at this stage is zero. From future growth, it's 45,000. What the animals need to eat in that period of time to meet those energy requirements is 59,760. Our feed balance tells us we are 14,760 kg of dry matter short of feed, so nearly 15 tons short of feed.

So we go right, we're going to need to buy some supplementary feed. But the thing is, we've done this whole budget on the feed being based on 10 megajoules of energy, so that 14, nearly 15 tons is based on that feed being 10 megajoules of energy, but the feed you buy may not be 10 megajoules of energy. How do you take that into Account? This second part helps you take it into account. You take the energy that was in your pasture that we are using in your budget, which was 10, and you multiply it by that deficit that we calculated at 14,760 and that will give us a total energy shortfall of 147,600, and we pick that number up and drop it into that next box. And we divide it by the energy value of the supplement we are buying. Whether we're buying hay or pellets or grain, whatever it might be, if you know the energy value of what you are buying, you enter it in there.

In this case, we are feeding pellets at pasture and the pellets that we're purchasing at 12 megajoules of energy per kilo of dry matter. That's saying that our energy shortfall was 147,600 divide by the new energy in the feed that we buy, it says we need to buy or the supplement required to provide that energy is 12,300 kg of dry matter. Now when we buy feed, we don't buy it as kilograms of dry matter. When we talk about feed for stock, we always talk about kilograms of dry matter, but when we buy it, we are buying it as fed or as bought. What we need to do is account for the dry matter component of that supplement, so your haze are going to be 85% dry matter, pellets are 90% dry matter.

You might have a different feed that you're offering animals which might have a lower dry matter, so you need to take that into account. In this case it's 0.9 for 90% dry matter, and it tells us of these particular pellets that we are looking at buying, we'll need to buy 13,667 or 14 tons roughly of pellets to provide that 12.3 tons of dry manner to provide that energy shortfall that we worked out that we're probably going to have from the pasture. I use that tactical feed budget quite a bit with my groups right throughout the year, whether it's droughts, whether it's floods, just even in a normal year when we're looking forwards to see what the next three months are going to bring us. It can be quite a handy little tool to use. The other thing that we can offer you that if you have to do a full fed ration and you're trying to work out, well, how do I know how to balance the energy and protein and the fiber? It's so hard going through all these calculations.

What we devised down here in Gippsland, I'm based in Gippsland, when East Gippsland was in drought for four or five years, just recently we came up with this little spreadsheet to help us do a balance of feeds. This spreadsheet, it's an Excel spreadsheet, this bottom part, the outputs is all locked so you can't actually enter data in there. When you click on it, it tells you the cells are locked, so you can't stuff up the spreadsheet. All you can do is enter data in these yellow columns. We've got a spot where you can put Feed 1 and Feed 2. If you're looking at balancing two different feeds, I like to only think about balancing two feeds because I like to try and keep it as simple as possible when I'm feeding livestock.

So in this case we're looking at a hay and pellets as our two options to feed. You need to put in... You can change the words up here so you can type in whatever you like up in the top, depending on what feeds you're buying. It doesn't have to be in the order of hay and pellets. You could have grass in this column and bit of hay in this column. You could call them whatever you like. What you then need to do is as you go down each of the columns is put that feed profile in there. We've got the fiber value of 63 Generally, if you haven't had a feed test done, you can find the generalized figures. That's the other thing the drought book is good for. It's got a whole list of different feeds in there and what some of the sort of protein, energy, fiber levels are of those feeds. If we got hay at 65% fiber, in this example, the hay was 9% protein and the energy was also 9% megajoules of energy, and the dry matter of that hay was 85% dry matter.

We're also looking at feeding pellets. Pellets are very low in fiber around the 20% mark. The protein level of these particular pellets is 12% crude protein and the energy is 12 megajoules of energy per kilo of dry matter and those pellets of 90% dry matter. If you've got a price, you can put the price in. You can actually... This table actually works fine if you don't put a price in, you can leave this one blank, but everything else has to be filled out. The advantage of if you do have a feed price in there, it helps down the bottom in this orange line. It can cost out the feed cost per head per day. So I can help you look at those feed costs, which you may or may not want to look at sometimes.

The other thing you need to put in there is a stock. This works for both sheep and cattle. Put in your stock live weight. In this example, it's a cow at 600 kg. It's one that we were using before the cow-calf unit. The protein requirement of that particular class of animal you're looking at feeding, in this example, it's 10% protein and the energy requirements in megajoules per day. We saw on those look-up tables, this cow-calf unit for the five-month-old calf at foot required 166 megajoules of energy. Based on these two feeds that we are looking at feeding them, how do I know how much to feed of each of them? Once we've put that data in and click out of the cell, you can just click on any cell afterwards, it calculates into the outputs for you. It's got F1, F2, that means Feed 1 up the top here and Feed 2. In this case, Feed 1 is our hay and Feed 2 is our pellets.

What it's got the next line down is a new diet fiber. It's a combination. In this case, it's saying if I feed 20% hay and 80% pellets, the amount of fiber that's providing to the animal's diet is only going to be 29% fiber, and it's red because that's not enough. If you remember, we need 30% to 35% fiber in the diet. When we look at the next column where we're feeding 30% hay and 70% pellets, the new balance of fiber in the diet based on those Pro Feed profiles is saying that it's going to provide 33.5% fiber in a diet, and it's sitting there yellow because it's in a danger zone. You could feed it if you needed to and wanted to, but it's actually because it's below 35%, but it's above 30%, still, if you've got an animal in there that's going to guts itself, could easily get acidosis.

What we generally look for is cells that are green. This says this is a safe level of fiber to feed. Then, the next row down says, new diet crude protein percent. Again, we are looking at trying to get the right level of... a green level of protein in the diet. Once we get into down this end where we're feeding high proportion of hay and of low proportion of pellets, the protein level, as a balance, is actually dropping below what those animals need, so it's coming up as red. We are looking for feeds that are green in the column as we are going down. It then tells us a new diet energy, the maximum intake that those animals can eat, and they don't get color coded. What we're actually looking at is the total kilograms of diet required to meet those energy needs that we've specified up in the top box.

If that's green along this line, that's good. Again, if it's red, they can't. There's not enough of that... or they're not going to be able to eat enough of that feed in a day basically. What we are looking at is trying to get one of those feeds as we go down to have green for fiber, green for crude protein, and green for total kilograms of dry matter of diet required to meet those energy needs. As you can see, there's two columns there that have got green all the way down and those are ones that we're looking at feeding because they will give us a balanced diet. Down the bottom here where it's sort of a bit of a purple color what it shows us is, how much hay we need to feed as that proportion, so where it's 40% hay, 60% pellets, how much do we actually need to feed in terms of as fed to those animals? It's got it in dry matter, but when we feed those animals as we're bucketing it out and putting it in the troughs, we feed it in terms of as fed.

In this case, we need to feed 7.3 kg of hay as fed in this diet. If we selected the second diet, it'd be 9.4 kg as fed. In terms of pellets, it works the same way, 10.4 kg as fed in this example, or if we did a 50-50 diet, it's 8.9 kg as fed. And then, we've got the cost down the bottom. You can see where we've got a 40-60 mix, it's going to cost $7.54 per head per day based on these costs that we've put in up here. You may be able to get hay in pellets for a totally different price, so you can change those time or for a 50-50 diet, it was going to cost $7.22. Generally, you tend to choose the cheapest one and would go for a 50-50 diet. That's how we use that little Excel spreadsheet. It's a handy one to use and we tend to use it quite a lot down here in Gippsland.

The last thing I'm just going to cover off on is if you are having to buy feed, which many of you probably will be is, how do I actually work out which is a best bang for my buck? I know what I need to feed my animals now, but how do I get the best value for the money that I'm looking at having to spend? In this example, we've got two different hays. One is purchasing hay at $250 per ton delivered with a feed value of 8 megajoules of energy per kilo of dry matter. And we're comparing it to a vetch hay at the... this particular time was $320 per ton delivered and had a feed value of 10.5 megajoules of energy per kilo of dry matter.

And we worked out by doing a feed budget that either of these would actually suit our animals, but which is going to be the best? Is it the higher priced one or is it the lower price one that's going to give us the best value? To do that, we use these little tables. Step one is, calculate the price of feed on a dry matter basis. We look at the dollars per ton it's costing us to buy as fed. In this case $250, we multiply it by 10 and then divide it by the dry matter of that feed, so our hays are generally 85% dry matter and it tells us it's going to cost us 29.41 cents for every kilogram of dry matter that we're purchasing.

But we want to know on an energy basis, so we take that cents per kilogram of dry matter, drop it down into the next box and divide it by the energy content of that particular hay that we're buying. In this case, 8 megajoules of energy per kilo of dry matter and it's telling us it's going to cost us 3 cents for every megajoule or 3.68 cents for every megajoule of energy that we are purchasing in that hay. And if we compare that to the vetch hay at $320 a ton, it's going to cost us 37.65 cents per kilogram of dry matter. So you look at the difference in cents per kilogram of dry matter, that first hay is screaming out that it's much cheaper if we're looking at on a kilogram of dry matter. When we take into account the energy value though, so it's got a higher... even though it's more expensive, it's got a higher energy value in that feed, it's actually fractionally cheaper at 3.58 cents per megajoule of energy.

Although it actually looked more expensive to start with because of the energy profile that it's got in it, it's actually a cheaper feed to feed to your stock and can save you quite a bit of money over time. It's important to understand the cost of getting that feed onto your farm, but also what the possible energy is in that feed, so you can do one of these budgets to see which is going to give you the best bang for your buck while you've got some choice.

If you don't like doing calculations, again, we've got these look-up tables, so this is for the cost of hay in that cents per megajoule with a different energy content, so different price of hay down the side, I really do hope that it doesn't get up to the hays of $550 per ton, but also the energy of the hay going across whether it's 6 megajoules of energy, 7, 8, 9, really good quality hay at 10 megajoules of energy or even up to 11. If you knew, you were going to be paying 250 bucks a ton and it was 9 megajoule hay, it's going to cost you 3.27 cents per kilogram, 2.70 cents per megajoule of energy. It's exactly those equations that we just did.

If you're buying grain and/or pellets, so grain and pellets doing the costings is exactly the same. if you're buying grain at 450 bucks a ton or pellets at 450 bucks a ton and those pellets had an energy value or the grain had an energy value, whichever you're buying at 12 megajoules of energy, it's going to cost you 4.17 cents per megajoule of energy. That assumes that grain has a dry matter of 90% and so you do your pellets. That's how to use those two little tables.

I just hope some of this information has been helpful for you. It can be a minefield trying to work through animal requirements and what suits your animals the best and, of course, trying to source that feed is can be a bit of a nightmare as well. Do make use of your local beef and sheep extension offices through Agriculture Victoria if you need assistance helping work out those feed requirements.

Do we have any questions? I think we should move on to Jane. That's what I've covered off on.

Jane Court:

Fantastic. I think we did say at the beginning feel free to type questions in the Q and A, but I think also because we're quite a small group tonight, if you'd actually like to ask your question in person, put your hands up there’s a raise your hand at the bottom and I'll unmute you because, yeah, sometimes it can be easier to do that, so feel free to either write something in or put your hand up and-

Fiona Baker:

You can see there on the Q and A that Bindi has been good enough to put in the correct feeding livestock website, instead of what I had on my slide.

Jane Court:

That's great. And I think just to plug on that too, I think Fiona from... Because Fiona just put up some great resources there and I think it's worth, you've got time having a bit of a look on that website because all the requirements for protein and energy for whole range of cattle and sheep are there under useful tables, so you don't have to scroll through the books, and there's also a range of apps and Fiona's tactical feedback, it is there for you to download. I suggest have a look when you get the link in your pack that we will send out afterwards. But we have a question here for you, Fiona, "Can understand that a feed..." This is from Graham Harrison, "Can understand that a feed test will give the energy, protein, and fiber, but how do you do that easily with your pasture?"

Fiona Baker:

Yeah, you can do a feed test on your pasture as well. You just take a sample of that pasture that you think the animals will be consuming and send off to somewhere like feed test and you will get that same profile back or you can use... Go back to that slide that I had there as that pasture changes across the season and you can use it as an estimate. When I'm doing feed budgets I'll often... If we've just got green growing grass in the paddock and it hasn't dried off too much, there's a little bit of seedhead up, I'll always use 10 megajoules of energy. Fiber, it had that little reference off to the side, so when we're sitting on about 10 megajoules of energy, that pasture will be around that sort of 50%, 52% fiber.

The protein one is an interesting one. That's a lot harder to guesstimate in our pastures, but at this time of the year with the seedhead coming up, the protein content tends to drop in our pastures slightly, so we're probably sitting, possibly around, depends on how much seedhead is out there. If it hasn't dried off much, it's probably sitting around the 18% to 20% protein, could be a little bit lower around the 15%, 16%. Where we tend to have problems with protein in our pastures, we often see it in autumn when we get those first rains and those pastures get up and get growing really quickly and sometimes, we jump onto those pastures before they're actually physiologically ready to be grazed.

So if you've ever heard me talking about pasture management and I talk about leaf stage in grasses, ryegrass is a three active growing leaf plant. So if we rip out there and graze it while it's only got one to one and a half leaves on it, the protein level in that pasture can be abnormally high it's not until it gets to that two and a half to three leaf stage in a ryegrass that the protein levels in the actual plant balance themselves out to where they need to be. Sometimes we can see protein levels in grasses in that autumn period up around 27%, particularly if we've got a large amount of clover in those pastures as well. Having a lot of clover in the pasture will increase the protein content of those pastures and cattle can struggle a bit more so on it.

Sheep tend not to be as affected as much with clover in their diet in terms of the excess protein as cattle seem to be. But yeah, generally the feed test is the best way to get an accurate representation, but you can do a rough guesstimate based on that graph in those tables.

Jane Court:

And I think there's, Fiona, on the website under the pasture resources, there's some resource links to some image libraries where people have actually done some tests, but it's a bit like if you're just trying to get a feel, does my pasture look like that. It's another bit of a tool.

Fiona Baker:


Jane Court:

Any more questions? As I said, very happy if you'd like to ask in person, just put your hand up and I'll unmute you. I'll ask a quick one, Fiona, while we're just waiting for any more follow up, but... are there any issues with the high water content we're going to see in pastures and capeweed is going to come up a lot, I guess, in muddy areas.

Fiona Baker:

Yeah, it's going to be... We keep discussing this-

Jane Court:

In terms of requiring more supplementary feed or hay or whatever just because the water content is so much higher than what it might be.

Fiona Baker:

Yeah, the water content itself isn't the issue, like cattle can... and sheep, you'll notice the dung is a lot looser. When the water intake is too high through pasture in particular, they will wee out as much as they can and sometimes, there's so much water that they can't wee it all out and it actually comes out in the dung as well, which is where we get some of this really loose dung happening. It's not a huge issue in terms of loose dung. It's only... I always tell people to become a good crapologist, have a look at what's coming out the rear end of your animals. If it's loose, but it's bubbly, then you may actually have an issue in terms of either excess protein in their diet causing the bubbling in the poo or it's also getting towards acidosis in their guts and they will need more fiber, but if it's just loose and runny because it's excess moisture, it shouldn't really have those bubbles in there, so adding extra fiber into the diet really isn't going to do much. It can actually slow down how that processing that energy.

Have a look at their poo and see what it actually looks like. Does it have bubbles in it when it's really loose? And if it does, then they possibly do need more fiber. The challenge is going to be getting that fiber this year, and we've talked a bit about it in our team and all I can say is it's possibly going to be an interesting six to eight months going forwards. It's going to be a challenge feeding stock to the degree that we want to feed them to and balancing out their diet sometimes. It'll be interesting to see what happens in the areas where they have in the grain growing areas, what they can actually salvage in terms of not just hay but straw. Straw can be a very good supplement as well to those animals to give that bulk of fiber if you need it. It doesn't provide much energy, but if you need it just for a fiber source to balance something out, it can be a good source of feed as well.

Jane Court:

Great, thanks, Fiona. Look, there's no movement on the hands up or the Q and A, so I think you must have done hopefully a really good job in walking through those feed budgets. I'll just take over and show a couple of last resource slides. Bear with me before we finish up.

Fiona Baker:

We do have another question just come in, Jane, while you do that, is it worthwhile over-sowing paddocks this time of year, and if so, or should we wait till February? And I think that's a good question, Karl. It's probably a case by case in terms of, can you get on the paddock to be able to sew in? How quick is the water come off? What is it left behind in terms of sometimes we see with flooded paddocks, you can get quite a deep silty sand layer laid down over the top. Sometimes that might actually need, unfortunately working in to mix a bit of sand in with the soil that should be there, that's underneath, but in question of, is it worthwhile overseeding paddocks, there still is a window of opportunity to get summer crops in in terms of we're just getting into the warm periods now, so soil temperatures have come up, those crops will actually germinate quite quickly and get going.

There is that opportunity to do it. It's a question of, do you need the feed or can you get through with some other feed source? Because sometimes some fodder crops can be risky, things like chicory, Brassicas, in particular, I know some people like millet and sorghums particularly up through Northern Victoria. There are also options. But beware in terms of things like sorghum in particular is prussic acid poisoning. But it can still be a very good quality feed to feed to those animals if you understand when prussic acid poisoning can be an issue. So yeah, millet or sorghum is definitely a good option for their cow. Either of those, my understanding, could still go in and give you some feed going forwards post Christmas. Other people might want to wait till sort of autumn, February to sow pastures and put actual pastures in.

I hope that answered that. Graham's just added another question, "I have flooded oats and clover, what do I need to consider?" Maybe, more of a health question, but also a feed value question. I think it possibly depends a bit, Graham, if they're still flooded, if they're still underwater, I think in terms of feed value that's going to come right back. But if the water's already coming off and those plants still look like they're alive, feed value, they possibly should be able to recover, give them a chance. I would say once the water comes off, that'd probably be a month post the water coming off before I'd consider feeding them out to stock or getting stock on those paddocks and hopefully have a light rainfall event afterwards to make sure any silt and sand has been washed off those feeds, because otherwise the stock will actually preferentially not raise those feeds. They don't like that grittiness on the plants themselves.

The feed value, they might actually be able to recover and feed, but if they are still underwater, they might actually struggle to be worthwhile as a feed going forwards. It'll be interesting, we've got the animal health people on next week, so it might be one to ask them as well in terms of what issues there are in terms of animal health. But I'd suggest generally if you can... once that water's come off, if you can get a rainfall event cross your fingers and it's a decent enough rainfall event without being too heavy to actually get that sort of silt sand and rubbish washed off that feed, then animal health becomes less of a risk.

Jane Court:

Great. Well, thank you. Last opportunity for any more questions. We don't want you to miss out. Otherwise, we've done very nicely for time at 8:27 and I might just a couple of slides to wrap up. Thank you very much, Fiona, that was fantastic. I've just put out the Agriculture Victoria website. There's quite a lot of good resources on there in terms of flood recovery resources, including like these webinar series will be up there so you can see what's going on and register that way. And we put up the financial support and the recovery hotline. Those resources are on the webpage. You don't need to write this stuff down because you'll get it as followup, so you'll get a followup email with the recording plus some of the tools and resources that Fiona's been talking about and web links. That will come in your inbox.

And I think we'll just finish up with, we do have to be really appreciated if you answer a couple more questions on tonight's webinar, so I'll just launch that poll. You might just scroll down and click submit. There's just a couple of questions, but it's really helpful for us in terms of how we go and how we can improve what we do and also getting funding to run these webinars. If you'd be happy to do that, that would be great. And yeah, I think you do you will actually have to scroll down to answer the two questions. So we've certainly seen improvement in people's confidence in feed budgeting, so great response. Thank you everybody. And I really hope it's been a really useful webinar and I wish you all the best and look out for the one next week, which is the animal health one, and I think you'll note that it's actually during the day, not in the evening. So thank you for joining us tonight and hope to see you next week. Thank you very much.

Animal health after floods – with Dr Rachel Gibney, Agriculture Victoria

In this flood recovery webinar, Rachel Gibney discusses animal health after floods for sheep and beef producers. Topics include:

  • Common health issues experienced during- and post-flooding
  • What signs to be monitoring for
  • Action that can be taken to prevent or treat flood related health issues.

More information about management of flies, worm and parasites

Webinar recording passcode: Livestock

Watch recording
+ Expand all- Collapse all

Rachel Coombes:

Rachel, you can see my screen?

Rachel Gibney:

Yeah, I just can't hit the bottom buttons now of the webinar, the control, that's all.

Rachel Coombes:

Yeah, probably... Or maybe. That's okay. We'll give just a minute to let everyone that's coming in get in and get their audio sorted before we get going.

All right, we might get started. Hi everyone, I'm Rachel Coombes, I'm a livestock development officer in the [inaudible 00:01:32] team for Agriculture Victoria. Thanks for joining us this afternoon for this flood recovery webinar with Dr. Rachel Gibney from our animal health section. Before we get started, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands we are meeting on today. I pay respect to the elders past, present and emerging, and the Aboriginal outlets of other communities who may be here today.

This webinar series is supported by the BestWool/BestLamb and BetterBeef Networks, as well as the Innovative Sheep and Beef Network that's funded through MLA. Today we're going to start with a little pre-knowledge poll. So that should be popping up on your screens just in a moment. It should be there now. If you could answer that, that would be great. We'll have the presentation by Rachel and then we'll finish with questions and answers. So I'll leave the poll up for just a couple of more minutes, get a few more answers. Great. I can leave there and we'll go on to next page.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with Zoom, although the speed at which everyone's answered the poll, I think you're all fairly confident. We're in a webinar, we ask for questions that you use the question and answer function. At the end of the webinar, I'll ask Rachel the questions and she'll answer them out loud for you. And just to let you know, this webinar is being recorded and we will send out a recording probably tomorrow or on Monday next week, as well as any resources that are mentioned in the webinar. You'll get a link to those in the email as well. I'm going to hand over to Rachel to share her screen now and get us started.

Rachel Gibney:

Thanks, Rachel. As Rachel mentioned, my name's Rachel Gibney, I'm district veterinary officer in Ballarat and I've prepared a webinar for you today. I'll actually turn off my camera and then hopefully the coverage is better, and I'll share my screen at the same time. So there we go. So are you able to see that, Rachel?

Rachel Coombes:

Not yet. It might still be on its way. Yeah, here it comes.

Rachel Gibney:

Yeah, great. Thank you. Okay. So my plan today is to talk to you about the animal health issues that can occur during floods. So animals during floods can become really stressed and exhausted and this lowers their immunity and it makes them a lot more vulnerable to many diseases, conditions and parasites that they would normally be able to cope with. So not only are they exposed to water for a long period of time, but they can also, after the flood waters receded, they can be mixed with different mobs of animals and have a higher stocking rate and be provided with different food than normal and also have less than ideal environmental conditions to deal with.

So I know a lot of these conditions can't be avoided at the moment, but what I'm hoping from this talk is that it will just raise people's awareness about the issues to look out for in their animals and provide you with a few options about how to best manage those issues if they arise. Hopefully, a lot of these issues won't occur with your animals, but it's better just to be aware of them and then you can monitor for them and manage as necessary. So during today's webinar, I'll be covering hazards that can occur during floods and the health issues that can occur during the floods and also in the longer term, in the weeks following the floods, what actions you can take to help prevent or treat these issues and look quickly at blue-green algae and fodder spoilage at the end, as they may be relevant in the long term.

Floods present a wide range of challenges to health of livestock. There are immediate issues associated with fast moving water or if they're standing in flood water for a long time, animals may struggle to find dry ground or they can panic to escape the water or they might be stuck in it for quite some time. Fence lines can trap animals as they try to get to higher ground, and these may need to be cut to let the animals out of that area. Debris or submerged objects in the water can cause injury, especially star pickets can be a hazard.

Also, the flood water isn't clean, it's not clean healthy water. It can contain compounds from the runoff of the land, including pollutants and chemicals and soils with nutrients and bacteria. So this leads to an increased in infection and disease if the animal are trapped in the flood water. Drinking flood water can lead to direct health impacts and some animals can become bogged in muddy ground as the water recedes. Other challenges that are likely to impact on livestock health during flood recovery as a landscape in an environment remains affected for a long period of time on.

So during floods, exhaustion can occur, especially if animals are stuck in the flood water for quite a few days and they might have limited access to food or places to rest and they can become cold if they're in moving water and become hypothermic. These animals are likely to become stressed and this is known to reduce their immunity and slows recovery from infection or disease. So as we discussed as well, they're prone to injury during floods so they can get wounds on their objects with open wounds and these can become infected with bacteria, especially if they're in mud for quite some period of time. And also, if they're stuck in mud, they can fracture legs or sprain themselves.

So various infections that animals are prone to are also associated with their skin. So if they're in water for quite a long period of time, like three days or so, the skin becomes really soft and fragile. And the skin's usually a really good barrier to preventing bacteria entering but if it becomes softened and cracks appear, then the bacteria can enter through the skin and set up infection. This is also a case with the feet as well. So your normal hard hooves become really softened and the integrity is compromised and the structures can break down leading to hoof issues. Or also the hooves are soft and if they stand on rocks or stones, things like that, they can become bruised or have penetration injuries that they normally wouldn't. So lameness is a fairly common occurrence after floods, and this lameness can vary from being quite mild to severe with multiple feet affected.

Another infection that can happen is the respiratory system. So animals might breathe water in if they're swimming through flood water or otherwise just even little aerosols of contaminated water can get into their lungs and that can set up pneumonia. Signs of this will be the animals will often be depressed and reduced food intake, you might notice them breathing quickly and shallow breathing and high respiratory rate, or they might be quite deep, labored breathing as well. You might notice some discharge around their nose also. Pneumonia can be quite severe and need veterinary treatment if indicated.

Gastrointestinal diseases are also a possibility. So with this, if animals are drinking affected flood water or the land that they're grazing on has is quite sodden and might have some bacteria present in it, they're at increased risk of getting scales or diarrhea. Different bacteria that can cause it after floods is yersiniosis or salmonella or E. coli. So the likely signs with this is, again, animals that are lethargic and not eating, but they can have quite explosive diarrhea, and diarrhea can be infectious so you might get quite a few animals affected at the same time, especially younger animals. So this may require investigation into the underlying cause of it to help find treatment.

Clostridial diseases are the ones that the 5-in-1 vaccinations are used against and when animals have increased chance of injury, as we were talking about before, through softened skin, the bacteria can enter through those areas or it can enter in through the mouth or through the mucous membranes and the mucous membranes around the eyes. So if clostridial diseases appear, you're most likely to see sudden death with that. Otherwise, they might develop a fever and become really unwell. So it's probably worth, I'll talk about it later, but worth looking at making sure their vaccination status is up to date.

Other infections that can occur during floods is listeriosis. So listeriosis is a bacteria that is spread through the urine of animals and it can survive really well in water. So soggy ground can have lepto in it. Animals that get lepto, if they're pregnant, there's an increase in abortion amongst cattle and sheep. In younger animals such as calves, they might get fever, depression or become anemic. So there are signs to watch out for that may indicate lepto. Mastitis from a muddy environment where the udder and teats are constantly dirty and wet is likely to be an increased risk. So with this in beef cattle or sheep, which often don't get mastitis, you're probably looking for a red and inflamed udder or if it's apparent that they're not producing the milk that they were previously. In dairy cows, if you do daily teat strips of your dairy cows, even though that's really time consuming, it may be helpful in picking up early cases of mastitis.

Another issue that may be seen is metabolic diseases. So if animals are off food for a period of time, they can get low calcium levels which can lead to staggering or uneven wobbly gate. And sometimes those animals go down. Usually you might only see this around the time that cows calve, but in times of stress and low feed it might be apparent across a variety of stages of animals. So you might see it more in young sheep or adults as well. So having a calcium pack as you go around your animals might be beneficial to help those out if they've got low calcium levels.

I'll just go through the various species of animals and discuss what issues are more likely to be seen in different classes of animal. So cattle and sheep are most commonly at risk during floods. And as sheep are standing in flood water, their wool can become sodden and really heavy, so they're probably the class of animal most at risk. So they're prone to exhaustion and they can become bogged in mud. If they do become bogged, their prognosis is pretty poor and they're at high risk from dying. If they've been in the water for up to seven days, sometimes you see a greenish tinge to their fleece and that can just give you an indication of how long they've been exposed to that for.

So flystrike is likely to be an issue with the warmer weather that we're experiencing now and the wet wool. It's not only in although that you can see it, be aware of any animals that have open injuries or wounds, they might get flystrike as well. So just monitor carefully for those. We may see an increase in lumpy wool or dermo, which causes clumping of the fleece and it causes scabs and irritation close to the skin and it can be spread more quickly when animals are close together, like during yarding. We talked about metabolic issues, so low calcium with sheep and also maybe around lambing time you might get increased incidents of twin lambing disease if they've got low energy levels as well. So animals, sheep that it become recumbent and can't rise are obviously high risk. So with those, if you can't get treatment to them, consider euthanizing them so they're not down for long periods of time.

Cattle are actually pretty strong swimmers. So in Australia we've seen reports that they can be swept along for 70 kilometers sometimes in flood waters. And cattle that are introduced to flood prone country are at higher risk than those that have had previous experience. Cattle and sheep are both herd animals and have a strong instinct to stay together. So if they're separate from other cattle or sheep, they're likely to be more stressed or otherwise it indicates that they've got a health issue. So it's just something to look out for.

Heavy cows and bulls have got increased chance of becoming lame, and I think we'll probably see an increase in insect worry to cattle this year as the conditions are warm and moist. So when that occurs you'll often see your cows huddle together and constantly walk around paddocks as they're trying to get away from biting insects like stable flies or mosquitoes. This can result in weight loss cause they're not spending as much time eating. You can use chemicals to deter insects but you really have to be careful that you're using them following the label with the withholding periods and just be mindful that it kills most insects, it's not non-selective. So consider that before using it along with the increase in flies, pink eye may be more common as well. So just monitor cows' eyes for that.

Talk quickly about horses. They're good swimmers as well. They are more prone to injury perhaps than other animals because they can panic and thrash around trying to get out of mud. They can get injuries to their eyes and also gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea can be quite explosive and serious, so be mindful of that. Horses often don't like to drink water that is spoiled, whereas some of the other animals might and so they're probably more likely to become dehydrated in floods than your other species. And although they are quite good swimmers, they are prone to pneumonia as we're talking about, if they breathe in some of the contaminated water. So just watch their breathing. Horses that have had wounds are quite prone to tetanus as well. So it might be worth looking at records and seeing if they're up to date with their tetanus vaccinations. Otherwise, maybe give them a booster.

I'll just have a talk about the longer term impacts now that might occur for livestock. So feed shortages due to past damage water spoilage of stored fodder and loss of crops for harvesting is to occur in the coming months. So it's important that we plan for fodder supplies in the coming year. And high stocking densities like the use of containment areas might be used by farmers for a management tool. This has been used over recent times for sort of the opposite reason, for drought management by some farmers who feedlot their sheep. But it can be a really good management tool and help protect the pastures from further damage of the livestock. But you just need to be aware that the stock in high stocking densities can be stressed and their immune systems reduced. So you need to be mindful of preparing them for those containment areas if you're going to use them, especially looking at worm control and clostridial vaccinations.

So longer term issues that we might see. A lot of them are related around having the wet conditions and warm conditions now as well. So gastrointestinal worms are likely to be more of an issue, especially around certain age groups like your weaners and your youths or cows around calving time, their immunity to these things also wanes, so they're higher risk. So with worms, we just need to look at worm egg counts and drenching as need be. Infectious foot issues such as footrot are likely to be more prevalent this year than we've seen previous years. We've discussed the increased risk of flystrike and environmental mastitis, fodder spoilage is going to be more common as a lot of silage and grain and hay has become wet.

You might see an increase in toxic plants just through the conditions that we are seeing. But also the flood waters may have brought plants onto your property that you didn't have before. So it's a good idea to keep an eye on the pastures and see what plants there and if you don't know, get them identified and see if they're going to present any health issues to animals. And you may need to try and keep them off those areas. As the flood waters recede and the flow goes down, blue-green algae may make an appearance in some of the waters, which is a health issue to animals. And especially for horses, there might be an increase in vector borne diseases like Ross River Fever and Japanese encephalitis and also maybe things like rain scald might be more common.

So when we're looking at assessing the animals, it's good to just initially think about how long they've been in water and this will affect things like damage to the skin and the feet and level of exhaustion. So the first thing to do when approaching your animals is before you get too close, just have a look at them in general and assess if they're bright and alert as normal or if they're slower moving and a bit depressed or lethargic, and have a look at their behavior as well. Are there any separate from the mob? Because that indicates that they may have a health issue, and their avoidance behavior as well. So how close can you get to the animals before they run away? So if you can get closer than normal, this indicates that they might have health issues that need to be assessed.

So looking at their general physical appearance as you walk up to them, see how they all move and look at their mobility for any lameness. So are there any stragglers there that are obviously limping? If there's extra head movement or an uneven gait or animals not wanting to put feet down. Sheep tend to kneel to graze if they've got sore feet, so all of those are indicators of lameness. Have a look at their general breathing before you move them and see if any are breathing quickly or shallowly. Keep an eye on their body condition. So is it changing over time? Those that are obviously lean are going to struggle more and maybe become more stressed with the conditions that are present in floods. Have a look at their general body and their fleece. Look for flystrike or lumpy wool, as we spoke about. See if there's any breaks in their skin or swellings that might be cellulitis or infections under the skin. Look down their legs, there's a swelling of their lower limbs or any wounds and injuries. Look at their udders for mastitis as well.

Another thing to look out for is any neurological signs which is changes in behavior, struggling to stand, wobbly gate or staggery. They, as we talked about before, can be a sign of metabolic disease or sometimes of an infection. And those animals, they can have a pretty poor outlook but they need to be assessed and addressed to see if any treatment can be given to them. It's important when you find issues that you obviously assess those animals more closely and provide them treatment. But also just be mindful, only yard them when you need to. So mustering them can cause additional stress, so avoid it if you can. But when it's indicated, get them into the yards and look at feet or treat them as need be.

So as you're coming out of the floods, it's good to look at your animals daily if you can. As we said before, go through those assessments and see if there's any that need treating or anything like that. If you can, get them onto higher, firm ground. If you've got hard or red ground, that's better than the black soil seems to be a bit softer. And if you can, provide them with a good dry place to feed and a place to rest that's going to help them recover. Avoid areas that have got a high buildup of manure or run off from stockyards, they're more likely to be contaminated and have bacteria present and lead to gastrointestinal issues or diarrhea.

If possible, always give them fresh feed and fresh water. That's really important. Obviously, there's going to be changes to feed budgeting and you'll have to look at that, but it's really vital if you can to give them fresh feed and water and make sure the feed's adequate protein and energy to meet their needs. Have a look around your farm for hazards like boggy areas that they need to be kept away from or fences with loose wire or star pickets and try and fix those up. And as we said before, just use your low stress stock handling techniques and just move around them quietly and try and minimize the stress that they have.

So more specifically, looking at their clostridial vaccinations that they're up to date with that. Sheep especially may benefit from an additional vaccination in times of higher risk because they are prone to clostridial infections. Worm control is going to be a really high priority. So do worm egg counts on your sheep and if indicated, get them in and drench them, especially if any are scouring. They're probably going to need more drenching than regularly. But the worm egg count's really important to make sure you're not doing that unnecessarily. If you haven't seen it, the Wormboss website is a really good resource there and it helps you go through a decision tree for drenching. So I recommend that.

And looking at flystrike, so if you monitor all your animals, especially sheep, obviously carefully, for flystrike and treat any that have it, also increase your prevention measures. So avoid any daggy sheep by looking at their worm burdens and crouch them if needed. Also, you can shear them if it's that time of year. Keeping the wool low around that area is really important. There's also chemical control that you can use, prevention spray-ons or jets that can have quite a long prevention time. Up to 24 weeks in some cases. So even if you haven't used that before, this year may be worth considering whether you're going to need fly prevention treatment if you're getting quite a few sheep coming through with flystrike. So the Flyboss website is really good as well for helping look at that.

If you're going to use chemical treatment, you just need to be mindful of the withholding periods and make sure you can abide by that before you apply the chemicals. It's important for feet that if possible, you get them onto dry ground as quickly as possible and with as few rocks so they're not likely to damage or injure their softer feet. Foot baths can be really good for helping to dry out feet and get them back to their former condition. Also, if you have got footrot on your property, then you may need to increase your foot bathing as indicated with that. Have a look at your fodder and look for water damage or mold. If they're in stacks you might find that the middle layers are better and less damaged than those at the bottom. So have a look through that. I'll talk more about fodder later on.

And again, check your fences, not only for hazards, but just to make sure they're stockproof and that you can be mindful of you biosecurity with that. If any animals are ill or sick or injured, do seek veterinary treatment. It's really important that you do that in a timely manner and then they've got more chance of having success with that. Or you can ask state government animal health and welfare group to give you some advice as well. Keep in mind that some animals may be necessary to euthanize them on welfare grounds. If their chances of recovery are low and they are struggling, then euthanasia may be needed.

So I have a short talk about water damage to fodder. So when the fodder, say, hay, silage or grain has become wet and it's also warm, the pH changes in that fodder and bacteria and mold can multiply quickly. So this is usually fairly obvious by the musty smell that you get. And also the hay or silage becomes black and slimy. So this fodder will have a decrease in nutritional value. So what you would normally get out of that is you might have to feed them more of it to get the same value for the animal. But the other thing is that it can be toxic. So sometimes you can have health effects if the animals eat that.

So if the spoiled fodder is toxic from different mold or bacteria, the signs that you might see in your animals is they might have weight loss, they might have a stomach pain or an enlarged abdomen they eat less, often they might develop a scour, diarrhea. Sometimes you get photosensitization which is a swollen red ears and muzzles on the white skin so can become red and then it might peel and crack. It's quite painful. Sometimes get neurological signs, so the animals might tremble or become wobbly and have convulsions. Other times it's just sudden death and you're not sure what it was due to. But it can be due to spoiled fodder. Abortion can occur and botulism may occur if there's like dead rats or mice in the fodder that is eaten and sometimes just with the rotting vegetation that can cause botulism toxins to multiply.

So if you suspect toxicity because of the fodder, it's important to stop feeding it to the animals immediately and replace it with better quality fodder. So have a look at your fodder before feeding it out. So silage, if it appears to be a bit moldy, if you offer them the whole bale, they might selectively eat it and leave the spoiled section and not eat that. So that can reduce the risk of toxicity. You can test hay and silage for toxins but it can be quite slow to get that result back and it can be expensive. So if you can talk to your vet or animal health staff, they can give you advice about whether they think that any signs you're seeing might be due to spoiled fodder. But the main thing is to stop access until it's been assessed more closely.

After flooding, there may be an increase in incidents of blue-green algae. So this is caused by the Cyanobacteria, which is a little algae-like bacteria and it photosynthesizes like plants do. And the conditions for the blue-green algae to bloom, they need sunlight and they need nutrients and carbon dioxide. So there are lots of different sorts of Cyanobacteria, but it's the blue-green one that causes issues in livestock. So when the water flow is high, you don't get these blooms but post-floods it can be issue because the flood water picks up a lot of nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil and it's deposited in the waterways. And once the floods recede, then you can get algae blooms and when they die, toxins are released into the water which causes severe liver damage and death in animals if they drink it.

So signs that you can see with the liver damage, usually it would be you just find your animals dead. And if you have a look at them you might see that there's jaundice around their eyes or on their gums. And some animals, if they don't die suddenly, they'll develop photosensitization. So they'll have reddened areas of skin. They might behave very strangely, which is secondary to the liver damage and they can convulse and die as well. Sometimes it leads to chronic liver failure and they'll just waste away.

So similar to the actions with the spoiled fodder, you need to remove them from that source of contamination. So you need to get them away from the contaminated water source and provide them with clean, fresh water. How you can test for it is you take samples from the animals. So you can see in that picture there, the liver becomes really yellow and discolored and that can be sent off and confirmed that blue-green algae is the cause. Also, water can get tested. Unfortunately, it's not treatable for animals. There's nothing you can do for them and there's not a lot you can do for the water as well because the chemicals you can use can be toxic to plants. There's been speak about using barley straw to break up the rafts but you just really need to wait for it to be flushed away in other rain or the water to dry up.

So just a few things, going over the few things after floods to remember. Look at your animals often and just observe them and assess them for any issues. Provide them with good nutrition where you can and as dry ground as you can. If you're introducing them to new food sources, do that gradually, and any issues, treat them early, you've got best chance of success with that. Get your basics right, so your drenching for worms, your vaccinations for clostridial diseases and nutrition as we said before. And please seek advice or veterinary treatment when needed.

Just for the future planning, make sure the vaccinations are up to date and consider implementing a flood plan. So look at your farm and consider safer areas for your livestock. If there are areas that are a bit higher, move your animals in advance and identify your livestock and look at getting fodder stores for the future if you need to move your fodder as well as your livestock as floods advance, and the future for feed budgets. I think, Rachel, that's about all I've got there. I'm happy if there's any questions that have come through.

Rachel Coombes:

We do have a question, so that's good. Will flystrike prevention back liners like CLiK help prevent mozzies and issues with mozzies?

Rachel Gibney:

I'm not actually sure about that. I'll find out and we can put that answer out-

Rachel Coombes:

With the recording?

Rachel Gibney:

With the webinar recording, yeah.

Rachel Coombes:

Yeah, yeah. Are there any issues with cattle grazing pasture that has silt on the foliage from flood water?

Rachel Gibney:

There is potential contamination from the flood water. So as the flood water recedes, you can get bacteria that contaminate the pasture. So yersiniosis may be an issue because that is a bacteria that is in mud and silt, or E. coli, salmonella. So they are issues potentially, but not always. It's just try and get them the cleanest pasture possible. And you've got no options, just monitor them carefully and if there's any with those diseases you're looking for diarrhea, I suppose, is the main one, or if they just become lethargic and decreased appetite. So if that's the case, you'll have to try and move them off that area. It's difficult with that one because it may be fine, but if there's a high level of bacteria in the silt, then it could potentially cause issues.

Rachel Coombes:

Yeah. Anyone else, please put a question in the question and answer box. I'm going to put up the end of webinar poll. So there's just three really easy questions for you to answer. If you could answer them, that would be fantastic. While that's up, add in any other questions you might have for Rachel.

Rachel Gibney:

Sorry Rachel, going back to the one about mosquitoes, I don't think that the preventative treatment for flystrike will help against mosquitoes because it stops the maggots from the flies hatching. So it's not really going to stop the mosquitoes from biting.

Rachel Coombes:

Thank you. Also, while we're just sitting here, I'll let you know next week we are planning on having a biosecurity, what to watch out for after floods and how to create a bit of a plan going forward. So by biosecurity after floods webinar. I think it'll be at 1:00 PM like today's was. I'll send out more information with the recording for next week and there will be one the week after, and it may around that [inaudible 00:43:57] pastures topic that we're still working that one out.

All right, if there aren't any more questions, we might leave it there. You can find out heaps more flood information on our website, which is We have there all the information on the financial support available there. There is plenty of options there. So please have a look. And all of our flood recovery information does go up there. Thank you for joining and thank you for everyone that has asked questions and completed the evaluation questions, that's great help. Thank you. And thank you to Rachel for a great presentation.

Rachel Gibney:


Biosecurity planning after floods – with Kate McCue, Agriculture Victoria

In this flood recovery webinar, Kate McCue discusses:

  • Creating a biosecurity plan
  • Common biosecurity issues after flooding
  • Setting up a biosecurity kit and facilities on-farm
  • Putting your biosecurity plan into action.

For more information about related topics visit:

Webinar recording passcode: Livestock

Watch recording
+ Expand all- Collapse all

Kate McCue:

Welcome, everyone. We'll just give a couple of minutes until we start just to get everyone to log on.

Welcome everyone. It's just not quite ticked over one o'clock yet, so we'll just give it one more minute just to let everyone get online.

All right, well we might get started. Thanks everyone for joining us today for the third session in our flood recovery webinar series. So today's session is about creating a biosecurity plan. And just before I get started, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and the people which we're meeting today, I pay my respects to their elders, past, present, and emerging, and the aboriginal elders of the communities who may be here today. So first to get started, I'd like to introduce myself, so I'm Kate McCue. I'm a livestock industry development officer based down at our Warrnambool office. I also have one with me today, Chris Glaw and Rachel Coombs who'll be helping out with some of the Q&A. Chris and Rach, do you want to introduce yourself quickly? If you have to.

Rachel Coombs:

Yeah. Hello, I'm Rachel. I am a livestock officer based out of our Ararat office, working across the state.

Kate McCue:

Thanks, Rachel.

Chris Glaw:

Hi, I'm Chris Glaw, I'm based out of the Hamilton office. And I'm a team leader within the Southwest team.

Kate McCue:

Thanks Chris and Rachel. So yeah, so Chris and Rachel are online today. If anyone's got any questions and answers, we'll be monitoring that chat function.

All right, so today's webinar, I just want to acknowledge that it's being presented by the Best Wool Best Lamb and the Better Beef Networks, and also supported by the MDC Innovative Sheep and Beef Networks projects. So as I mentioned, there's a series of webinars that we're running flood recovery webinars. So if you haven't already listening to any of the webinars, I encourage you to listen to some of the recordings that we've made already. So we've had a session on feed budgeting after floods, which Fiona Baker ran and also Animal Health after floods, which Dr. Rachel Gibney ran both really informative webinars and links in nicely to today's session on creating a biosecurity plan and biosecurity management during floods.

Just a bit of housekeeping to get started, so Zoom how-to's, so if you've got a question, we're not using the chat function or the raise your hand function today, so please pop it in the Q&A section down there. If you do have a question, if you're having trouble viewing, if you go up to the top right of your screen, there's a little view function up there and you can try a different view so that you can easily see the Q&A if you're having trouble.

All right, we'll get started. So today I'm going to be talking about biosecurity. So why is biosecurity important and what it is, how to get started creating your biosecurity plan and any issues to consider after flooding or during a flood event and how to set up a biosecurity kit and what to pop in that. And we'll also have some question and answers at the end. So we've got a bit of a poll to get started, which I'll just quickly launch or maybe someone can launch it.

Just give that a couple of minutes. So there's a couple of questions there. So do you have a biosecurity plan? How confident are you in creating your plan or updating your plan? And also are you livestock production assurance accredited? So there's few options there to answer and I can see most people online have answered that, we're pretty quick today. So I can see that there's a bit of a mix in answers there. So there's some people that do have a plan, there's some people in the process of updating it and some people that have not started and are creating a plan. So that's good, hopefully we'll give you some tips and tools today on how to get started with that plan and create that biosecurity plan. And there's also a mix of people that are livestock production assurance accredited, so we'll talk a bit about what that is for those that don't know what it is and what that means.

Okay, so getting started with your biosecurity plan. So what is biosecurity? And why do you need a biosecurity plan? So biosecurity is important in preparing, so particularly in flood events like we've been experiencing. So it's like getting prepared. So it's preparing for events, so assessing what might be the risks out there. So it's protecting your farm, protecting your business, protecting your animals. So it's about planning and preparing. We also have the biosecurity plans for quality assurance, so all our production assurance programs that underpin our market access, so things that we mentioned earlier, so livestock production assurance that falls under that. And we also need biosecurity too, if we've got good biosecurity, we've often got happy and healthy animals. So our productivity's increased and hopefully our profitability as well. I'm just going to skip back a bit and talk about biosecurity, the bigger picture and then we'll drill down to on farm and what's biosecurity risk are in a flood event.

So if we're talking about biosecurity for Australia, we've got lots of different pathways of entry for a biosecurity threats. So things like imports, passengers, mail, and things are coming in via air, via sea. And we also have got a whole lot of unknown variables, but what are we doing about it? So Australia does a whole lot of pre-border activities, so we have international intelligence treaties and agreements. We're constantly doing risk analysis and audits and systems and permits as well. So we also have our pre-border things. Then we've got our, at the border biosecurity measures. So once again we're doing risk assessments, inspections, treatments, quarantine and various things. So if you've ever traveled overseas, you would've had to fill in declarations and perhaps some go through some processes there. We've also got Victoria's Biosecurity system.

So we're constantly with Agriculture Victoria working on systems, we're monitoring, we're doing surveillance, we're doing preparedness, we're responding to events. So down the bottom there I've got a few pictures of some events that we've responded to in the past like Avian influenza, khapra beetle, which came into Australia via some baby furniture. And we're constantly monitoring and doing surveillance for pest plants and animals as well and various other things that might come into Australia and Victoria.

So this one here, I've got what can I control? You might be thinking it's a bit of a funny heading for when we're talking about biosecurity and floods because floods are outside of our control, but what we can control is the planning that we do. So I like to think of biosecurity and planning as creating a big list of things that we can work on. So I like a big list and a biosecurity plan is our big list, our big to-do list of things that we can help, can help us in times of stress to put things in into perspective and get things back into control. So things that we can think about are, as I said, so getting our biosecurity plan can help, meeting our traceability requirements, keeping good records and undertaking good biosecurity measures and supporting each other as well and looking after ourselves to create those positive outcomes.

So what's on my biosecurity list? And this doesn't change really, it's the same things on my list for biosecurity, doesn't matter if it's an emergency response or we're just talking about biosecurity in general. So I've got four things on the list there. So number one is property identification codes, we've got traceability and NLIS transactions, record keeping and monitoring and, of course, creating a on-farm biosecurity plans and reviewing them. And we'll work through this list now and what you can think about as you're working through your biosecurity plan.

So first on the list I've got is property identification codes, so property to identification codes are our way of identifying parcels of land, so you can see here on this map there's a shaded area which identifies that parcel of land and that parcel of land is linked to our property identification code, so it is exactly what it says. It's made up of a unique set of letters and numbers, all Victorian properties start with a letter three. And then we have our local council. So I'm based in the Moyne Shire, so mine is MY. Then we have our parish and we have our unique identifier number at the end. So you might be wondering why I'm talking about property identification codes with biosecurity. Property identification codes are our way of getting in contact with you and we've been using them in this flood response to getting contact with people and identify properties that have been affected by floods.

So I strongly encourage you to hop onto the database, there's a link down there,, hop on there and just check that your details are up to date because if they're not, makes it really hard for us to get in contact with you to offer support and recovery assistance during times of emergencies such as the floods. So hop on there, update your details, there's phone number there as well to update your details. Yeah, so if you've changed your phone number, change your email address. Perhaps you've got a new parcel of land that you need to link to your existing pic, perhaps you don't even have a PIC and you want to obtain a PIC, you can hop on there and do all of that. So yeah, if you've got livestock, it doesn't matter how many, so cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, there's a whole range of animals, you need a property identification code. So I encourage you to hop on there, update your details and just make sure that they're up to date so that we can easily contact you and offer some support and recovery assistance.

If you don't have a property identification code, don't worry, you can still report damage to your farm. So you can get in contact with us on the recovery phone number here. So that 1800 226 226, if you've got some issues resulting from the recent floods. So if you do have property identification code, have that handy so that we can easily locate where your property is and help you out with some relief and recovery assistance. If you don't have a property identification code, don't worry, you can quote your council property number from your rates notice if you happen to have that. And yeah, if you don't happen to have either of those things, you can still ring that number and we can get you in touch with some relief and recovery activities.

Second on my list is traceability and NLIS transactions. So why is this important? It's really important that we're keeping our NLIS database and traceability up to date, particularly in an event such as floods where fences are damage and we might have wandering and stray stock, it helps us to be able to return those animals quickly by rapidly tracing where they've come from and being able to get in touch with you. So making sure once again that PIC information's up to date and also that you trace your NLIS database is up to date. And this is good practice even when we're not in a emergency situation to make sure that your database is up to date, you can log on, get yourself set up with an account, you can familiarize yourself with the database where continually running training sessions at Ag Vic and also with Integrity Systems Company who manage the database, have a wealth of resources and are continually running workshops and training sessions on how to manage your database.

So really important for disease control and rapidly tracing animals and livestock. So important that we keep those details up to date. We can also use it to check that the records are correct and if we've sold some animals, just make sure that they've been moved off our property as well. If you wanting some extra assistance during... If you've been impacted by floods and you need a bit of hand with your NLIS stuff, there's our number there that you can call to get some assistance as well. So that's 1800 678 779, but we will send out all this information at the end of the webinar. You will receive an email with the recording and links to all of this information to have on hand.

I will just talk quickly about NLIS and property to property movements, so in a flood situation we might be sending animals off our property on adjustment or we might be adjusting and helping out people. So whilst it's the responsibility of the receiver of those animals to do that property to property transfer, it's important to do that and keep those movements up to date. So you essentially need three pieces of information to do those transfers. And like we mentioned before, that unique property identification code. So the physical property location, we need an animal identifier so all animals must NLIS tagged and we've got some pictures there, we're probably all pretty familiar with those tags now. So that electronic identification and also need access to the NLIS database to be able to perform that transfer. And there's video that we can send out after this webinar that steps you through on how to do those transfers if you need to do that, could be a handy reference that you might need later on if you happen to be moving livestock on and off your property to manage your flood recovery.

And I'll just go back a step with... Just explain the biosecurity because it can get a little bit confusing how we all fit together. So we've got Agriculture Victoria, who myself and Rachel and Chris sit with. So we're state government, we manage the PIC database, which we've just talked about. We also do NLIS regulation, we do compliance, we do lots of communication and education and of course we do emergency response and recovery work as well. We also have, and I mentioned just before, Integrity Systems Company. So they manage the NLIS database, Livestock Production Assurance, which I'll talk a little bit more about in a minute. And they also do meet standards associations, which is the accreditation rather which is the eating quality of product. They also do communication and education and they have a wealth of resource and information on their website which you can tap into.

We've also got Animal Health Australia, which is Australia's national animal health body and it brings together government industry to deliver animal health and biosecurity programs. So Animal Health Australia, you may have heard them before, they're responsible for our AUSVETPLAN. So the AUSVETPLAN is a nationally agreed approach that we use to respond to any emergency animal disease. So incidents within Australia, so the plan is huge. It's captured in a series of manuals and documents, it's public document, you can hop on there and have a look at that. It's got information on specific diseases and if there's a biosecurity incident that has information on how we would respond and strategies and guided documents and operational manuals and a whole wealth of information in there if you're interested to have a look. So that's sort of how it all fits together. But just wanted to sort of touch on that 'cause it does get a bit confusing at times.

So next on my list is record keeping and monitoring, which is always on our biosecurity list. So I'll just talk a bit about it. So at the very start of this session I asked who's LPA or Livestock Production Assurance Accredited, Livestock Production Assurance Program is the on farm assurance program that underpins market access for Australian red meat. So it's where we get our national vendor declarations, so some of you may be familiar with that picture I've got there to the side, which is the vendor declaration, you may have fill that out if you've been selling livestock. So those vendor declarations are really important for our biosecurity system because they provide evidence of the history of the livestock and the on-farm practices that those livestock have experience throughout the value chain. So it's the declaration of their health that their disease and chemical free. So, that's what LPA is. And when we talk about biosecurity plan, because lots of people are livestock production assurance accredited, part of that accreditation is that you go through these seven modules.

So today we are just talking about two of those modules. So I've touched briefly on livestock transaction and movements and now we'll move more into this biosecurity and creating a biosecurity management plan. So that's where it sort of fits into that bigger picture I guess, on how we're managing that, our food safety.

So we're down to creating a on farm biosecurity plan and reviewing it. So get down into this, so when we're talking about biosecurity planning, usually I break it down into four steps. So the first steps identifying the risks, then we go into documenting the plan, putting it into action and reviewing and updating. So first of all, identifying the risks. So at the moment if we're experiencing flood, there's lots of risks on our radars and we've heard from Rachel Gibney last week, who went through all of the animal health issues that we're thinking about and that might pop up in the future as well. So we've got heightened, I guess, alertness when we're in a emergency situation of those risks, but if we spend a bit of time planning and thinking about what could be the risk and how might we manage it and deal with it at the time. And I bet...

Let's see if I put this slide up that everyone online has popped into their head, at least their top three risks. So it might be worms, it might be fleece rot and fly strike if we're had animals that have been exposed to a lot of water, might be foot problems, a whole lot of things that pop up on our list. And usually when we're doing this we rank out the risks that we might have. So I like to sort of rank them on a scale of, well how likely, what's the likelihood that is going to happen? And what's the impact going to be to our place? And this will change so we can plan, but things will change as we know in emergency such as floods, things will change and it's about being prepared and trying to do our best to manage those risks should they pop up. So I'll just flick through this. Usually when we do this in a workshop, we get people to identify their risks and pop them down. So if you're making notes, yeah just pop down perhaps some of the risks that you've got.

And so it might change. And so in a flood we might go from... This might be a low likelihood there and that might actually suddenly become a very high likelihood, so that might come up here into this red box. So things like fly strike might not have been on our radar, but in times of when it's had lots of wet sheep, it might become much higher likelihood that, that would occur. And I encourage you all to go back and listen to Dr. Rachel Gibney's presentation last week, she went into quite a lot of detail on how to manage some of these risks.

So how might they get onto their farm? Well obviously through floods. So we've got fences down at the moment, so we've got stray and wandering stock, so that's another way we're potentially introducing through fodder and supplies if we're getting emergency fodder coming in. And we've probably also got lots of visitors coming in as well. So people, contractors, vehicles and equipment as well. So just being aware we practice these biosecurity things when we're not in an emergency situation, but it also... We should be trying to practice them as well in an emergency situation. I know it's not always practical, but just trying to do the best that we can in a bad situation.

So I'm going to move into documenting your plan now. So good thing is, is that there's lots of templates out there for creating a biosecurity plan and most of the plans have these seven components to them, so inputs. So we've got inputs, livestock, feed and water, we've got people, vehicles and equipments, we've got production practices, got pests and weeds, outgoing products, so things leaving your farm, we've got planning and preparing and training. So a bit of what we're doing today and there's also often an optional section particularly for beef cut or for Johne's. So we'll step through these seven sections that make up a biosecurity plan in a moment. But I just want to make you aware too that sometimes if you're involved with other accreditation systems, that there might be extra requirements that you need to consider as well when you're developing up your biosecurity plan and putting it together.

So like I said, there's some templates out there so we don't have to start from scratch, which is fantastic. The blue one there on the screen is the livestock production assurance one that is with that program, but you can use any program to meet your... You can also use that Animal Health Australia one, which is the green one to meet your LPI requirements as well. So there's lots of plans there, the bit down the bottom just shows you sort of what's in them, so we've got the section, it's got some questions that you can consider. There's lots of reference documents in them as well. There's some solutions that you might like to think about on what put into your biosecurity plan. And then there's a section over here where you can document whether you're doing it, you're not doing it or you it's not applicable or you might need to work on that area. So I'm going to step through these seven things and talk about what we might consider when you're putting together your biosecurity plan.

So inputs, that's the first on the list and it's broken down into livestock, feed and water, the input section. So in an ideal world we would be inspecting livestock on arrival, we'd be inducting them, we'd be quarantining them. So that might involve things like drenching, vaccination, foot bath and trying to isolate them from your other stock for... And that depends, I've got their minimum of 7, 14, 21 days and that really depends on the risk factors. So going back to that matrix again and just saying, well where are these livestock coming from? Do I know their history? How long might you need to isolate them for? And just reviewing that constantly. So at the moment, and we've got damaged infrastructure and things like that, it might not be possible, but still to keep that in mind, particularly if you're sending... You might have sent your life off stock off on adjustment or to a friend's property or something while you're recovering from the flood.

So it applies to your own animals coming back. So you don't know what's been on that other property that those animals have gone to. So just making sure that once you're back on your feet and you're returning your animals back to your property that you're implementing your quarantine, not forgetting about your quarantine procedures that you usually do, and making sure that they're in place as well. So thinking about that, some of the diseases, and Rachel did talk about this last week, that they might take longer to present themselves like worms and foot rot and fly strikes. So making sure that we're just continually monitoring and doing those worm egg counts. I've got there down the bottom fencing, obviously we might have stray wondering stock that are coming onto our property and you can't prevent that in an emergency situation. So if you can fix up your fences or if you need assistance, there's the BlazeAid number there if you are requiring urgent assistance to try and contain your livestock onto your property.

So please reach out if you do need assistance. And I've just put this slide in just as a bit of an example of what the actual biosecurity plan looks like, so if you've got the template, it's broken down into the sections with all the questions. So I won't go through it step by step because we'll be here all afternoon. But there is another recording that we've got on file that we can send out as well that does step you through it step by step if you just want a bit more guidance to work through that.

So feed this is probably a big one when we're dealing with floods, we'll have feed coming in to help manage our livestock. So we might not always be able to be picky about the feed that's coming on in an emergency situation, but where can, if we can inspect the feed for weeds and pests, that's always good practice to do. If you are not sure what's in it, maybe trying to feed it out not across the whole farm but in a sacrifice paddock or something like that. So that if it does contain weeds and things that you can try and limit the spread of that, really important to inspect the feed for water damage and mold, it can reduce the palatability, the nutritive value if we're trying to maintain stock condition. And also molds that are on feed can be toxic as well. So being aware that, that might not present itself immediately.

That bottom picture down there is actually for a flood at my property. So I live, although I'm based out at Warrnambool, we're not experiencing floods at the moment, but that was a one in 100 year flood that we experienced a couple of years ago. That's a few days after the floods have gone down. You can see there those bales are sitting in quite a bit of water. We were able to get in and move some of them, but there was a lot of wastage because they did spoil and there was a lot of mold. So just being careful that you are not going to go and feed that to animals that are vulnerable and might cause a toxic reaction in those animals.

But number one, I've got down at the bottom there is looking after yourself. So only move hay if it's safe to do, so don't go moving stuff if it's not safe and making sure that you're looking after yourself because if it is moldy and stuff, making sure you've got the right PPE and hygiene. Oh and I will just mention up of the picture there, just remind me of even hay that's stored in sheds can get damaged and wrapped silage as well. So the bales can sort of act like a big sponge I guess, and wick the water up, so it might not just be that bottom layer of hay, it could go up into that haystack and also into the sides as well. So just continually to monitor the feed that you've got and make sure that it's not starting to grow molds and things like that.

So this one isn't necessarily flood related with feed, but a important consideration with biosecurity. So just making sure that feeds stored correctly, that you're following the labels, you're keeping up your records with any medicated feeds that have withholding periods because once again, once we get back to filling out our vendor declarations, we want to make sure that things aren't still in withholding periods and considering your other animals on your farm like the dog, the pigs, the chooks, and what kind of feeds that you're feeding them. I've got a picture there of a chook bag which has restricted animal material, so that's anything that has that label on it, you shouldn't be feeding to ruminants. So just making sure that you've got that feed labeled correctly and particularly if we've had infrastructure damage and things like that to make sure that we're not mixing up the feeds and so forth in these situations. And also checking for molds as well again with those stored feeds.

The other one which I'll mention just quickly is from a biosecurity point of view is pigs. So please don't feed swill to pigs, it's prohibited. So swills, any type of food scraps or food waste that contains meat or which has been in contact with meat. So don't feed that to pigs. Pigs are a known sort of animal for spreading disease and serious disease outbreaks. So swill feeding's been banned for quite some time, so please don't feed swill. The other thing I've got there is PigPass, which is basically the NLIS version for pigs. So it's relatively new, it's the tracking system for pigs and if you hop onto that database, if you do have pigs you can get MVDs and things like that. So just being aware of that, that, that's a new system that's been implemented. It doesn't matter whether you've got one pig or lots of pigs.

Inputs water and managing potential contamination, so visually inspecting the water and the supplies, so for dead stocks, smells, odours, checking for weeds and pests. Rachel talked quite a bit about blue green algae, so it might not be there at the moment but it might present itself a bit later on. So just being aware that some of these things may present themselves a bit further down the track as well. As I said, there's lots of fences down, so just trying to keep livestock away from contaminated water. So waste water, sewage effluent, storm waters, those kinds of things also, you may have come onto a farm and thought, oh I don't know why they've got that area fenced off, but it might have been fenced off because it's a swampy area or a fluky area, so just keep up the monitoring because some of those pests and diseases might not present themselves immediately. So likely with fluke, might wait until it finds another host.

We've got in their water source, quality and trough design. So that's more general, if you are replacing infrastructure, just thinking about whether those troughs are easy to clean, the animals can easily access them and they're not able to defecate it in them and contaminate that water.

So moving on to section two, we're up to now of the biosecurity plan. So in section two it's all about people, vehicles and equipment. So we talk about controlling the border at your fence line, so with signage and things like that. Might obviously not so simple in emergency situation but where you can, keeping a visitor log, those kinds of things. Thinking about shared access, trying to restrict access for people, particularly in those high risk areas like your yards and that kind of thing. Still encouraging people to come clean and go clean even though it is an emergency situation in floods, there's lots of mud around, it sticks to vehicles so it has that potential to carry weed seeds and various other things in it.

Just other things to think about when we're thinking about biosecurity is providing wash down areas, boot cleaning facilities, perhaps keeping a biosecurity kit in your car if you're going off perhaps to the sale yards to do things. So one of the things we said that we would mention today was what you might think about putting into your biosecurity kit, so things like clean gum boots or boots that can be washed and cleaned easily, brushes or a hoof pick are often good because you can scrape that mud and dirt off as well as give it a bit of a brush, some tubs to wash in, a jerry can with some water for washing your boots and your hands, just like a general household detergent to give things a good clean. And then a broad spectrum disinfectant as well. Spray bottles can be handy, some clean coveralls if you happen to be going into a situation to give someone a hand, help them out with their recovery from floods.

So it's good to have all this stuff on hand, disposable gloves, soap, and some thick garbage bags just so that you can responsibly dispose of things if need be. So yeah, just handy thing to have in your car and particularly as I said, if you are helping out with recovery efforts and going to help your neighbors and your friends and so forth or volunteering. I will just talk about this quickly, basics of boot washing. So the first things first is to wash it first, there's no point disinfecting something that's not clean. So yeah, making sure that you've got rid of all that excess dirt and debris using a brush, a scraper, wash it with water, get some soap onto it, make it nice and clean and then disinfect it. So always follow the directions on the disinfectants used and they need to work for the full time listed on the label to be effective. So another option, of course, is to consider having dedicated footwear as an alternative and then washing them when you get home and disinfecting them.

So we do have a little list of disinfectants that we hand out to people so we can include that in a pack too that we email out after this session, it's always a question that comes up is what should I use?

So moving along to section three of the biosecurity plan and production practices. So this section is really looking into sort what do you do on farm? So all your animal health plans, your drought plans, your flood plans, the vaccination plans, your drenching plans. So it really relates back to that risk analysis that we did right at the start. So what are the risks to your property? What are the things that might come onto your property and how are you going to manage them if it does happen? So really good thing to have in place, it helps if perhaps someone might be on leave or on holidays or unwell, it's a nice plan to have there to sort step out what usually happens on the farm if someone's got to step in and backfill someone's position or something like that. So it takes a bit of time but it's good to sit down and do it.

And we recently ran a session which we can also include the link to that webinar as well, which stepped through what are the kind of things that need to go into your animal health plan and how to work up your animal health plan. So I can put that link in as well, which was from our biosecurity planning sessions that we ran, which goes into a whole lot more detail about what to include and so forth. And of course Rachel's session last week on flood recovery also talked about vaccination and drenching regimes and things to look out for after the floods, like body condition and lameness and just making sure that you're monitoring your animals as well.

And, of course, down the bottom there I've also got that record keeping again. So making sure that you're storing and checking the labels for use by dates and storing things correctly. I'll just flick to the next slide which just sort of shows you what the biosecurity plan template looks like just for the animal health section. So there it's got some questions, it's got some templates that you can use. So like I said, you don't have to start from scratch, there's great templates there that you can use and you can step your way through the plan to get yourself your biosecurity plan.

Section four of your biosecurity plan is all about outgoing products. So just like we like to inspect and make sure that things are free from pests and weeds and diseases when they're coming onto our farm, we should also practice being a good neighbor and making sure that things that are leaving our property are also free from pests and diseases and they're fit and healthy to load. We're making sure that they're correctly tagged, we're checking our database to make sure those movements have happened off. We're providing our national vendor declaration to say that these livestock are free from disease and residue. If you're selling hay and stuff, so providing those declarations if need be. Those of you that do have MVDs, you have noticed on the EMVDs there's an option there that you can select to provide animal health declarations if people are requesting those when you are selling.

Section five is about pests and weed management and I've just sort of popped in a few things there for pests and weeds after floods, so as we know floods are notorious for introducing new weed species and pests onto our properties and sometimes they're not evident straight away. So really like with weeds, you should be monitoring the areas that have been flooded for at least the next 12 months because often these things won't present themselves immediately. If you do find weeds that you're not quite sure what they are, please seek out some help to get identification and your local [inaudible 00:47:50] officer can help. Or often there's land care groups or CMAs and things like that, that have people that are really good at identifying things. And there's some apps I think too now that are available that are quite good. Chris and Rachel might be able to help me out with those.

But yeah, so please if you don't know what the weed is, seek out with some identification and once it's identified, of course, then you can easier to work out what the best management practice is going to be to control and hopefully eradicate or at least reduce and minimize the spread of those weeds and pests. The other thing to be aware of, and we probably will no doubt run some recovery workshops further down the track about pasture management after floods and pastures can be, sometimes growth can be reduced, which gives weeds the opportunity to get established. So once again, just seeking that advice on how to best manage those pastures to get them to respond and recover from the flood event.

Once again, the come clean, go clean, I know not always practical when we're in emergency situation, but just considering washing wash down areas, like I said, if there's lots of mud and stuff around it can be a bit of a conduit to spreading weed seeds and things around. So we talked about asking for commodity declarations and inspecting feed and fodder for weeds and pests. I've got there seeking advice for disposing of carcasses after flood. So carcasses can present a bit of an issue with harboring some pests that might be unwanted. So I've got the link there to our Agriculture Victoria website where there's some information on how the best way to dispose of carcasses after floods is so there's a series of information there that you can work your way through and work out what's the best way to do that on your property.

Fencing off problem areas. So you may have had these areas fenced off prior to the flooding and flood the areas that fencing might be damaged, so just being aware that can be hazardous to livestock that you might have around there if those fences have been damaged. So you might have forgotten about the old tip site from five generations ago, but it suddenly exposed itself, so just being aware that they can pose some biosecurity risks as well. Consider, and I mentioned this before, just limiting areas where if we're introducing fodder and feed and we're not quite sure of its status, just perhaps consider reducing the risk of spreading it maybe to... So perhaps feeding it to a containment area or perhaps a sacrifice paddock so that it limits the spread of weeds across your property.

Section six of the biosecurity plan is all about training and planning and recording things, so keeping good records like we said before. So stock movements, NLIS transactions, so trying to keep them up to date, particularly making sure that your details are up to date if we've got stray and wandering stock so that they can get returned to you as quickly as possible. Seeking some emergency advice if you need to about how to meet your applications. So that phone number that I put up earlier, if you need some assistance, still trying to keep your visitor logs, if you can. Seek some training, so those of you that are online and have been attending these workshops, so that's what this is all about. Tapping into some of the templates that are available, so as I said before, integrity systems have a great resource on there. So there's lots of templates that you can use and tap into.

So there's Excel templates, there's booklets, things like that. I know I've received some things in the mail from them, which are great little record keeping booklets that you can use. But I guess just finding a system that works for you. Some people like to have it all electronically, some people like it on their phone, you can take photographs, just making sure that you're recording it somewhere and making it work for you. So I know I like to take photo often of the drenched drum and then I can record the information once I get back into the office, either on the computer in my diary, depending on where I'm keeping those records.

I'll just talk about this really briefly because it's quite property specific. So section seven of the biosecurity plan is an optional section, it's about Johne's for beef cattle. You can find out more by visiting the Animal Health Australia website, you can do their little risk profiling tool to see where you come out in the risk, if you've got a biosecurity plan implemented, you can see that you're already off the bottom rung there. But yeah, it's really just depends on people's production system, whether they want to go down that path and you really need to seek veterinarian advice on that section of your biosecurity plan.

So putting it all together so there's lots in a biosecurity plan. So like I said, so starting off by identifying the risks and making your list, like I said, I love a good list. Be kind to yourself with... You've just been through a very stressful situation, a very tiring situation with the floods, make sure that you're looking after yourself. So making sure that you're top of that list, breaking it down into small chunks that you can bite off. Don't try and do everything at once. Think about what have you already got in place that you can easily put back in place after the floods. Think about things that you can do that can knock out several risks at once. So things like animal health plans, making sure the vaccinations are up to date, a quarantine paddock, things that will help minimize those biosecurity risks, might be quite easy to implement but they'll also knock out a whole lot of risks at once.

So if you've got that quarantine paddock, you've quarantined them for your 21 days, you've done your drench, you've done your vaccination, you've immediately knocked out a whole lot of risks that might be presented onto your farm. So don't try to do it all at once. Like I said, look after yourself, you're number one person in the operation so make sure that you're putting yourself first and taking care of yourself. We'll just mention quickly because I did have this right at the very start that a biosecurity plan should also include a map. This is a map that a colleague of mine put together in a program called QGIS, which we use for our whole farm planning courses. I think we've got some courses coming up next year, so if that interests you, please tap into one of those courses. We've also got some face to face mapping ones, which we'll be rolling out next year as well.

So this one is the biosecurity layer, so it really just shows all those biosecurity points on the property. So we've got things like exit and entry points, effluent stock containment areas, all those kinds of things that might go into your biosecurity layer. But when we do the whole farm planning and the mapping, we also do fencing and land classing and it's a whole lot more detailed. This is just one layer of that map which meets your biosecurity and your LPA requirement.

So last thing is reviewing and updating your biosecurity plan. So you should be doing it annually and when things change such as you might be purchasing different livestock species, like I said, we might be adjusting or leasing some land if we're trying to get our livestock off our flooded areas. So if things change, you might need to just tweak your biosecurity plan to accommodate for that. So you might need to, if you're leasing property, you might need to change quarantine practices or something like that. So just having you think about what those risks are. If things do change, like I said, find a system that works for you and that will meet your requirements. Continue to monitor or report, anything suspicious and there's a couple of phone numbers that I've got there. So the emergency animal disease watch hotline and there's also an exotic plant and pest hotline. And also really important at the moment is this flood recovery hotline. So if you are experiencing any issues, please reach out to that flood recovery hotline and I'll put you in touch with some recovery information and services that might be available.

Useful apps, so I've just popped this on here. So that's the Notify Now, which is the emergency Animal Disease watch hotline, so that number that I've just mentioned before. And also this VIC Emergency app as well. So with recent biosecurity events like the Japanese encephalitis and things that was popping up on the emergency app to say to people, be careful of that. So I think I'm just about at the end. So just to go back, so tips for goods on-farm biosecurity practices. So have a plan in place, try and review it regularly, go easy on yourself, you've just experienced a flood so things aren't going to be perfect. Try and keep your PIC details up to date so that we can get in contact with you when there is an emergency event. Try and keep your records up to date and follow good hygiene practices, including cleaning your shoes and your clothes and looking after yourself and talking to your... Seeking out advice from your vet or your local animal health officer if need be.

And I've just got up there a few resources that you might like to tap into. So we've got flood recovery and relief information. So please, like I said at the start of this presentation, you can call that phone number, you can hop onto our website and get in touch with some flood recovery and relief information that we can link you into, Rachel will be sending out a follow up email with all the information and web links that we've covered today. There's some more webinars coming up, so next week Clem is going to talk about I think water quality and soils, hopefully I've got that right. But that'll get advertised. We also have other workshops and events coming up, so if you can hop onto our website, you can see what's available. There's the Vic Emergency flood hotline there, which can help you with various things, particularly looking after yourself. So your mental health and wellbeing is number one. So I've got the lifeline number there too, if anyone needs that, 131114.

Yeah, and if anyone wants to contact me after today, there's my contact details down the bottom, happy to chat to anyone if they've got any biosecurity planning things that they want to talk about. So that's really brings it to the end for today. So I've just pop up the poll and check that if there's any questions. So [inaudible 01:01:29]. So, just a couple of questions there. So how confident are you in creating or updating your on-farm biosecurity plan? And how satisfied are you with today's webinar? So I'll just give people a couple of minutes to answer that and yeah, do we have any questions, Chris and Rachel or have we dealt with them as we've gone through? Don't think there's any questions, everyone's very quiet today.

No, I'll just give it a minute in case anyone's got any questions they want to pop in the chat. But if not, thank you very much everyone for coming today. And yeah, keep an eye on your email inbox, Rachel will be sending out some information after the session. And yeah, please do get in contact if you need more assistance. Thanks very much everyone.

Control and repair of paddock-based erosion – with Clem Sturmfels, Agriculture Victoria

In this flood recovery webinar, Clem Sturmfels discusses the control and repair of paddock-based soil erosion. Topics include:

  • A saturated landscape, heavy rain and flooding has resulted in significant soil erosion across Victoria
  • New erosion scours have appeared, and old erosion has been reactivated.

Webinar recording passcode: Livestock

Watch recording
+ Expand all- Collapse all


We'll get started in about a minute, when we click over to 1:00, so just hold on. All right, Clem, by my clock, it's gone one o'clock. I think we still have a couple of people rolling in, but we will get started. Welcome everyone to today's Flood Recovery webinar, it's with Clem Sturmfels and it's on the control and repair of paddock-based soil erosion. Before we get started, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we are meeting today. I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging, and to the aboriginal elders of other communities who may be here today. Clem, if you could go to the next slide. I'm going to quickly put up a pre-webinar poll, it's just one question. If you could answer it, that would be great. Thank you. We will have time for questions in the middle of the webinar today and at the end. So we'll just leave the poll up for, I think, we've got everyone answered, so that's good.

Clem, if you can't see the results there, we're floating around the not very to somewhat confident. So lots for people to learn by sounds of that. We're going to mostly use the question and answer function today, so if you could use that and type your questions in there, I'll ask Clem and he can answer them for you. If you do have a complex question, we'll see how it goes, we can get you to put your hand up and unmute you, I think, so we can go down that route if it's a bit more complex. If you're having issues with the way your screen is laid out today, you can go up into the top right corner and change the view, side by side with the speaker is always nice. That's the second one, that's what I like. So that's good. I think I'm going to pass over to Clem.

Clem Sturmfels:

Thank you Rachel and hi everyone and look, thanks for coming along, soil erosion isn't always the most popular topic with people. As you'd be aware, soil erosion is pretty common after fires, floods and other natural disasters. If anyone sort of experienced those in years gone by, you know some of the implications and this year it's been very obvious with the large quantities of sediment that have ended up on our paddocks. I've got to say it's nearly impossible to prevent soil erosion during these big natural events. A little bit different to some of the other erosion we see. It's often right out of our control, with totally bare ground and exposed soils, burnt vegetation or in this case, very extreme storm events. Reclamation works like you can see in this main picture here, can be very expensive and quite complex to work out what you're going to do, that's after the Black Saturday fire.

And to give you some idea, that rock chute in the top left hand corner, might be the sort of structure that you'd put in that site and you're talking in excess of $100,000 to stabilize that site with something like that. That's really not what we're going to be talking about today so much, I'm hoping to look at some more practical options, hands on options that you might be able to use. You probably don't want to be fronting up with a bill, something like that. The aim of today's session is really about understanding soil erosion and I'll explain why in a minute, and then going on to provide you with a few techniques to deal with some of the more minor problems on your farm. What's important to understand with all this work and it took me a while to sort of reflect on it, the problem with a lot of this work is that you only need to get one small part of it wrong and any work you can do can collapse and disappear.

Even worse than that, you can be a lot worse off than where you started. Particularly if you've lost an acre of topsoil in the process or another acre of topsoil. I could spend the whole session talking about all the different ways we can control erosion, but without that understanding of how and why they fail, then it's probably not worthwhile. So in this particular case, one weak link, this was the same rock chute you saw in that previous photo. We had a very intense storm event, but we also had a few loose rocks and maybe they were poking up a bit high in the middle of this chute. Couple of those rocks rolled and it set the whole chain of events and the chute had to be rebuilt at about $10,000. The smaller image in the top left hand corner just simply shows a diversion bank, surveyed out quite nicely, all done properly, stripped underneath the bank, but the bank was built out of loose topsoil. And of course, that's got little hope of holding up with a decent flow of water.

So the topics I'm going to cover today, and that's really why I wanted to mention that, is to help you understand why we're going to spend a bit of time talking about a bit of the background stuff, such as the physics and process of water erosion, some of the controlled principles, how to make an assessment of your site, and then finally, getting into some of the control techniques. I just want to start by talking about the power of water, and I think I'm probably preaching to the converted because there won't be anyone who doesn't now understand the power of water. We hear it repeated on the radio and television all the time, about driving or walking or riding a bike through water. Water can store and release a massive amount of energy and that can either be in the form of falling water, you might be surprised, but that includes rainfall, I'll talk about that shortly.

But falling water in terms of a waterfall, which might have made this gully erosion in this picture move up the catchment, but also flowing water. So the water flowing in the bottom of this channel might be making the bed deeper and deeper and deeper. So we got falling water such as a waterfall, we got flowing water and that's all about the velocity, it's not about the energy stored in the falling water. Finally, we've also got water as a lubricant and a dead weight, if you like, triggering the landslides and the quite extensive debris flows we've seen in recent alpine fire events. And that can also have quite an impact on gully head erosion and we can touch on that afterwards.

I think it's important to understand that the landscape was stable when Europeans settled here or pretty well stable, of course, it wasn't. Soil erosion is a natural occurrence, but in Australia, it was a long, long time ago, nearly a million years ago. It's important to understand though that these forces have shaped the mountains, the hills, the valleys, the drainage lines, like where these two people are standing. And if you look down underneath them, there's layer after layer of gravel and deposited material which was scoured off bigger hills and mountains somewhere upstream of this site.

So just want to get onto talking about getting our priorities straight because Rachel encouraged me to talk a bit about assessing the site before you hop in and do things. I think it's important to understand why, about 40 years ago, I walked away from this site. It was something I couldn't really work out where to even make a start. In fact that site hasn't changed a lot, although we've worked on a lot of neighboring properties. What's important to understand is that possibly a bigger threat to agriculture isn't those really deep gullies and maybe tunnel erosion. It's the damage that we're doing on an annual basis to our paddocks. And a lot of that damage, and I'm talking about sheet and rill erosion or in fact, splash sheet and rill erosion and those terms, all I'm talking about is the raindrops hitting the bare ground, talking about the sheet flow as it sweeps the material downhill and then the little rills or gullies that start to form.

A lot of this, we don't even see it unless you look very closely during a thunderstorm event. You can often feel it as it lands on your legs, as the topsoil bounces up onto your knees and up to your waist, and that's all the energy being absorbed by the energy of the raindrop. That energy, when it's hitting our soil, particularly bare soil, and this is why we're encouraging 80% cover if we can or certainly somewhere around that for both stubbles and for pasture paddocks, because this is a massive loss to our production and it's important to think about that when you're deciding whether you're going to proceed with other erosion works.

So those raindrops, they're smashing up the soil structure, they're blocking the soil pores and of course, they're moving material down slope and it can result in a big loss of organic matter, soil, nutrients and fertilizer. When we had a close look at this paddock here and measured some of the material coming off, it was massive the amount of material coming off that paddock, even though it wasn't that obvious. That material, when it's concentrated, a bit of a stream can be carried for miles or of course, it drops out in a big bed or spread out area at the bottom of the paddock or on a nearby roadside.

Talking about that sediment, it's important to understand that all the erosion processes are really interrelated, nothing tends to work on its own. So when you're dealing with erosion, you might be thinking about dealing with underground tunnel erosion, you might be thinking about gravity collapse, you might be thinking about sheet erosion. And this is a good example where lots and lots of sheet erosion from upstream, has landed in this valley and covered up the old soil profile. And you can see that down underneath him. And then the waters come back over that sediment, that big sediment deposit and maybe dropped off a little edge or a little wall on the bottom side and suddenly initiated a tiny little hole. And that tiny little hole can then rapidly get deeper and deeper and form the sort of erosion you can see here. And I suspect that's what's happened here, where we've got lots of discontinuous gullies all the way up this valley.

Vegetation and later on I'll just be really highlighting that topsoil and vegetation, for me, is sort of bread and butter. It's what really makes our work successful or not successful. A good cover of vegetation, as I've just alluded to with sheet erosion, can protect our soils from raindrop damage. The raindrops are hitting the vegetation, bouncing it around, probably warming it up, but that energy's absorbed on the plants, not on the soil. So your soil is coming away pretty well unscathed. Even with good grass cover though, once you've got a little waterfall and that can be from a track or a rabbit burrow or old stump hole, then you can still get erosion forming fairly quickly and that can either turn into a scour or a waterfall like this, and it can become quite a major problem.

In this case here, this little waterfall, it's an interesting one to look at. There's a few processes happening here. What we've got is a weakly structured soil which is getting really wet and saturated, then breaking away in big lumps. So that's your gravity collapse. However, if you didn't have the water landing in the bottom of the hole using its energy to smash up these big lumps and send them downstream, then the process would stop, which then leads on to your thinking about control options. If we start throwing a few old straw bales in there, preferably very clean straw bales or some other objects, preferably not rock, then we might be able to absorb that energy and start to form a bit of a staircase. The head will keep going, but we might start to lift the floor of that creek, get a bit of vegetation growing, absorb the energy on the straw bales, rather than blasting away the soil.

When we're thinking about erosion control, we're thinking about managing a whole lot of forces and energy. It's what we got to think about whenever we go out in the paddock, what we're trying to achieve and how we're going to do it. And those forces I've sort of half alluded to, are the force of falling water such as a waterfall, the force of flowing water, and of course, gravity collapse. If we use a rock chute, we're basically turning the head of a gully or a waterfall into a long ramp, we're turning it into flowing water, we're absorbing that energy by bouncing the water against rocks, we're creating turbulence, we're giving off heat and by the time the water gets out the bottom, it's got no energy left. So that's basically what we're trying to achieve with nearly all our works, whether it's a diversion bank with lots of grass on it to slow the water down and use up the energy or whether it's a rock chute.

Now going to talk about diversion banks a little bit and this whole flowing water thing. So I've talked about the falling water and trying to absorb the energy. When we're talking about water flowing across a paddock or going down a scour gully, we need to think about the speed of the water because that's what strips the gravel off our roads, it rips out our table drains, it makes our drainage lines or our gullies get deeper and deeper. There's a very clear direct link in the physics here. If you've got a raw diversion bank that hasn't been grassed up, such as that top left figure and that will be topsoil and grass, but if you ran water on that, you could only run water at about half a meter a second before it started to pick up that material and cause erosion. However, once that bank is grassed up, like in the main picture, you can talk about carrying water at three times the speed.

And then if you're talking about something like a grassed chute, that I'll show you later, for a short period of time, you can get up around five or six times that speed because it's got a good cover of grass and it's only working for a short length of time. So it's all about maintaining that velocity. We know once water slows below about half a meter a second, it will suddenly drop all the sand and all the soil out of suspension and we'll get a big deposit of sediment. So if you can understand that, it sort of helps to understand why we use the techniques we do. And a lot of them are pretty basic, they're pretty common sense, but it's just understanding that bit and getting it right.

Just one point I should make is that you can do everything right, like this lovely diversion bank with a car in it, and look at the water level, it's nearly gone over the top of that bank, would've carried a very large flow. But if you dump that water on a steep slope and it goes out in a very narrow stream, it's just going to tear down the paddock and rip the paddock away. So at the end of that bank, it's really important that water is dumped in a really safe location and by safe, it can still be quite steep, as long as it's wide and flat and well grassed and you spread that water out before you drop it. So we'll talk about that shortly.

So this is what Rachel sort of encouraged me to think about a bit more and it really comes back to me when I remember the Kenny Rogers song, and it's got the words, know when to walk away and when to hide. And it's a bit like that first gully I showed you, even though it was only about the 10th day I'd been on the job, I certainly knew when to walk away from that job and hide somewhere. But it's something you really need to think about, particularly after an emergency event like the floods we've had, because it's very easy to get really emotional and I certainly do when I walk out and see massive erosion, but you've really got to think about is it a real problem, is it going to get worse or is it going to look like it is for some time? Why is it a problem for me? Is it just ugly or is it going to chew up and chew through my road or my track or is it eating away some of my really good soil? Then of course you want to do something about it.

And in these images here, we've got the main image there which is, if you like, sort of sheet erosion in 2011 after the floods out in the Wimmera. And that's a good example of I'd be standing back on that one, I'd certainly be doing work on it later on, but this clearly happened under a freak storm event, with fairly friable soil over fairly impermeable sub-soil and it's just swept it away. If we go and grab the land plane and drag a bit of topsoil across there and sew it all down and happen to get another thunderstorm, then we've lost all that topsoil again. So that's one where I'd be stopping and having a bit of a good think about what I'm going to do. Maybe a few temporary works to start with, before I confidently dragged topsoil back across, I'd probably rip underneath, drag topsoil across and revegetate it very, very quickly.

If that had been vegetated, I doubt whether it would've washed away. It looks like it was just bear ground when that happened, but I could be wrong. The top left corner is typical of lots of gullies that we get dragged to after big fire events and I was told this gully had only appeared after the bush fires. However, when you look really closely and you won't be able to do that, but you'll notice there's a whole lot of moss growing on the walls of the gully just downstream from where I'm standing there. And that straightaway tells me this gully had been there for, I don't know, 20, 30, 40, 50 years and had hardly moved. And again, you've got to make that assessment is it a high priority?

In this case it was dumping sediment directly into a nearby creek, so it probably was a high priority. Bottom left corner, probably about a four meter deep underground tunneling on the edge of the Grampians, totally out of reach of most excavators or anything else, virtually impossible to control, covering acres and acres. And again, I walked away and just said, "Look, I'm sorry, we're going to make more mess here trying to deal with it." So I guess that's my message, think about what's it going to look like in five years time if I do nothing. Keep in mind that erosion is a natural process, at some point it will stop, either because it's hit bedrock or be because it's got so far out the catchment, it's run out of energy and it just starts to taper out.

Just another weakly to think about when you're making that assessment is your soil. And I know I'm sort of raising lots of issues, I'm not trying to put you off, I'm just trying to point out some of the downsides of jumping in like they did down here at Coleraine, and putting in a heap of concrete structures on gray cracking clays, and then wondering why they failed. High shrink soils, of course they're going to leak and tunnel underneath. So tunnel prone, if you've got lots yabbies, you need to be careful because you can have underground water going in all directions or layers of loose gravel. Getting onto the control works, I just want to introduce that by just sort of giving you some idea of my approach to it. And I guess the first question I always ask is, and this isn't one of my jobs, this is just one of my farmers I work with, who happen to build this off his own accord, at his own cost, but we have gone back and done a lot more work with that person.

The first thing I always ask myself, is it worthwhile? Is there a significant benefit to the farmer and is there a significant benefit to the environment, particularly if government money is being put into help with the work? The next questions I ask is, can I safely trap all the water? It's no good building a structure like this and having water out flank it and go round it or worse still, over the top and wash it away. So it's really important that you can deal with the water you expect to get. In a case like this where you've got a very fixed volume of water, then we always put a flood bypass, we'd have an earthen bank going out each way from the wing walls and then a low well grassed area where big storms can spread out and go round the structure, rather than going over the top and damaging it.

So you need to think about that whenever you do your works, even really temporary works, you've got to be able to trap the water, you've got to be able to carry all the water and you've got to have somewhere safe to dispose it. In this case, they've actually put in a rock floor as well, sorry, a concrete floor to absorb the energy when the water tips over. The final question, sadly you do need to ask, and I say sadly, but it's about protecting the environment, is do I need a permit? And in reality, many drainage lines now in Victoria, you do need to let the CMA know what you're planning and get a works on waterways permit from them. And that includes all the jobs that I've done over the last 20 years, I needed to get a works on waterways permit. So keep that in mind. That doesn't mean you mightn't go and do a very quick temporary protection while you get onto the CMA or get a response from them.

So the rest of the session now, I'm just going to talk about some quick and easy techniques that you might think about using in your situation. But before we do that, Rachel was keen that we just open it up to any questions so far and then I'll keep going. Rachel.


We don't have any questions yet but we might give it just a minute to see if anyone wants to type in a question from the first half of the session.

Clem Sturmfels:

And if anyone needs to duck out and grab a drink or something, feel free to do it, we'll give it a minute or so.


No, nothing, Clem, so probably keep moving.

Clem Sturmfels:

Quietly keep rolling along. All right then. So cheap and easy techniques and this is always a bit of a challenge to think about because I tend to go for very conservative, more engineered approach. I haven't had any significant failures in my career and I'm not keen to start having them now. So however, some of these techniques I'm showing you tend to be try it out and see how it goes. They're generally cheap, they generally do little damage and they generally protect most of your topsoil so you can always come back and use another technique. But having said that, if you monitor and maintain some of this stuff, they can be pretty useful.

So look, when I'm talking about cheap and easy techniques, I'm really talking about shallower erosions, so maybe down to two meters or two and a half meters deep, erosion that generally starts and finishes on your farm. Although there's some examples I'll talk about where you might use them where it doesn't, to control head wood erosion. And generally smaller catchments, so we may be talking 40 to 100 hectare catchment and by catchment I mean the area of ground feeding water to your site.

And quickly just say there's no right or wrong options for any of this work, it's just trying to pick the one that is most effective, most cost effective. The techniques I'm going to talk about are just filling, so gully filling, hole filling, whatever. I'm going to talk about diversion, diversion of water away from an erosion site. And again, these overlap a bit, I'm going to talk about gully head structures and then finally just touch on weirs, and I'll explain what they all mean when we get to them.

So the first one I'm talking about, and as you can see there, this is typical sort of scour gully that occurred very rapidly after various fire events, and in this case Whittlesea. And these gullies probably would've just scoured straight down, from scouring, not from a waterfall so much, I don't know how deep, I can't remember how deep this one was, regardless it certainly wouldn't be more than two meters deep. So I talked about a filling technique. So where a filling technique can be useful is where you've got a reasonably short length of gully or a hole like the photo in the top right hand corner, that's somewhere in the middle of your waterway, in the middle of your drainage line and it's only going to get worse with water running over that top edge or scouring down the bottom of it.

So my simple technique for those, I'll often just start with bales of clean straw, jam them in and if you're happy to go back over a few months and maybe over another year, by the time they all rot down, you can get a lot of grass growing. So that's one solution straight away, is to trim them up with a shovel and [inaudible 00:29:55] wherever you can, particularly if it's just a hole and pack, very neatly pack, in this case maybe square bales, in that hole on the right, as tightly as you can. Of course they'll rot down fairly quickly and sink, so you might need to add more, and I talked about that a bit earlier.

The second thing you can do though is to open them up a little bit so you can get nice good clay into the bottom of them. So in this long scour in the main photograph, I'd be just simply probably using a mini excavator or medium sized excavator to drag the bucket up that scour, to open it up so I can get material into the bottom easily and then pack it with the best material I can find. That might only be just gravel, like what's in there at the moment or in the sides of that gully, or it might be something better if you had a dam bank nearby. Pack that in as tight as you can but then bring the top of the packing above ground level so the water can go round it.

Now having said that, both of these techniques only work if you got room for the water to go round the site safely and there's good grass cover. And in both these examples there is, on the right hand side there's a reasonable width there to carry the flow, even though it clearly had a big, big flow. You're not going to do this immediately after a bush fire or maybe not even at this stage, when we're still expecting really intense storm events. But once the weather settled down a bit, that's when you might do it, when you're not expecting those really exceptional flows. So pack it in with clay, build it up above ground level so it's forcing the water around the erosion. And then finally, you might finish it off with topsoil, you might just leave it raw for a year or two and then topsoil it later or spread old hay over it or something like that.

So you could treat both those sites in the same fashion. If it's really long, if that gully on the left is a really long one, then you're still going to get water building up down in the bottom of it, through the soil, and you may need to, and say if the ground either side gets quite narrow, you may need to put a plug in partway down. And by a plug, I'm simply talking about the same clay material but being put in very carefully like you would if you're building a dam bank. Go to the bottom, core out a bit, make a core across the erosion and if you like, build a dam bank up to ground level so any subsurface water is trapped and brought up to the surface and spilled out to the left and right. So it would still look the same as just filling, but it would actually be a cored bank.

Let's go to the next one. I think we've pretty well covered filling pretty well. The only comment I'd make is lots of people like dumping rocks in things like this. My experience is that using rock takes an incredible level of skill, understanding and design and construction. You need a lot of space for rock because the rock's big enough to carry the flow are quite difficult and clumsy to handle and they won't pack very well, as you saw in that rock chute example earlier. Most rock filling fails, the water either goes around it because it hasn't got enough capacity to go over it, or it goes down through it to the bottom and undermines it because the rocks are too big and you've still got this flowing water underneath the rocks. I'll get back to rock in a minute, I've probably preempted my slides a little bit.

I just wanted to highlight one form of erosion, which I suggest you don't tackle without a bit of advice and a bit of soil testing. And that form of erosion is something I alluded to earlier, which is tunnel erosion. Tunnel erosion can form in a whole range of soil types, we see it a lot on the edge of the Great Dividing Range, and it can be from a foot deep or half a meter down to four meters or five meters. And they're simply passages under the ground where water's collected, traveling along and scouring out of channel. And those channels, when they get big enough, you can even walk in them, and I've seen examples of some of those. All you need for tunnel erosion to occur is an entry point, which can be a crack in the middle of summer or a rabbit burrow, you need an outlet point which is much lower, and of course, you need water to get in there, you need hydraulic head and it starts to occur. And it's very difficult if not impossible to control.

My success rate, I reckon, over the years is probably about 50%. So it's not something you tackle lightly because you can end up losing a lot of topsoil in the process. Just getting back to rock though, this is a good example, the main photo on the left with the road beside it, of why rock isn't always that useful. So this is a table drain, a very long table drain, over at Buxton, I was going to say Dixon's Creek, Buxton and they filled it with rock, like so many councils do. But you can see about halfway down, the water's only got to be flowing 300 mil deep and it's going to be going out over the top of the rocks and starting to scour the soil on the left hand side. The capacity of that channel, once you put rocks in it, is suddenly really diminished.

And as I said earlier, whatever you build, it's got to carry the flow. This ain't going to carry the flow, but the rock size is probably pretty good for the sort of flow they're talking about. So they just need very careful placement. Bottom left photo, this one, if I get my mouse working, down here, this was a very successful job where they'd put in a whole lot of concrete masonry in a gully head and it lasted for about five years and then the water did exactly what I was talking about earlier, got around it, under some of this concrete and away the thing went.

Please be aware that building waste is a no-no. You really need to be very careful. If it was absolutely clean concrete, you might be safe enough, I'll be talking to the EPA, but anything that's got any risk of contamination from asbestos, plastic, tires, tires are very toxic these days, we used to use them a lot, all big no-nos, and I just ask you not to use them. The EPAs never going to know, but it's just something we should avoid if we possibly can. Stick with clean products like the crushed rock if you're wanting something like that. Top right hand corner is an example of a gabion weir, which I was going to talk a bit more about later, but I thought I'd flick it in here, where we've simply used paddock rock packed into these gabion baskets.

Now we actually lined these with rabbit netting first, so we could put really small rock in. It was a great way of using paddock rock and it made for a very sustainable and effective little weir. So these weirs are only about a meter high each one, but if you got a whole series of them up a gully, then you can trap sediment, grow vegetation and stabilize the floor of erosion. The simple one I'll show you later, didn't have the wing walls on it. This one has got foundations, wing walls, it was a fairly serious structure. You don't need to build something like that, I'm certainly not suggesting you go to that level.

Now I want to talk about, I guess, my bread and butter method for tackling soil erosion, particularly over in the western half of the state, and that's using diversion banks, I just love them. So I've already showed you an example earlier of a diversion bank, all I'm talking about is a bank of soil, well it's got to be a bank of clay, which is cored into the ground, compacted and put out on a grade. So if we look on the left hand side of this picture here, this bank here was surveyed at one in 200, so that's the fall on it, very slow fall.

So what we're talking about, what that means is when I actually surveyed this out, five centimeters every 10 meters, so I pegged that out every 10 meters and dropped the level of the bank by five centimeters every 10 meters. At that sort of grade you can virtually run water on raw ground. If you grow grass in it, all the better, and of course our aim is to grow grass, topsoil and get grass growing. You can carry water endlessly on these banks. You might need to have three or four of them in a series down catchment to keep the water away from a long gully. In this case, we didn't just use diversion banks around the erosion. You can see the erosion in the top corner, not a particularly serious bit of erosion, but the head was pretty active, but we actually batted the whole gully in.

This storm event occurred pretty well straight after the job was finished, only just after the grass had initially come up. So it's all looking pretty raw but now it's looking extremely good, very low maintenance. It will be kept fenced out permanently, but crash grazed, low maintenance, it's a really good long-term control. So we're basically reshaping the valley to what it was prior to the erosion occurring or even flatter. So we can carry bigger flows of water down that gully if and when that bank is removed or fails. Again, I would repeat, topsoil and grass is the key to most of our works. And you can see in the middle of this photo, we were pretty short of topsoil, but we still got it all grassed up pretty well.

There's no reason why you can't have a go at one of these, with whatever equipment you've got. The key to them is to make sure you get the slope right, that you're not ponding a lot of water anywhere, so you need to check your levels when finished it, and that they're cored into the ground by stripping the topsoil away, ripping under where you're putting the bank and then compacting the clay back into that and preferably putting topsoil back on top. All the banks you've seen so far is an example of this cut and fill bank, which are more complex to build but are easier on steep slopes, to give you more capacity.

If you're going to have a go at it, just stick with the bottom one, all fill bank. So you simply push the dirt up from below the bank or push the clay up. You remove the topsoil, compact the clay up to your peg line or mark that you might have had in the paddock, and then re-grass the whole thing. And that again can carry very large volumes of water, depending on how high it is. But if you stick with that one in 200 sort of grade, it's a pretty safe and reliable technique.

Importantly, when you finish the bank, you need to finish it in a safe location, preferably with a level spreader on the end. And by level spreader, I'm just talking about a spillway. So instead of the grader in this case, stopping back here somewhere, it kept bringing the flat level right out to here, making a step in the side of the hill and then letting the water fall over down the slope in a very thin sheet. In this case, it was a pretty rough operator, he stripped topsoil right across the spillway, definitely not recommended, but because the grade and the water is flowing so slowly, the water is still crystal clear, just showing that if you keep water moving slowly it won't cause erosion. So this has worked pretty well.

In many cases, I've gone back to these and finished them off of the shovel and a rake, to get them dead level and you can even go to the point of putting in a concrete edge or something, if it's a more critical location. But typically this is what you should have on all your farm dams, particularly if they've got a bigger catchment. Not everyone's going to have equipment to build something like that, although a lot of farmers will have these days. Just a couple of alternatives which won't work as well by any means, but certainly have worked in the past and have worked for me. Bottom left corner is simply a row of clean straw bales jammed tightly together and pegged down. Topsoil was stripped from underneath them, so they're in the ground a tiny bit, and use them to divert water. Again, make sure they're on that grade of one in 200 or around that sort of grade. That's on the left hand side.

On the right hand side, this was up on the edge of the Grampians, house was getting flooded by post fire runoff and quite badly flooded. So all I could think of at the time, he had a whole lot of corrugated iron, was to make this fence, it was fairly steep ground, make a fence with corrugated iron. And this worked incredibly well to divert that flood flow away from the house, by simply again, putting it on a grade of about one in 200, steel posts behind it. Probably not recommended, but it worked extremely well for a short time, I'm not sure what happened in the long run, I'm assuming the regrowth stopped all the runoff in the longer run.

Okay, I've got about another 10 or 15 minutes, so hopefully we'll have a few minutes left before we hit the end of the session. Now going to talk about gully head erosion. And this is a good example of the sort of thing you might have somewhere, which is a high priority. It's moving fairly quickly, it's in pretty good soil and you want to pull it up and stop it, either temporarily until maybe the catchment revegetate or things heal up. And a lot of these things can be reasonably stable for a while, until you get a wet year, and I suspect this was one of those examples. How can we stop that getting worse? Well, we can do the things we talked about earlier, including a diversion bank, however in this particular case, this runs straight through into a neighbor's property, so we really can't divert water around this into the neighbors property. So what else can we do?

Well, we can do what we talked about earlier with the straw bales, get in there with [inaudible 00:44:49] and square it up to fit a couple of big square bales in the head of that. Jam them in nice and tightly, pack soil around them or loose hay as tightly as you can, and see what happens then. I've seen quite large gullies, completely packed out with damaged lucerne hay. And I'm talking a thousand bales or more, used to fix up some erosion, where the hay was totally useless for anything else and it was clean, it was clean lucerne hay, and that was highly successful as well. So you just need to think a little bit laterally when you're thinking about some of this stuff.

If the straw bales didn't work, then you might think about a more permanent option. Well, doesn't have to be permanent, but a more engineered type structure. So let's have a look at some examples of those. A few years ago I got dragged out down to Tatyoon, south of Ararat, a very large dam had some big erosion problems. It was a new dam and the water pouring into the dam caused a very deep active waterfall in the head of the dam, and we knew that if we didn't stop it, it was going to move upstream, out of full supply level and cause ongoing problems. So I racked my brain and the only thought I had was if we could get some sort of tarpaulin to protect that and make a temporary chute. This farmer had the initiative to go over to the grain bunker down the road and see if they had any of this material. And he came back with this very large piece of damaged vinyl grain bunker cover and used it as a temporary inlet for his dam.

And to my knowledge it's probably still sitting there, although I hope he does end up removing it, we don't want it left there. The features are exactly the same as I talked about earlier, you got to capture all the water. So he had to build little banks out each way and I'm not sure what that square bale is there, I think it's just an anchor. He had to build little banks, he had to make it lower in the middle, higher on the sides to carry the flow, had to be anchored down and it had to run right into the bottom of the dam so the energy would be absorbed when it hit the existing water in the dam. Likewise, with this polythene sheeting in the bottom left corner here, we put that in as a temporary diversion while we were doing a whole lot of major earthworks on this gully, while we could get some other work grassed up nicely.

And again, that worked quite nicely. You can't see it very well, you need to lay these things very loosely on solid ground. It's important that the top of these chutes are buried in a trench. So in the case of this grain bunker, we dug a very deep trench, want to say a meter deep probably across the top of that area. We actually formed the shape with an excavator first, dug a trench across, buried the material in the trench and then laid the vinyl material back over the trench and down the gully. Same setup with this old carpet, bottom right hand corner. Not such a neat job, but again, it worked extremely effectively. A few straw bales at the top to guide the water onto it, bit of a lower area in the middle and then dropping down not quite far enough, but it certainly did the job for quite a long time.

The next option you got is probably one that I get most satisfaction out of building, I've built a lot of these with farmers over the years, and by build I mean get involved in mixing the concrete in the early days, but it's quite a simple and easy structure and very reliable and quite long lived, and it's called a grassed chute. This particular grassed chute, we put in south of Ararat, about 38 years ago, something like that, and it's still operating today just as effectively, which blows me away. So all this is is a ramp cut into the head of the gully. So it's cut back into solid ground, we make a ramp, it's very flat, very even across sideways, it's then topsoiled, we then sow it down, we then cover it with a thick layer of straw, as you can see in this top diagram here of a newer one.

And then we buy cheap netting, six foot wide netting and peg that tightly down over the whole lot. And that netting has got to go right up onto the sides of the grassed chute, to make sure the water can't get around it. Once we've done that, and of course you've put seed and fertilizer under the straw, got the netting on, pegged it down every half a meter or so, so you might need a hundred pegs or something or more, steel pegs. Peg it down really firmly and it's amazing how well these things work. Even before the grass grows, they'll carry a pretty substantial flow of water. What we often do, in fact strongly recommend, is putting in a trickle flow pipe, top right hand corner, to take the small flows. And the reason is it keeps the grassed chute dry. So in this particular case, we just used a 44 gallon drum as a mold, poured concrete round it and put a six inch PVC pipe down to this outlet area, down in the big photo on the bottom right hand side, that's the outlet to the trickle flow pipe.

The water builds up behind the chute, so the chute's got a bit of a bank at the top of it. Water builds up, goes down the pipe first, then in a bigger flow, goes down the chute. This is probably the one thing that I'd say please have a go at, as long as you get your levels, as long as it's done evenly, got a smooth cross section, you make it long enough and wide enough to match your sort of catchment. And there is a tech note which I've sort of drafted up on this, which we can send out. In fact, we might even do that Rachel, after this, is to send that out, to give you a few hints on how to do them. And they're probably on the internet as well, but they work amazingly well. Nowadays, we tend to get a bit more technical in our pipe inlets, with concrete head walls and boxes rather than 44 gallon drums and reinforcing mesh to make them all a bit stronger.

But these structures, you can, I mean you can put a much bigger pit, much bigger pipe if you've got a bigger catchment. So if you're talking maybe 150, 200 hectares, you might be looking at a 600 millimeter or one meter diameter pipe, you can get those in polythene, but still have a grassed chute somewhere, a big wide grassed chute, so your big flood flows have got somewhere to go. Finally, I just want to talk about weirs, which I've already touched on a little bit. Why would you put in a weir? Well you might put in a weir if the head of the gully is on your neighbor's place, but the erosion is getting deeper. You might even try it in a new scour, like one of the first ones we saw on our control options, in your paddock, just as a way of having a bit of a play around. And that's where something like straw bales are fantastic.

In this example, and I quickly should say though, that while these can be effective, they're also pretty prone to failure. You need to be onto them, as soon as it rains, you need to be walking around in your gum boots, jamming up any holes, putting loose straw in any holes using your shovel, but once you've done that, they tend to be pretty good. So what you got here, this was a gully that the contractor got a bit mixed up and decided he was going to fill it with loose dirt when he wasn't meant to, and we had to somehow hold all that loose dirt in place. So we put in a few gabion weirs, which is what you can see in the background here, but yours could be something as simple as this one down the bottom left hand corner.

And then we put in these straw bales, big square bales, we cut a slot and we made sure the slot went right back into the sides of the gully, at least a meter each side, into the floor of the gully by probably, I don't know, three or 400 mil, so a foot or more into the floor of the gully. And then we packed these together, butted them together as tightly as we could, and then we got loose straw and jammed all the holes up with loose straw and they worked amazingly successfully. Top left hand corner is probably about 18 months later, when the bales have started to collapse and rot down, but we've already got a whole lot of vegetation starting to grow. And if you go back there now, these have dropped a bit, the whole thing's dropped a little bit, but it's just a gully of [inaudible 00:53:58] and cane grass. It's been fenced out and it's looking pretty stable and pretty good.

So yeah, I don't think I missed anything on that, on building those. That's getting very close now, just to finish off, with all these structures, I guess my message would be don't rush into them. Really have a good assessment of your problem. Does it really need urgent attention? Can it wait for a while? Can I get a bit of outside advice? Do I need to do soil tests? Avoid those weak links, and this is a really classic example of a weak link, they'd built this magnificent structure across quite a major stream, when he got creek down near Coleraine, using sandbags and what a great way to recycle our sandbags. Just simply sand and water or sorry, sand and cement mixed up to make these sandbags, packed neatly in rows. But unfortunately no foundations on the left or right.

So the water's already, I mean I shouldn't say already, it's probably been here for 20 or 30 years, but the water's got around the end of that structure and we're losing water around the end. At the moment it's not looking too bad, but eventually that will be a very weak point on that structure. You need to understand the forces that I talked about, the forces of raindrops hitting bare ground, the forces of a waterfall, the potential energy of that water dropping and slamming into the bottom of the creek, and the force of the flowing water that's scouring away either at your paddock or the bottom of a drainage line or gully. Think about slowing and spreading your water wherever you can to get that sediment to drop out and stop erosion, and think about ways you can absorb energy. In this case I've obviously put a whole lot of rock below their weir, so as the water drops over it, it's got somewhere for that energy to be absorbed.

Know when to walk away, and I'm really reminded by a tune which I would've loved to have had playing today, Kenny Rogers song, I think it's called The Gambler, know when to walk away and when to hide, and I think about that a lot when I'm doing my work. Topsoil and vegetation is really critical to success. And my final comment would be, don't be too ambitious with whatever you do, just give it a go, see how you go. Like you, you've spent your whole lives probably in farming, I've spent mine in this sort of stuff and you're not going to suddenly become an expert in any of this stuff and I'm certainly by no means an expert, but just had a few more experiences. So thank you Rachel, that's really the end of my presentation.


Goodo, that was very good, thank you, Clem. We do have, well we have a question and a comment, so we'll start with the question. What is the use of trees and/or shrubs for erosion control and mitigation?

Clem Sturmfels:

That's a really good question. We tend to avoid them, to be brutally honest. Trees and shrubs in the natural environment clearly play a massive role in stopping erosion. It's their leaves, they intercept the rain so you don't get as much rain hitting the ground. The leaves, the bark, all the vegetation underneath deflects water, absorbs water, slows down the whole erosion process quite dramatically. Having said that, once you've got erosion, they don't play a major role. In other words, with the exception of some of the introduced species that were used in the old days, like tamarisks and poplars and things like that, they are amazingly effective in some higher rainfall areas, in trapping sediment with their roots, with their very fibrous roots but they're not recommended, they wouldn't be approved by the CMA for use in waterways nowadays, I wouldn't imagine, and we don't tend to use them anymore.

The native species have very little role in controlling soil erosion. By all means revegetate the catchment where it's appropriate or fence out the drainage line and plant trees either side of your reclaimed area, but we discourage planting trees right in the middle. If you go back to that photograph, which I will, if that's right Rachel, I'll quickly flick back to a photo, to talk about that. So if we go to this photo here, this area's been completely fenced out and trees are being planted all over where the gully wasn't, where the gully was down the middle, he's not going to plant any trees. And the reason is that in a big storm event or when the bank disappears, we want that degraded bit of ground and it's very short of topsoil, to still be able to handle water safely.

If we put trees there and obstruct the flow, one, the capacity of the flow is limited because there's lots of vegetation there, so the water tends to start going in all directions and start little scours. It's not a nice even thin spread flow, it tends to become more channelized. So yeah, I would just say by all means plant trees up on the sides of a gully but not in the bottom, would be my general rule. Unless that's all you're doing, if you don't want to do any earthworks at all, no other mechanical works, probably no harm in chucking a few trees in the bottom and see what happens. But generally the roots do nothing on the sides of these banks to hold them, it does very little, the process of erosion and that absorption of energy, you're not going to stop it with tree roots.


Thank you. And the comment was on your diversion bank slide, there seems to be no tussocks in the landscape, so we're on the right slide to begin with, in higher rainfall areas, they are present and can become a resistance to flows along the bank, so may need extra management as they make water pool behind the bank, which can lead to failure.

Clem Sturmfels:

Absolutely. We certainly, in Western Victoria, I've never seen that happen at all, even though these banks can stay wet for a fair reasonable length of time, I can imagine higher rainfall areas, that could be a problem, but I haven't had that experience.


Righto. They were the two questions we had. There's still time if anyone wants to type in their question now. I am going to put some polls up for the end of the webinar and it'd be really helpful if you could answer them. They'll only take a couple of seconds and they're great for us. Whilst you're doing that, we will go onto that next slide, Clem, on the Agriculture Victoria website, which is, you can get all of the information on flood recovery events, activities, resources, as well as the financial support that's available, and the emergency and the recovery hotlines. So if you need to follow up on any of those, you can find them on our website.

We're lucky enough next week to have Clem again and he's presenting next week's webinar on repairing erosion damage to roads, tracks, stream crossings and dams. So that's bound to be another good one. You'll get a follow up email which will have the link for registering for that one, as well as any resources that Clem will pull together, that are relevant to today's webinar, the recording of today's webinar and links to all the flood resources on our website. That'll be good. So that should be in your inboxes on Monday, probably. Thank you everyone for filling in the poll and for coming along today, it's been a great webinar. Thank you to Clem for presenting, and enjoy the rest of your day.

Clem Sturmfels:

Thanks Rachel, see you later everyone.

Repairing erosion damage to roads, tracks, stream crossings and dams – with Clem Sturmfels, Agriculture Victoria

In this flood recovery webinar, Clem Sturmfels looks at why erosion damage occurs and covers:

  • Soil erosion processes
  • Principles of erosion control
  • Damage assessment
  • Repair techniques.

For more information visit:

Webinar recording passcode: Livestock

Watch recording
+ Expand all- Collapse all


All right, Clem, we've hit one o'clock, so I think we'll get going. Welcome everyone to today's webinar. It is repairing erosion damage to roads, tracks, stream crossings and dams with Clem Sturmfels. Before we get going, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we are meeting today. I pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging, and the aboriginal elders of other communities who may be here today. If we want to move on the next slide, Clem, I'm going to pop up bit of a free webinar poll just to gauge where we're at today. It'd be great if everyone could please respond to that. And then once we've done that, I'm going to put up a poll where we have a look at what we want to get out of today's webinar. Just leave it up for another couple of seconds for a few more responses. Thank you everyone for responding.

Clem Sturmfels:

Rachel, we might wait till I get partway through the presentation for the other one, if that's okay.


No, that's okay. Well, we're just about [inaudible 00:03:12] everyone. We'll leave that up while we just run over. We are going to mostly use the question and answer function in today's webinar down the bottom here, down the bottom of your screen. Type your questions in there, just make sure you press enter, so the question does go up. We will have time for questions at the end of the webinar and there might be a few breaks between sections to have questions as well. So please type of questions in whenever you think of them throughout the webinar, we will get to them at some stage. If your view is not the way you would like it, the little view button in the top right corner will help you out and you can change it to however you like. All right. And I'll pass over to Clem.

Clem Sturmfels:

Thank you very much, Rachel. Thanks for all your work. Good morning. Oh, sorry. Good afternoon, everyone, and thanks a lot for making the effort to attend this session. You heard what the topic is, repairing erosion, damage to roads, tracks, stream crossings and dams. Just to give you some idea what we're going to cover. And it is going to be a reasonably long session, so please bear with me. The topics are soil erosion processes, principles of erosion control, damage assessment and repair techniques. But before we actually launch into the main topics, it is important we really understand why this damage has occurred just so we can sort of look forward into the future a bit.

It's pretty difficult to attribute all the damage ... Sorry. It is difficult to decide whether the damage can be attributed to La Nina or in fact how much damage can be attributed to climate change. I'm not sure anyone can really separate the two, but either way the science is pretty clear. We need to plan for more and larger storm events, which is going to put increasing pressure on all our private structures and public structures. To give you some idea, a recent report that's just come out indicated the intensity of intense thunderstorm events has increased by 40% over the last 20 years. Now I think a few of us sort of felt like that had happened, but this study really revealed the answer to that by just simply looking at the records over that period. Why? Predominantly because thunderstorms hold a lot more water because the temperature has increased, 1.5 degrees over the last 50 odd years, combined with much stronger thunderstorm updrafts. I'm not really clear why they're occurring, but certainly the message is they are occurring, which tends to produce these very localized, intense events. Why is this a problem for soil erosion?

Well, as I talked about in last week's session, to prevent and control soil erosion, whether it's in our drains, our culverts or our dams, we need to be able to contain all the water. We need to be able to control the flow of it and we need to dispose of it safely. And once you exceed the capacity of our structures, like in this case here with the back of this dam bank, catastrophic damage can occur. Although the damage here was relatively minor. In this particular case, this was a large irrigation dam that got hit by the Creswick storm on the 1st of January. Interestingly, this dam was upgraded a couple of years earlier with a new very large spillway to cope with all anticipated storm events. It was totally overwhelmed during the Creswick storm and the water went straight over the top of the dam bank. We don't know exactly the process that occurred there.

Probably a bit of debris in the spillway, but certainly an awful lot of water. So I guess my message from this is that thinking about and taking this into account when we design or upgrade our structures may help reduce the damage. In this case, a nice level crest, a more gentle batter on the downstream side of the dam bank and more grass might have avoided this damage and I've certainly seen some pretty massive flows go right over the top of dam banks with no damage at all if you've got that area even gently battered and lots of grass on it. Just want to mention something which is a bit ... I certainly mentioned last week and is a bit of a pantomime and that's about weak links in erosion control works. You really only need one weak link in anything and whether that's a repair to a dam bank by leaving a layer of dust somewhere in that core that you put in there, whether it's not quite finishing off the table drain on the road.

Whereas in this case here, a new dam we were putting in, the contractor took a shortcut when he was installing a low level outlet pipe. He didn't have the staff on board to compact around the baffles. So he did it very roughly with the excavator. And of course, within a very short time, this outlet pipe had failed and he then learnt the lesson when he came back and did the whole job again. So just a message on that, just take a lot of care. You're far better to do nothing than do something that's going to fail and maybe create more damage, lose more topsoil and pollute the nearby stream. It's important to talk about the power of water and its impact on erosion. And I know I talked about it last week, but I think it's just as important for this webinar today.

We need to understand the power of water. It can store, it can release a large amount of energy and that can be in the form of falling water, whether it's raindrops or a waterfall. It can be in the form of flowing water or in the form of potential head that you might have stored in a tank, in a pipeline or in a dam storage. We built this Armco pipe structure many years ago on the cheap to save a bit of money for the farmer and government and it worked extremely well. The energy in this case was very successfully absorbed by dropping into a very deep, large ponder water. But it certainly, once that had settled down, it stopped the erosion. In this case, the pipe did finally rust out. So that's really a waterfall or falling water sort of energy that can create that sort of erosion, if you like.

But of course, as I spoke about last week, we've also got the force of flowing water and that whether it's sheet flow, whether it's stream flow. So if you think about a road, often we've got heavy thunderstorm raindrops and a lot of energy in those and they might be dislodging particles of sand and gravel bouncing them in the air. And then at the same time we've got sheet flow sweeping them into the table drain. And you've only got to walk out into some of these recent storms we've had and know exactly what I'm talking about. There's dirt all over your legs as it gets bounced in the air and swept off the road. That material then often ends up in the table drain and then we can get a whole series of events happening after that. We can get stream flow cutting back down through that deposit and then slicing straight into the underlying base of the road.

And often that can be combined with a whole series of waterfalls like we can see in the top right hand corner of this image here. The good thing is we do know a bit of the physics about flowing water. Bit more complicated with falling water. We know once the speed of water exceeds about half a meter a second sort of crawling speed, it can quickly erode sand, soil and silt. I said earlier that water over topping a well grass dam bank, you can get away with no erosion. And when I've seen that happen, you're probably getting speeds exceeding two and a half meters per second, quite a fast walk. So in that case, the grass does an amazing job in protecting those areas. The problem is that those velocities, that really only holds up for a short storm event. For a prolonged period, water long starts to occur and even those sort of surfaces can start to fall apart.

But in the case of a dam bank, you might only want it for 20 minutes or half an hour. So once we slow water below half a meter a second, the sediment drops out. So we really know those rules pretty well. So our control techniques are all about slowing and spreading water, absorbing the energy of the falling water, whether that's with rocks or something else. And most importantly, protecting the soil with vegetation. And I'll say now, topsoil and grass are probably the most useful thing you can use in all our soil conservation type activities. You need to save every drop of topsoil whenever you're doing work. So just to give you a couple of examples, and I know some of you might have seen this last week, this drain here, it's in our at wide urban drain carrying quite a flow of water.

Because it's got a wide flat bottom, the water is spreading out, it's not as deep, therefore it's slow, it runs a lot slower. That drain is held up perfectly for probably 10 years now. Further upstreamed they did the drain with rock, that's also held up extremely well. The problem with rock is it's harder to get the capacity. You've got to get the rock size right and in fact, in this case where they used fairly small riprap rock like you find on a roadway line, it has got about a similar protection as the grass has got, except in those long prolonged flows as I said earlier. Getting rock if the right shape, the right size and packed properly is very hard. And you really need to think pretty carefully about before you start dumping rock in erosion gullies or dam spillways. Talking of dam spillways, which is sort of topic will be on about today, this is an interesting site where we had a dam in a fairly steep site.

It was associated with some fairly major erosion control works and we need to put a spillway in on the dam. So we did it by the book, which was to excavate. We're looking out of the dam, so the dam's behind us. To excavate down, remove the topsoil, cut this level channel out to a level spill area. The levels have to be very carefully measured. The thing needs to be leveled up pretty well. But by doing this, we get that same sheet flow you saw before in the drain. Nice level flow, it stops at the end, it swings around to the right and goes over the top of a bit of a lip, which spreads the water out as you can see in the top left photo, not a very good image. Spreads the water out in a very thin sheet. Again, the speed of the water slowed right down.

The damage is minimal or nonexistent. That photo of the left hand side was 1983 after the long drought in that period on granite soil, no cover at all. And that dam overtopped, overfilled and spilled out with no damage whatsoever, which just reinforces the value of spreading water out. And if there's nothing else you remember from today, just think about that. This spillway, you can see the orange one, it's pretty narrow, it's only a couple of meters wide, which probably not quite wide enough, but it gets a bit awkward on a steeper slope. And with the spillway these days is probably only suitable for something like 15 to 20 hectares. If you are putting in a new dam or upgrading your spillway, I would certainly be looking at four, five, six meters wide even though it does involve a lot of disturbance to do it. Strip all the topsoil, get your batters flat, put it all back, and you'll never know you did it in the first place. It'll just look like part of the paddock.

I talked about doing an assessment last week, exactly the same with these structures we're talking about today. You really need to get your head around what the problem is, what's caused it before you jump in and start doing any sort of repair works. This was an interesting case a few years ago. A land holder asked me out to do a bit of an assessment of his dam because he suspected it was leaking. The water level seemed not to be rising like it should be. I spent an hour or two walking around and what I discovered was a patch of seepage well down the paddock below the dam, but quite unusual in the middle of summer, like a spring coming out in the ground. And when I went back to the dam with a steel probe, I also found the bank was pretty soft and uneven indicating poor material, poor compaction or a combination of both.

At the time, I recommended a total rebuild at the front of the dam, putting in a new core. Because of cost and the fact the dam had a lot of water in it, the work wasn't completed. Couple of years later, the dam started to fail. As you can see here, the whole back of the bank started to fall away and we needed fairly urgent action to avoid downstream damage and to keep some of the water. Just talk about a few watch outs when you are thinking about proceeding with work or site considerations. Again, I mentioned this last week. Can I safely trap all the water that I'm dealing with, whether that's in the dam spillway or whether it's in a table drain or a runoff from a road. Will my works carry the flow? And if you're building a temporary shoot or a rock shoot, you really need to think about that.

Have I got somewhere to safely dispose of the water? Is it nice and well grassed, not overgrazed and maybe protected from animals? And finally, fairly importantly, I'm only going to mention this once, do my repair works need a permit? Having said that, an awful lot of our works on waterways do require a permit from our CMAs. And as I said last week, all my works that I do with farmers, I've always had to have a works on waterways permit. So please keep that in mind. I'll just get that poll up now please, Rachel. I'm just going to put a poll up. What are your main erosion issues? And we'll put a poll up and I'll quickly go through those. So the sort of subjects that I've got in my presentation today are things like dam inlet erosion, obviously crossings, roads and tracks, dam sediment and water quality, dam spillway erosion and dam failure. And the reason we're putting this up is just so we can sort of prioritize a little bit what we talk about for the rest of the session.


We've got some answers coming in, Clem. Leave it open for a little bit longer, but road track design, repair and construction is the early leader.

Clem Sturmfels:

Okay, just give another few seconds and just keep an eye on that and let us know. And that actually is very good because that's the first topic I've got on my presentation, which makes my job easier. But very happy to jump around because some things we can talk about a lot and it's pretty hard to tell you everything about repairing a dam bank for example, in 10 or 15 minutes.


It's looking like the roads and tracks is the most popular followed by dam sediment and water quality and stream crossing designs.

Clem Sturmfels:

Wow. Okay, if you can just keep that in the back of your mind, please or write it down, Rachel, and we'll move into roads and tracks and yet another quiz. And I'm sorry about that, the timing wasn't perfect, but I just want to get your thinking because I tend to talk and talk and talk and you probably get a bit bored. So the question I'm going to ask everybody is how could this erosion have been prevented? And I'm not going to tell you anything much about it because it doesn't really matter. It's more about you learning about the subject rather than the history of this. And I'll let you read through that. I won't even go through the options. You can read through.


Just leave it for another few seconds. I think we've nearly got most people answered.

Clem Sturmfels:

Thank you, everyone.


Righto. The most common answer was installing regular runoffs or drains to take water away from the road. And it was by far the most common answer.

Clem Sturmfels:

I reckon that's good enough for me. Thank you. Without going on to any others, look, they're all probably right in different ways. So there's no right or wrong answer to this. I think the clear one for me though was exactly what most of you picked up, which was a fact that it needs a lot more runoff drains, and by runoff drain, it's up in the top left corner of the picture now, you can see a typical runoff. Not a particularly well designed one because it's the water's not going through it fast enough so it's silting up pretty quickly.

But yes, adding a lot more of those or opening up the ones that are there. I suspect there's a lot there hidden in the grass that have just ... lack of maintenance maybe has stopped them. And this road was a very stable road till we got a pretty big storm event, which reinforces my earlier message that storms are becoming more intense and we start to see this sort of thing happen. So we need to be very conscious of drainage and designing correctly. This is a good example of a local road that hasn't been thought through very well. It was a four wheel drive track that was upgraded and what we notice is straight away the road is running water all the way down it. Why? Because the road formation hasn't been lifted up at all they've done is to basically grade the top of the road.

It was already a sandy soil. So the key to road building is to get that formation up two or 300 millimeters higher than the surrounding landscape. And that might mean the odd tree's got to come out. And if you need a permit for that, then by all means get it. But if you're not going to be going back all the time, you need good drainage. Good drainage is a key to all parts of road design and I'll talk a bit more about that now.

So in this case, I'm not sure quite what you do. My feeling would be given some pretty rare vegetation down this lane, I would've been tempted to make it a one lane road, make it one way and put in wide flat bottom table drains either side of the one lane, grab that material and put it in the middle of the road. Although it's pretty crappy looking material, I probably would have asked a nearby farmer to grab a heap of dirt off one of their dam banks or the end of a dam or even taken off a bit of a ridge or something. You can do that in a paddock pretty easily, if you go to a ridge line and remove the topsoil carefully, take a bit of material out, batter it all off so it just blends into the landscape and topsoil it, that's a pretty good way of forming up a roadway.

Just talk about road profile. So overall drainage is critical. We've got to get the road higher than the landscape otherwise it's going to become waterlogged and it's going to break up no matter what you do, how many runoffs or what surface you've got on it. The next thing you need to do is the pavement has got to be draining itself to the sides of the road. And that can be done in probably a couple of main ways. One is crowning like my driveway here and this driveway, which is probably about as steep as you'd ever want a driveway for normal traffic and certainly on a farm it's about a 15% slope.

And it's a good figure to remember if you're looking at putting in new tracks, 15% for a normal two wheel drive road or track, up to 30, 35% for a four wheel drive track. So on this one here, which is about a 15% slope, the crown in the middle of that needed to get the water off, I discovered, was four of a meter, close to half a meter crown in the middle of that driveway on a steep slope. And even then the water doesn't quite go off at right angles. Sure you'll scrape the bottom of a low car like our little Volkswagen there, but at least the road pavement is relatively stable depending on the surface material. And I'll talk about surface material in a minute.

The other option to crowning, well, there's a couple of other options. One is to do what they've done here, which is to leave the road dead flat and put up with quite a bit of erosion down the track. Maybe not too bad if it's really rocky, although not a good look with the amount of sediment that often comes off some of these forest roads. The other option, which I'll just quickly mention is to put rollovers and some of you might be well aware of breach end bars that the forest commission used to close off roads, just basically a hump across the road to get the water off it. And I'll talk about them a bit more in a minute. You can outslope a road. So to get all the water out to the left hand ... I get my mouse working left hand or bottom side over where the shovel is, you can simply slope the road that direction.

That's fine. If it's not a very steep road and you don't need a big slope. Not so good, if it's a steeper road. You start to make the road pretty dangerous and I'd be fairly nervous about recommending doing that unless there's a lot of rock on your pavement, on your roadway to keep the traffic where it should be. The other option is to inslope it. So tip it back in rather than tipping it out. So outsloping is going out this way to drain it out, insloping is bringing it back into the inside of the road, into the cut area of the road, which is fine except then you are putting a lot of water into that table drain. So unless you've got regular culverts, which is certainly a strongly recommended option, but a lot more effort or you've got a good rocky table drain and in fact, many of these forest roads, you only got to go down a short distance and you're into pretty solid rock. So it tends to work pretty well on a forest road insloping. Sorry, I just jumped ahead a bit there.

So we've talked about runoffs, those spoon drains that take the water away from the road that we talked about in the quiz. We've talked about culverts and I did briefly mention speed humps or rollovers, but any form of cross drainage to get water away needs to be spaced fairly regularly. It's no good just putting one in and hoping for the best. And we see many examples these days in road construction where contractors tend to forget about runoffs. This is a new road put in with federal funding by a local contractor, not one runoff for four or 500 meters down this road. Even on really stable soils, of course problems were going to occur. They did a lovely job in topsoiling and making a beautiful parabolic shape waterway, which to start with would've carried water quite nicely. But of course it then the speed got up too fast and it simply scoured down.

What sort of spacing are we talking about? If you go and look up on the internet spacing for culverts or spacing for runoffs, you'll find the figures tend to sort of be in the hundreds to 500 meter spacings, which as far as I'm concerned just are not suitable for many of our more roadable soils. So for my driveway, which you saw a bit earlier, I've got runoffs about 13, 15 meters apart, 10 to 20 meters on a steep track, I would strongly suggest. Particularly if you're just putting runoffs in, they're so easy to chuck in. I just put mine in with a shovel. If you're putting culverts, that's a different cattle of fish. You may not want to put them quite as close, but that's my recommendation for steep slopes where you haven't got rock, 10 to 20 meters. Moderate slopes, space it out a bit more, 50 to a hundred and somewhere like here on this particularly very gentle slope but a long slope, maybe 50 to a hundred meters.

This is what I would call a really nice farm road. The road itself is built up above ground level as you can see it's got a good surface on it looks, like buckshot surface to me, very drivable. It's got lovely wide grassed table drains to carry the water. Sure it's on pretty good soil and it's on a fairly gentle slope. The other thing I've done here just, as another point of interest is this is part of a laneway system on this farm. Laneway's 20 meters wide. The road is probably eight or nine meters wide, including the table drains. They've tried to make the laneway in the road so they can drive at 20 to 30 kilometers an hour in their farm vehicles because it's the bigger property. So when they come to a corner, they've rounded off the corners so they can just sweep around the corners.

Don't have to slow right down for every corner. And they've made this pretty handy looking track. Drainage again is the key. I can't say that enough. Good drainage is the key to good road construction, whether it's a Bitumen road or a gravel road. What I haven't talked about is the surface material. This is a pretty fine material, it's buckshot, it seems to be holding up okay. The ideal material, and I've tried a few different materials over the years, the very best stuff is something many of you'll know pretty well, which is crusher dust. So most of the bigger quarries now have an enormous pile of waste material that's come out of the crusher. It's predominantly very fine material and it's brilliant for putting under a tank or formation of a road. It tends to lock together because it's crushed. It's all angular, very small particles. They all lock together and you get this nearly waterproof surface.

This particular material I've used now in my driveway, it's got a bit of bigger stuff in it as you can see there, but it's graded from effectively 25 mil or one inch, the bigger pieces, right down to about 75 micron, but virtually no clay in it. We don't want a plastic material. We just want something which will lock together, give you a good stable wearable surface, but also a surface which won't erode with raindrops blasting into it. So I can highly recommend that sort of material. Doesn't have to be crusher dust. I mean, creek gravel, a good mix, well graded creek gravel that goes from fine sand up to course material equally ... well, maybe not equally as good because it won't be angular, it won't lock together as well. This stuff is so good, even when it's loose, you can't slip on it. It just holds you perfectly. If you talk about this stuff that's got there on the slide, it's defined as class two at most quarries.

We'll be getting onto something more of more value to some of you is what to do when you've got issues like this. And this is a pretty typical problem we see after floods, after bush fires with table drains on the sides of roads. I haven't seen it so much on private land. I've certainly seen an awful lot on public gravel roads and sort of been involved in a few of those. How do you repair these? There's not a lot of options. You've got to do the best you can. I'm not pretending any of this particular option is perfect. What we did here was to open up that channel so we could get machinery into the bottom of it really easily. So we pulled the left hand side away so we could get in there and compact the material we put back in.

We then simply laid in material in thin layers, nice and moist. It was pretty rocky in this case because it's all we had to deal with and then went over with a pad foot roller or a wheeled roller, certainly not a bulldozer track or excavator track. They are totally useless for compaction. They're made to float on the ground, not to compact. So just remember that. If your contractor says, "Yeah, I'll track roll your new dam or your dam repair," just say, "Don't waste your time. Thank you." The other thing we did with this, because it was a very long run, was to cut a little trench across it at various locations. And if you like, build a little dam bank through the bottom of it, getting some really good material, bringing that dam bank up above the surface. So we knew we had a little block every so often.

So if we still had seepage running down under the material we put back in, it would get locked and blocked off by this little dam, if you like. And in this case, this is a before treatment. This is the after treatment. I think we ended up with three or four of these speed hums or blocks that didn't just start in the drain. So this is what I was talking about, the little dam. But it went right across the road with a gentle slope. So the water came down, the filled in table drain, hit the little block, turned left, and then ran gently across the road. Now this was a public road, very gentle little speed hump. Tthis was Grampians National Park, all the parks, Victoria people did was to put up a speed restriction on it. And as far as I know, it's still in place in that manner with no replacement culvert.

Final thing on road design is batters seem to be becoming a bigger and bigger problem. An awful lot of the wind farms seem to have forgotten about saving topsoil, putting topsoil back and sewing down. So we're seeing miles of exposed batters like this, which under recent rainfall events just start to erode rapidly. It's important to get the slope of those right. I'm not going to go through those because it really varies on the material. If it's a clay material like this, probably make them two to one. So for every one up, two across, if you like, the sort about the slope of a back of a dam bank. But if you're really having problems, then maybe you should make them a bit flatter. There's often not a lot of room to do that. The other trick is, of course, is to get topsoil on it, get them sewn down even with just some oats or rye corn or something to get a quick cover on them.

So in this case, I'd be deep ripping that or maybe not deep ripping. Scarifying it to loosen it up a bit, topsoiling it, sewing it down with a good 10 pound of oats or something in amongst the mix, fertilizer, maybe even mulching it. And if it got really extreme, you might do the whole grass shoot treatment. And we talked about in last week session, have a look at the recording for that. So I think the next topic was water quality, which I'm not going to spend a lot of time on because there's no easy answers with that. So I'll just flick to that, which was one of my very last slides from memory.


Whilst Clem is moving there, just a reminder that you can type your questions into the question and answer box. Any questions that you've got now, we might pause for just 30 seconds, Clem, to see if anyone has any questions from that section.

Clem Sturmfels:

Maybe even interrupt me as the questions come in, Rachel.


Yeah, can do.

Clem Sturmfels:

Whatever suits.


We haven't got any yet, so you must be doing a good job with your presentation, but please remember to type your questions into the question and box. All right.

Clem Sturmfels:

Okay, moving on to dam sediment and water quality. I guess I haven't got any answers for you to be brutally honest. There's going to be a high risk of dams going rotten this summer. There's no doubt about that with a whole lot of extra material washed into them. There's also going to be a high risk of blue-green algae. If you at all suspect you got blue-green algae and it doesn't always look like the lake in our at Alexandra Gardens down the bottom left hand side. But if there's anything that looks sort of suspicious, like that background color, that dark green right through the water, but particularly something which floats and sinks and comes up again the next day and looks like a paint scum, then gets your stock off it as quickly as possible. You can't treat blue-green algae. You can put straw and stuff in to try and reduce the infestation, but you can't get rid of the toxins.

So once you've got a high toxin level, it's going to be months before that water is usable again. So even using banned substances like copper sulfate, which we do not recommend, certainly will kill the algae, doesn't get rid of the toxin. So be very wary of blue-green algae. It's been around, it's a natural algae. The first report I think was in the late 1800s, Lake Alexandrina in South Australia. There were reports of dogs, native animals and a lot of sheep dying from blue-green algae. The next thing to say is I suspect we're going to get a lot of anaerobic breakdown, a lot of bubbling, a lot of very smelly rotten dams. We've already got what they call black water, which I hadn't really heard that term before, which is water that can't get oxygen. So it's sort of changing color, maybe it's got tannin on the surface.

That's certainly a bit of an issue around the place. I think the bigger issue will be when we start to get warmer conditions, anaerobic breakdown, whole lot of bubbling and bacterial activity down in the sediment and in reality, while we have all been through periods of drought and seen stock drinking that water, it's not a good look. It's not a good look for us as managers. It will mean they won't be drinking a lot of that water. If it smells rotten and looks rotten, they're not going to drink much of it and they're going to produce a lot less meat and wool. So I think if there's any chance you can access better water somehow, and I know it's nearly impossible for a lot of farmers, then do it. Can you treat the water? I've already talked about blue green algae, but can you treat it if it's just rotten. Not worth the risk, sorry, not worth the effort quite frankly.

My understanding is the only way you can treat it is to put the water into tanks, you need to filter it, you need to balance the pH, you need to chlorinate it. All the sort of stuff you might do in a swimming pool to make the water potable for stock. I can't quite see how you could ever justify that. I think there is a company around selling a system to do it. I know nothing about it, but it might be worth investigating. Do I pull out the sediment that's gone into the dam? I wouldn't personally at this stage. I think you're probably going to make things worse by steering up the water in doing that. I'd be tempted to leave it there until after the break in order where you can still get in there when the water level's a lot lower because excavators have got pretty limited reach.

But they're a great way of pulling this stuff out using a mud bucket or something similar, a rock bucket. But couple of other points to make if you do get into that is make sure that material is dumped over the bank downstream, which may mean the excavator's got to do two or three movements of that material, or you have a bulldozer there as well. Don't deposit it upstream of the dam, you're just going to get it washing back in again. And also when you are deepening, sorry, when you are cleaning out these dams, don't be conned by the contractor saying, "I'll make it a bit deeper for you too." The only way you can make a normal dam, and maybe not this shallow one here, which is probably done with a horse or something, but the only way you can deepen a modern dam is by making the batter slopes on the side of the dam steeper.

You make them steeper, they're just going to collapse in quicker. You're going to get more sediment building up in the bottom than you started with. The real issue with the bacterial activity and blue-green algae is the high phosphorus and the high nitrogen from the manure from organic matter, and particularly from soil erosion. So they're all sort of combined. And if one outcome might be that we learn to fence off more of our farm dams, put a little ramp into the dam in one corner so you can still use a dam or put a trough and filter out some of that crap that we're getting. Maybe that's something I should have included in this presentation. It would be a very good strategy and useful strategy to help protect your dams. What was the next topic, please, Rachel?


Yeah, the next one we could go onto is dam bank failure.

Clem Sturmfels:

Okay, lovely. All right, I'll hop into that, which is that one there. Okay. I guess the first question to ask when you're looking at a failed dam bank, and look, there's so many different ways banks can fail. This is a typical settlement and then tunneling failure, and I'll talk you through what's happened here in a minute. I guess the main point to make about dam failure is ask yourself is it worth repairing? In many cases, it's not. If you remember back to that earlier dam we looked at, really debatable whether it was worth repairing given the cost and the effort of relining, recoring the front of that dam bank, you're losing capacity. You'd have to make sure that remaining material was stable and well compacted. All a big challenge. To decide whether it's worth repairing, you need to think about the history of the dam, when it was built, who built it. You need to be confident the material is okay.

And often you get a good look at the material and you can go, "Yep, there's no layers of topsoil, there's no debris." Often find branches and God knows what in dam banks. As soon as you see any contamination in a dam bank, just walk away because chances are there'll be layers of topsoil right through the dam bank. You're particularly looking at the core of the bank, which is the waterproof, if you like, slot in the middle or on the front where contractors should have put their effort into putting the best material and if you happen to know a bit more about the history, what equipment was used. But even just driving a crowbar into some of the material in the dam bank will give you some idea of how compacted it was and the quality of the material. In this particular case, quite interesting, I looked at this, I heard about this dam and asked a farmer, if I could have a look at it, a reasonably big dam built a couple of years ago.

It was built with a bulldozer, quite a high bank. Not only was it built with a bulldozer, which cannot compact soil, let's be really clear, you can't compact soil with a bulldozer. It was a very confident switched on contractor. I think he was just short of equipment, hopped in with the bulldozer. It was also built in a location that I'd had a whole mix of soil types. I knew there was granite sand, there was alluvial gravel, God knows what. So I was pretty keen to go out and have a look at this dam and I did. And it looked half okay, looked like a dam. I went back a few weeks later or I can't remember how long after we'd had a lot of rain and I straightaway noticed settlement cracks, and they ran at right angles to the bank as you can see in the top left corner of this image here.

They ran right through the bank from the front to the back. There were a number of those through it indicating the bank was slowly settling. You can see it's full of water. So I thought, "That is not a good look." And my prediction right from the start was the dam could not, it would have to fail. Anyway, a few months later, of course, it failed. And you can see the main photograph there. Not only did it fail, but it flooded the road downstream. So I guess assessment is the critical thing. You may be better. You've got to look at the cost and the benefit of, and you'll see why in a minute when I talk about how to go about repairing one of these dams. So if we look at about repairing, and I'm going to go through this fairly quickly because there's a lot of information around including the department's got some good tech notes on this sort of stuff.

And while I'm talking about that, particularly on your soil, there's a very good tech note on selecting soils for dam construction. But effectively, repairing a dam is the same as building a dam in the first place. So this photograph here is a small dam, gully plug dam, where we're using for some erosion control works, being prepared according to the best techniques. And that's exactly what you need to do. If you've got a hole like in that previous image, you need to, and that's actually that dam, you need to open up that hole completely so it actually looks like this. So if you are looking along the dam bank, that's what it should look like. You need to be able to get equipment in really easily so that you can ... Well, one, you've got a long area binding the new material to the old material, but most importantly, so compactors can actually work in there.

These pad foot rollers, there's a limit to how steep they can climb, and if you make it steeper than say three to one, they're going to start slipping and sliding and powdering up the soil, which is going to ruin your job. So you really need to open them up. You need to put a core in like this case here where we've gone down a couple of hundred millimeters into the base material to make a bit of a slot, then gently scarify that slot to join the new material in. The new material's got to be selected, it's got to be tested. Most importantly, it's got to be at optimum moisture content. And people always say to me, "How do I know when it's at the right moisture content?" Well, the answer is keep adding water until you start to slip off it. When the machines can't work it anymore, when it's too wet, just let it dry a little bit and can dry fairly quickly.

And then you're probably about optimum moisture content. So it's just below when the clay particles start to get really slippery. That's about optimum moisture content like plasticine. It's got to pack down and you'll feel it when you walk on the job, whether it's packing properly. If you're actually sitting on a machine, you'll feel it even better because instead of sort of bouncing around a bit and vibrating, you'll just feel it really pack and lock in really hard. You need to put in thin layers, four inches to six inches, a hundred to 200 mil deep and multiple passes of whatever compacting equipment you're using. Ideally something like a pad foot roller, but alternatively, I don't know, a water truck or a tanker, but a wheeled vehicle. So just to give you some idea, a passenger car has got more pressure, a normal passenger car under its wheels than a bulldozer or excavator has under its tracks.

So again, don't use a tracked machine to try and compact anything. Keep an eye on how the soil's going in. You can even use a soil probe just to push it in. You'll quickly feel whether they're getting good compaction. Soil testing is really critical. I'm not going to go into too much detail because there is a good tech note and we might even send that out later today with a copy of the recording. And whenever that goes out to all of you, the key things are there's three things that you really need to think about. The texture, which is a reflection of the amount of clay. You don't want a lot of clay or fine material. You want maybe 20, 30% maximum of clay. Get above that, you're going to get a material with cracks a lot, loses its strength very rapidly when it gets wet. What you're really looking for is a bit more like that road base material, course gravel, medium gravel, core sand, fine sand, silt, and a small amount of clay to lock it all together.

Bit like making concrete. That's the ideal material. And when you work it up by adding water to a dry material, you should be able to make this sort of shape on the image there. Now with a tick on it, if you can roll out a thread about the thickness of a pencil and then turn it on itself to make a U shape or even a circle, you can be pretty sure that you've got enough clay in that material to seal it. Bit hard to work out just whether you got too much. Probably the best guide is just to look around on the ground, is it cracking or is it a clay, which looks pretty stable, which would suggest that it hasn't got a particularly high proportion. The second very easy test to do is to simply get some deionized water. They used to say rain water, but I'm a bit suspicious about that.

Deionized water, you get a bottle from the supermarket, very gently, place three or four little aggregates the size of a pea in the water with clean hands and see how it responds. The image on the right hand side, the clay is, or the particles are exploding due to the air inside them. That's called slaking and I'm sure a lot of you have heard of that, but no dispersion. So this is overnight. So we've come back the next day, keep an eye on it from when you put it in. The next day there was no dispersion which dispersion is this lovely halo around the clods, around the aggregates.

We need a little bit of dispersion to seal the material. If we get a lot of dispersion and this one's getting up there, but sometimes a lot more than that, then it's tunnel prone. And if you put that in the outside of the bank, you're going to have problems. You might be able to use it in the core, but you'd want to be careful. We reworked this red sample, tested it again for another day, and discovered that it is totally useless for holding water because it's a lovely well-structured clay. So the water tends to go through it. You can make them hold water, but pretty difficult and you need everything going for you. So look, that's about the end of dam repair and I'm not sure whether you want to wind up at that, Rachel, or go onto some of the other subjects. I'll let you make a call on that.


We don't have any questions yet, so maybe we do go on to-

Clem Sturmfels:

All right,


... another subject. Either stream crossing.

Clem Sturmfels:



Yeah, go onto stream crossing. That was the next most popular.

Clem Sturmfels:

And this is an area that I'm certainly not an expert in, but it's probably just reflecting my experience after some of the bigger fire events when we're helping people fix up some of these. I guess I'll get onto repairs in a minute, but just for those of you who aren't repairing one, if you think of putting one in, I guess the main thing is whenever you put a stream crossing in, is to think about the impact it's going to have to the flow of water to sediment flowing into the water, to the environment, and to the stability of the crossing and stability of the road.

Think about a wider stream bed if you're putting in a ford or a floodway. And I really start with those because once you start thinking about something more substantial, you may be looking at a permit. And if you're talking about a bridge, you're probably talking about getting an engineer involved, which really complicates the whole process. So why does stream bed for a ford with nice low bank? So like this case here, beautiful spot for a waterway. This has got pipes to it, but I'd probably call that as much a waterway ford as a culvert. But if you're putting in obviously bridges or culverts, then maybe you could go for a narrower stream bed. Try and pick somewhere where you've got a reasonably straight stream alignment. And that's not always possible, but it just minimizes the damage that your crossing will do to the stream itself and a subsequent erosion.

If all's going well and you can get a floor on rock or fairly consolidated gravel, even better. But like most sites, you often just up on clay or some other material. And it's important to think about the drainage for the approach roads. One of the big issues we saw after Black Saturday was whole lot of these crossings in the hilly country around King Lake that there was no runoffs and there was no crowning. So we got a lot of water running down these approach roads and actually washing away the crossing itself and creating a lot of sediment. So it is important to think about the drainage of the approach road and how you're going to deal with that. You might think it's a big deal, but it is in big storm events.

The other thing to think about is ... well, a whole lot of things, which I briefly touched on. A well-designed crossing should minimize disturbance to the stream bed in the banks. This particular crossing is on the Yarrowee River at Brown Hill, North of Ballarat. Just a really nice crossing across a river. It's got a minimal impact on the stream. So the last few weeks, the Yarrowee's been over the top of that constantly for weeks. It provides the easy passage of flood flows and that's what I was just saying. The water can get over that with minimal disturbance, minimal turbulence, and virtually no erosion as it goes over the top of that. And of course, it's got to be safe and stable. Having said that, box culverts are considerably more expensive, but generally depending on their load limit, they don't need material on top. So they really make a pretty ideal sort of low level crossing.

Talk about culvert installation. Sorry, just reading my notes. I guess the main comment to make about these and I have been involved in helping farmers put these in is that they're particularly difficult to do properly and whether that's a box culvert or a round pipe, such as in this case, and this wasn't one that I was involved in, but they're quite difficult. Those pipes are very heavy. They need to fit together perfectly, they need to be watertight and you don't want them moving. So when you're building them, you need to get perfect horizontal and vertical alignment before you put the pipe in. So you need to find a good solid base. You need to lay a bedding material that's well compacted, such as the crusher dust I was talking about before. And you need to level it up really carefully and straighten it up so you know when you put the pipes in, they're going to fit together perfectly.

Get that out by more than a few millimeters and those pipes just won't go together no matter what you do. And I'm sure a few of you have had that problem. Not only do you put a couple of inches or three, 50 to 75 mil of compacted bedding material in the bed of the stream and get that down tight, you bring that up around where the pipe's going to sit. So you're trying to get that alignment right. You're also giving it plenty of support under the haunches of the pipe after you put the pipe in. You need to do a bit of that, add a bit more of that material once you've laid the pipe. But the most important thing is get that alignment correct. When you're aligning the pipes, and I was never really clear on this, the recommendation is that you follow the alignment of the stream, whichever way the stream is heading, that's the way you put the pipe in.

So just average the upstream and downstream, line it up with that. When you put the pipe in, generally lay it on the bed of the creek at the same grade of the stream. But of course, there is limits to that. If that's too steep, the pipe, it's got potential to move. So I'm only talking if it's only falling by 25, 50 millimeters over the length of your culvert. That's all good. Much more than that, you probably need to think of other options. You need to butt together the pipes really tightly. And the recommendation is you put the first pipe in on the downstream side with the open bell shaped end facing upstream. It's important to put in plenty of pipes. In most case, or the one I particularly worked on, we added two more pipes to what was a pretty unstable crossing. It meant we could batter out, instead of having to put logs in like this case and rocks, we could batter out those slopes quite nicely, topsoil them and get them grassed up.

You may still need some rock to stop a bit of undermining and erosion damage. So get them tight, put plenty of length in them, which I know adds a lot to the cost, but it saves on maintenance. Cover the joints apparently is the recommendation, I've never actually done this, with what they call Malthoid 200 millimeter wide Malthoid strip over the joints. When you backfill the pipe, try and get the best material you can and often you've just got to use whatever's available. But again, you're looking for a small amount of clay and a well graded mix like you'd use in a road, a bit like that crusher dust sort of material. And you need to pack that in really tightly and you can only do that by hand under the pipe. So pack it in up until you get about halfway.

And then if you've got an excavator and a compaction wheel available, then that's a nice quick way of finishing off the job till you get up above the pipe to the minimum cover that's been specified by the manufacturer for the weights you want to carry. And then, of course, add in your concrete head wall. You might use rockfilled gabion baskets, which again, what got a mention in that last presentation, or logs. So that's about it on that. I was going to mention this scenario, which some people may be up against. This was a dairy farm in South Gippsland that recently contacted Agriculture Victoria. During the floods down in Gippsland, not the most recent floods, they had a lot of trouble with a lot of their crossings. Water going straight over the top, tunneling out their crossings, stopping the animals getting through because of the depth of the water.

And my suggestion was, and I'm not sure how far we've progressed with it, was to not necessarily replace all the crossings with bigger pipes because you've still got the channel full of water. So making the pipe bigger may not help a lot, but actually putting a low level flood bypass to one side. And what I'm talking about is simply making a low section of the track, maybe 20 or 30 meters long, drop the track down in the surrounding soil. So you've got a flood bypass if you like. So once the water gets up to about the level it is now a bit higher, it starts to go over the track, round down the paddock, which it's going to do anyway when it gets outside this channel. Make sure that area's well armored with rock, nice and wide, so the water's quite shallow and animals can still walk through it. That way you're protecting your key asset, which is a culvert in the middle.

This has become a pretty common practice with new bridges all over the state where you find a hump when you go up over a bridge and you'll notice the road either end of the bridge is quite a bit lower, allowing those flood flows to go around. The other quick thing I was going to mention is something which I thought was quite ingenious, and I've actually added these black lines to this image, is putting three steel posts or more across your table drain before it enters a culvert.

Now this was a practice that the forest commission certainly have used a lot in my area here up in the mountains, one, to stop debris getting in and blocking the culvert. But secondly, so they could easily pull the debris out, they just pull up in their vehicle, drag the debris out, shovel out a bit of the silt and walk away. Where I was trying to get down into where a culvert entrance is a lot more difficult. So just another pretty handy trick. And Rachel, that's about the end of that one, but I have got a quick summary, which I'll do when you're ready.


Just in case people have to go, before you get to the end of your summary, I'll put the last poll up, but please type some questions in the question and answer box. If you do have a complex question, you could use the raise hand button at the bottom of your screen and once Clem's finished with his summary, we might be able to go over a couple of those if people have time.

Clem Sturmfels:

That sounds like a great idea, Rachel.


Yeah. All right, go for it, Clem.

Clem Sturmfels:

Okay. Okay. And there was a couple of other things we can talk about, but again, we are getting well past time. The other things I was going to talk about is dealing with an eroding spillway and dealing with erosion where the water runs into a dam. I think they were the only two topics that we didn't cover, but happy to talk about that after we wind up. So look, my summary, which was quickly scribbled down, is we really need to plan for more intense rainfall events. I think most of our experiences and the science is now backing that up pretty well. We know we are going to get hit harder and more often. We need to upgrade our farm structures, if we possibly can, to deal with that. When we think about erosion control, it can get quite complex, but the basics are very, very simple and that's about good drainage.

It's about spreading the water out, it's about slowing it down and using topsoil and grass as much as possible. It's by far our best tool we've got to control soil erosion. Make sure you do a detailed assessment of whatever you're thinking of repairing. Really think it out. If you need some advice or assistance, please shoot us a few photos. We can't get to everyone's property, we just haven't got the staff, but we can look at photographs and give you some pretty detailed advice over the internet. And of course, as I mentioned, watch for any weak links in your construction works. So that's about it, Rachel, unless we've got some hands up and we can go from there.


We don't have any hands up. Thank you to everyone that's building the poll now. If you want Clem, we can continue on and cover the last two topics. Sorry we've gone over time, but it is a very big year, big topic and large area of interest. The recording will keep going if you don't have time today and you will get a copy of the recording if you just want to skip to the end and watch the last two topics that we might continue on, Clem.

Clem Sturmfels:

Okay, thank you. Okay. As I said, this is one of the two topics we haven't talked about yet. I think there is only two, and it's just I'll talk briefly about dealing with dam spillway erosion, which again has become pretty common, particularly after big fire events. And I'm assuming it's becoming fairly common after some of these flooding events. Well, I haven't seen too many examples around here. This particular dam about a five meg dam, reasonable size dam, suffered quite significant damage after Black Saturday. This is over at St. Andrews in the other side of Melbourne. So the recommendation for this site, and there's really three ways you can go with trying to repair these sorts of problems. And it depends entirely on the topography and where you've got a good disposal area for your water, which is what I talked about earlier. So there's no right or wrong answer.

Of course, you could fill it up with rock, but in reality it's probably not going to work unless you open it up into a big shoot and made quite an expensive rock shoot out of it. And you may simply be better to put a pipe through the bank. So that's certainly one option is to have a lower level pipe like we talked about earlier. What I did recommend for this site was simply to put a much wider spillway the other end of the bank. We had room to do that, a wide spillway with a nice spreader on the end to deal with this. We also did, now I think about it, put in a small pipe just to take the trickle flows and keep that spillway dry. So a pipe, as I described earlier, and certainly covered in our last webinar. If that doesn't suit your site, then really you haven't got a lot of alternatives other than a rock shoot or maybe filling this up.

And again, I covered that last week and by filling it up, I mean, open it up like we did in the [inaudible 01:11:23] so you can get equipment in there, probably not getting a big machine in there, but something fairly small. Open it up so you get a good clean surface, batter it off, fill it with compacted moist material in thin layers, pack it up. You could lift it above ground level like I talked about last week, but you'd need room for the water to go round it. Alternatively, in this particular case, the alternative was, was to bench a new spillway into that left hand side. So fill the hole and then bench into the left to make the main spillway go round this erosion, probably put a bank, fill this right up and build it up as part of the dam bank and push the water out wider, make a new spillway. Again, same sort of process.

And if you got really desperate, you might go for the grass shoot option that, again, we covered under in those notes to actually turn it into a grass shoot where not only do you topsoil it, but you also mulch it, sew it, and peg it down with [inaudible 01:12:28] to make a pretty resilient surface. So that's really spillways. There's not many other options unless people want to chuck in a question because numbers will be back a bit now. So feel free to do that.

Sorry. I've got a slide here on that low level, the use of a low level pipe that I've talked about a couple of times during this presentation. This was a new large drought reserve dam put in a pretty steep valley up near Elmhurst. And as part of the design, we incorporated a low level pipe. And you can see that in the red circle down left hand corner there. The pipe put in a similar fashion to that image you saw earlier in the top left, but not using Polyethylene. In this case it was concrete pit and I can't remember what sort of pipe, a different sort of Polyethylene pipe.

The pipe inlet, in this case, is set about 200 mills below the spillway, and you can see the spillway out at the other end, not very well grassed at this stage, but again, wide flat spillway, a nice flat spill area on the end of it. But this pipe, 200 mills below it. Two reasons. One, it keeps the main spillway dry and all the trickle flows go down this pipe. But the second most valuable asset is that it actually allows you to store a flood in the dam for a short time. So when you get that surcharge of water coming down the stream in this case, water level rises up, it stores a bit of that peak and then it goes down the pipe. Some may go out the spillway, but the pipe's working all the time. Importantly, if you're putting these in, please take a lot of care to get that compaction right.

And really it is quite a bad job around those baffles. I love these welded Polyethylene pipes. Get them welded on site, get the baffles welded on, totally waterproof, get the inlet pit welded on, and they're pretty flexible and easy to handle. So they're a fantastic way to go if you're thinking about putting one of these in. It's important to put them in solid ground. So we tend to put these in as we're building the bank on solid ground, mainly, not necessarily because they've got a lower risk of failure, more so that you're not having to rebuild the main part of the bank. You've only got a small amount of earthworks if you've got problems down that pipeline. A well built bank, well compacted should be just as solid as the original parent ground.

Now talk about dam inlet erosion, which is pretty common. It's become a lot more common with the droughts that we've had over recent years where water levels are often down low for years on end, and the water running into the dam forms a bit of a trench as it drops into the dam. I guess if it's below full supply level, not such a big issue, and the treatment might be sheets of corrugated iron shaped nicely overlapping to get the water down to the bottom. It might be, I don't know, some other sort of temporary structure. It might be a pipe. If it's above the water level, then it becomes a bigger issue.

If it's above the full supply level, like in this case here, even though it's pretty badly disturbed up here, it was a bit of gully erosion they filled in, then you need to think about all the other options we talked about last week, which are things like putting in a diversion bank, talking about filling it with material up above ground level, talking about cleaned up with a shovel and packing in clean straw bales really tightly buttered together to allow them to protect the erosion, absorb the energy, and get a whole lot of grass growing very rapidly in that filled area. Or putting in a temporary shoot like I showed you last week with this large vinyl grain cover that we used on a big new dam or the traditional grass shoot trick or flow pipe that I've talked about a few times. And again, it's covered in the last recording. And I think, Rachel, at that point, we can probably wind up. I think we're pretty well done.


All right, thank you for that, Clem. We'll just wait a couple of minutes. Put your hand up or type into the question box any last questions that you have. We'll just wait minute. But thank you. That was a very interesting presentation. If anyone would like to find any more resources on flood recovery and flood recovery events, you can go to our website at Same goes for information on the financial support available. It's all at our website as well. I will send out an email tomorrow or Monday morning with the recording and a link to the tech notes that Clem has mentioned throughout today's presentation so they're easy to access. Feel free to pass that on to the link to the recording to anyone else that you know that might be interested. And thank you for joining today. I think that'll do, Clem.

Clem Sturmfels:

Good stuff.

Cash flow budgeting – with Carmen Quade, AgriFocused

In this flood recovery webinar, Carmen Quade discusses some cash flow budgeting tips and tricks including:

  • Cash flow planning and
  • Three-month crisis budgeting.

Webinar recording passcode: CASHFLOW

Read more
+ Expand all- Collapse all


... And I'd rather be seeing all your beautiful faces. We'll just do our best with what we've got. And given that, I don't think I can actually get very far off farm at the moment before hitting a flooded creek, possibly a good thing that we're all meeting by Zoom. So look, we are going to run through a few things today. We're going to look at some Excel skills and while we work through the example, we're going to talk about some sort of cash flow budgeting tips and tricks that you might be able to use in your own farm business depending on the circumstances that you are facing at the moment. Now, I think Tess gave me a great introduction. So I'm based at Tallimba in the Northern Riverina. So a few of you are locals I can see on the screen, but a few of you are from a bit further away.

And we're I think really in a fortunate position that we haven't had any major flooding with crops. We're still filled with a sense of excitement and in equal parts anxiety about how we're actually going to get it off. And I think there'd be a few other people facing the same situation. But just so I can get a bit of an idea about where everybody's coming from, Tess has actually just prepared a little poll that she'll put up on the screen. And if you could just fill in what your current situation is. So are you business as usual, whatever that is, given we're in our wettest year on record and three years ago we had our driest year on record. If you're facing just a few delays in income and some increased expenses, but you should be pretty right. Whether you've got flooding with moderate financial impact or flooding with a serious financial impact. And if you could just fill that in, that'll be great, and we can have a bit of an idea about where everybody's at.


Someone else is logged in from our Agriculture Victoria account and they've taken the polling away from it. Could someone who has logged in, please start the poll.


Oh, it's going well.


It's going, is it? Oh, good.


Yeah, we've had 18 of 23 responses.




I'm just embedding a few more into the waiting room now, Tess, but if you could take over that.


Yeah, I've got them in.


Okay, that's great.


If you can see the results come, that's Excellent.


So we can end the poll now and we can just... Can everybody see that? So we've got about 20% business as usual, 60% with some delays in income, increased expenses, but should be right. And that's certainly where I'm at on the sunny days in the morning. When it's raining in the evening, I'm thinking it's all doom and gloom, but we'll talk more about that later. We've got 15% flooding with a moderate financial impact and one person with flooding and serious financial impact. So we can't see into the future, but goodness, I think potentially there's still much to happen over the next couple of months and we're likely to see possibly a bit of a shift in those numbers there. So, oh, I can get them up on the screen. Now, how these experiences, wherever you are in any of those four categories, how that impacts on our businesses is really, really going to differ. So we've got quite a few people in that section where there's some delays in income and increased expenses.

But if you are rolling off the back of some other difficult years, if you've recently expanded, there's been a succession event within your family business or you've got some big plans in the future, you're likely to have a very different business impact than somebody else that might be faced with exactly the same situation. So there's about 25 of us in here today. All of those farm businesses are incredibly unique. All of us as individuals are incredibly unique. So it's not a sort of one size fits all type scenario that anybody's in. So we're going to work through an example and hopefully the Excel skills that you pick up in that example are going to be really useful for you to manage your own situation rather than suggesting that this is sort of like the one solution or the one example that anyone might be going through. The numbers are obviously going to be really, really different in your business. Now, I'll just go onto an Excel screen.

So we're going to work through the exercise now. If I go a little bit too fast, what I suggest you do is just lean back and listen. And the reason I suggest that is because Tess is going to send out a link to the recording, hopefully tomorrow. And then you can actually work through the exercise again ideally in a two-screen method. So if you've got two screens on your computer, that's great. You can have the webinar playing on one, and then muddle through with your own Excel spreadsheet on another. Or if you've got a phone or an iPad, you might have the webinar playing on that while you work on your desktop or your laptop computer. So, that side by side method is the best way to do it. So yeah, don't get stressed out if you're not keeping up. And if you're zooming along and you want to add in your own little bibs and bobs as you go through, well then that's perfectly okay as well. So we'll get our screen up now. Okay Tess, you can see that. Give me a thumbs up if you can see our... Yes?


Looks good.


Fantastic, thank you. That's really good. Now what we're going to start with doing, and I'm just assuming that everyone's got a little bit of computer knowledge and if not, we'll talk more about the Excel course that you can actually sign up for as a part of this webinar at the end. But we'll just start by putting in cash flow plan. So what I'm working on today is basically what I like to call my three month crisis budget. So in real life you do a 12 month cash flow plan and then at just about this time of year in lots of enterprises, particularly when you're dealing with this huge volatility in both input costs and seasonal conditions, everything goes pear shaped for about three months. Now, if you've got a livestock enterprise, that might be the three months before you sell your wieners.

If you've got a cropping enterprise, it's the three months before harvest. If you're mainly wool sheep, it's potentially the three months before your wool sales start coming in. So this is that sort of crisis management budget that we're going to work on. And then we'll talk more about how to do the 12 month budget. So we just start by putting our title there, we can increase the size of the font and that just makes it look a little bit fancy by using those things there. Now, I just like using really simple language so that we can follow it, rather than using formal accounting terminology, so in formal accounting terminology, you'd have debtors and creditors and everybody gets a little bit confused about which is which. It's great just to use something really simple, especially if you've got a bigger family business and that the accounting lingo isn't what other people use. So I just like writing bills to pay. And we put in a few of our bills here.

And then we might write October, November, and December. Now you're just going to have to forgive my spelling mistakes. I'm not going to go through and fix them all as we go. So, you can see here that some of this is being cut off and to make it a little bit neater, we're just going to hold down our left mouse button and select these three rows and just make them a little bit wider. That's a great skill to have, especially if you're in a bigger business where there's lots of zeros on the numbers. You can make those columns a little bit bigger. We'll make that bold as well. And we can put in what our bill might be for this month and what we're expecting next month's bill to be, and maybe an estimate of the following month there as well. Now, different people have preferences for how numbers are formatted and I really think the best way to format your numbers is using a commerce separator and not worrying about the cents.

You'll also see here I've rounded up to some nice big numbers and certainly when you're budgeting or doing any sort of financial forecasting, you actually just make it harder if you're starting to put in numbers like $10,527. You're just better off rounding up to the nearest hundred. It gives you an easier fudge factor, it makes it clearer when things go wrong and hopefully there's enough room in there for you to be able to be budgeting to that level. So we've just reformatted that cell there. If we want to reformat a whole group of cells and we're going to be writing some more numbers down here, we'll just select these like this, put in the number, the comma separator and take off the cents. And we'll just put in a few more bills there and you can just make up whatever you like in here. You can work from real life if you've got the time and just hit pause in the recording at this stage and just work with real figures, if you like. Or you can just follow along with my example.

So we've got some tires to pay for. And you'll see there's more being populated in this October figures, those are bills that we've got on hand. We've got smash repair. Now, if you are dealing a 12 month budget, generally you're not listing things by creditor, you're actually listing things by type. So you'll be saying livestock, animal health costs, or fodder costs or repairs and maintenance. But when you're dealing with a three month crisis budget, which is what we're focusing on at the moment, I think it's more useful actually to list things by creditor. Because the decisions in how we manage our cash are often governed by who we owe the money to rather than the classification of that debt. So a really good example of that is perhaps fodder that you might have bought from a supplier like UNE and you've bought it through them as opposed to fodder that you might have bought from a neighbor or another farmer.

And your decisions about how you handle that debt and what you can put on terms and what you can extend and what you really want to pay straight away are different even though the classification of that expenditure is exactly the same. So we'll just put in some bill from Toyota and I'll just give you the spreadsheet when we finish as part of this exercise. So you can just add in your own numbers if you like and just work along with that, or type over it and all of the formatting will be correct. So you just need some figures in here. They don't have to match, and some names for creditors. We've got some rego due, and the fuel bill. And I'm just making a little marking here that it's due on the 21st. Now back when I started doing farm books, it was great and was easy because everything was due on the 30th or the 31st of the month.

Now, everyone's got a little bit excited about when they want their bills due and you have some due on the 7th, some due on the 15th, the fair few due on the 21st, et cetera. So just be mindful of that when you are dealing with all of these sorts of things. The irony is that we've still got a water bill due in November. Now we're also going to put in here a fodder bill, because there might be some people facing fodder costs that perhaps this time of year might not be. I'm going to stretch out column A here. So we hover over this part until we get that little sort of cross with the arrows and we stretch that out. And now we're going to write head and dollars per month. Now, Tess is going to send you some links with some great online calculators that you can use to calculate fodder costs based on animal classes and animal needs.

For this example, because we're looking at spreadsheets and we're looking at cash flow, we're just going to throw some big numbers in it. So we're just going to say we've got a thousand head and it's going to cost us $30 per month. Now you might want to use Excel here to calculate different animal classes and what they might need. So you might have some steers that are eating less than some cows with calves and you might just put steers here and cows in the next line and do multiple lines. But for here in this simple example, let's just do number of head dollars per month. Now, this is where we can use Excel to actually do the calculations for us. So we're putting an equal sign in and that just tells Excel that in this cell we're going to have a calculation rather than some text typed in. And we are going to click on this cell B15. And we are going to multiply it by this cell here, C15. And that gives us the sum of those two cells or the product of those two cells.

Now, that's great because we don't have to get our calculator out. Where it really comes into its own is understanding that these formulas are dynamic. So when we have a look and realize that there's a whole lot of feed barley coming out of Tallimba and Leith Valley, and the price drops down to $20 per head, we can adjust that quite quickly and that flows through the rest of the spreadsheet. Or when we drop our numbers back, we can model that impact on our overall budget. So I'll just change them back to where they were. And that is fairly straightforward. So we'll add in a line for our drawings or owner's wages, you might have staff super et cetera that needs to be paid and appropriate dates for that. Now, where we've got the same figure across a number of different lines, we can copy that. So it's easy to write 3000 three times, but it's even easier to hover on this bottom right hand cell and drag that out. And that gives us that information in all of those cells.

We might have an interest payment. See how it corrected my spelling there. Fantastic. We might have a machinery finance payment. We've got the BAS due. I'll put that in there and some insurance. And that will be here. So that's our list of creditors. Yours is going to be different than that. And at this point if you're listening to the recording, I'd encourage you to select just to pause and populate all of that with your own figures and what's important for you. So moving on from there, what we want to do is total all of these columns. So we go down to this cell here and we go over here to our auto sum, and that puts up these things which are called the marching ants. And it's basically estimating where it thinks you want to add up and it's just adding up those two cells there. What we want it to do is add up all of these cells here. So we want the dotted line to be around all of that. Now we'll just have a little look at this formula here.

So it's saying equals sum E5, dot-dot E20. So in Excel speak, what that's actually saying is the equal sign means I want you to add up. The next bit, sum is I want you to do the sum total of... The brackets indicate the area that we want to add up and that's from cell E5 through to cell E20. So if we just press enter, that gives us the sum of all of those numbers. Again, it's a dynamic formula so when we work out that the fuel bill's actually $20,000, that adds that in there. So, we can stretch this formula across here and here. And you can see now we owe $90,000 in October, 45 in November, and 120 in December. Now, just a great formatting tip, nice for that to stand out a little bit more. How we do that is by going up to this section here and putting on a top and bottom border. You might also want to put that in bold to make that look like that. So has anyone got any questions at that point, Tess? Anyone want to unmute themselves or ask something?


Feel free to unmute yourselves on the bottom left hand corner. But I want to know about color coding transaction types, Carmen. I'm a color person. Like them to...


So there's a couple of different ways you can do it. And so you can either change the font color like that, or you can change the background color like that. Font colors and using color is really, really good. And I find it really good not so much for allocating build type but for allocating how firm the data might be. So you might just indicate anything that needs to be explained or you need to get more information on in one particular color and then allocate something else in green once it's being confirmed, for example. And that can be a really good way of doing that. You can then take off the color by just all in one go because you might be wanting to send it onto somebody else and have it look a little bit professional. Take all of that off and turn everything back to black. Does that answer the question, Tess.




And how would you be using color in that sort of example or that sort of spreadsheet?


In and out, a bit of conditional formatting.


Yeah. Okay. Well, I don't think we'll get into conditional formatting here today, but I can...


Sally's asked a question, would you be able to demonstrate color change depending on calculation response?


Ooh, I don't think I'll go into that here only because it's just a little bit complicated. There is one, we'll use it down the bottom and I'll just show you the conditional formatting for minus and positive numbers when we get to working out what our bottom line is. But there's other... So yeah, so conditional formatting can be used to highlight numbers in a certain range. So if a bill's over $5,000, it might appear in a certain color. If it's under 10, it might appear in a certain color if it's over 50,000 et cetera. We can also use conditional formatting to indicate negative numbers as red and so on. But in this example we're just trying to keep it really, really simple. But I'll show you that the conditional formatting for the negative numbers.

So down in the second section we're going to put income due in and we're going to put some livestock returns and livestock due to be sold. So these ones we're assuming are already sold. So I'll say they're sold on the 10th of the 11th, so we're expecting that money in shortly. And the wool, we've got warehoused and the steer is sold. And over here again, I'm just trying to use some quiet descriptive language about what the bill is, when it's due, all of that. So you might be want to be really formal on the left hand side, you might just want to include the creditor's name. And over here you might want to start another column with comments on it where you can just put a little bit of a notation as to where things are up to.

But I just like making it really, really clear which of these livestock. Is that the mortgages sold, is that the one that are due to be sold or what's the situation? And over here we can use our formulas again. So we can say 250 a head at a hundred dollars or 150, about 300 here at 150. And we can say these ones are due in this month and we're expecting these ones a little bit later in the month. Our steers, we've got 1500 to sell and they might be due sometime later, but let's put them in for December. The wool, we can either do the total amount from the estimate, which might be easy, or we could save 50 bales at a thousand dollars a bale to work out that estimate there.


Good question from Hannah, Carmen. Do you ever have your stock flow, so stock numbers, sales and purchases, on a separate sheet that then flows into your cash flow or is that too complicated?


No, it's not too complicated and it's a really good way to do a comprehensive annual budget. So you would do something like, over here, you might do your months of the year... And I'll just show you something. You drag those numbers out, see how it just then populates the whole lot. I think that's so clever because I can't really spell. Then you might go number of head, and then you might go dollars here, or kilos or whatever... Or this might be number of tons and dollars per ton, you know can have multiple lines in here for all sorts of different things. So if you've got a number of different stock classes, you'd have them all listed separately there.

And in that way, you would just put in how many are selling in each month and you would put the figure here of what you think they're going to achieve over there. And then you would have that, you'd go equals this multiplied by this, stretch that formula all the way along there, and that ends up being your sort of total returns. And that's great when you're doing an annual budget and you've got a lot of information in here which you don't want in your main budgeting spreadsheet because there ends up just being too much information and too much going on. So you would have lines there for all of your livestock classes or mobs or however you want to lay that out, number of head and the dollars or tons, et cetera.

And then map across only one line. So this is if you are new to Excel, just close your eyes and sit back, cause this might seem a bit complicated but I'll just show you, you can then go put an equals here, click across to here, and that information will flow through from one spreadsheet to the other. So it's actually not complicated. It's probably simpler because you might have one person in your business that concentrates on this part of the program determining how many head there are and what they're going to sell for and they can just concentrate all their effort on maintaining that and making sure that's correct. And then you move over here and map it out into the particular months of the year. So does that answer your question, Hannah?


Did the months have to correlate? So if you accidentally get it wrong and it moves across one, obviously we had different months in different columns...


Yeah, yeah. And I'll show you another mistake you can make because I made this one and everything just went pear shaped. I'm going, oh why don't we have money? So this, if there's no price in there, there's no income. So if you decide, oh look we're just going to like those, they're not going to be ready at the end of July and you just decide to delete that from there and pop them into August, there's no money in the budget for that income. So you've just got to make sure that this column is populated all the way across with just your best estimate of what the prices might be so that wherever you pop the numbers in of livestock, they then actually generate any income. So this is why I really recommend doing this sort of stuff during the day. Obviously early in the day, one is your attention to detail is generally better. And two, when you have a massive hole of $250,000 that you didn't realize was there and you get into a bit of a panic and the heebie jeebies and the whole thing.

So just do this early in the day, I would recommend. Nothing wrong with doing a bit of bit work at night, especially paying a few bills, doing some of that really straightforward repetitive admin type stuff. If you're doing planning stuff, if you're doing stuff where the detail matters, if things aren't traveling all that well or the outcomes are a little bit unexpected, best off doing it during the day. It's really hard, I know, when people have got kids at home and sometimes the evening is the only quiet time, but I'd really encourage you to see if you can work something around so you can actually either get up a little bit early or do something so you've got a little bit of quiet time and you've got that extra morning energy. So back to our income here. We're just going to total this and again click on the bottom and map that across. So we've got our bills to pay our income due in and then here, we are just going to put available funds.

Now this is where things can get a little bit confusing if you're trying to run an overdraft account because what are you really trying to work out how much money's available or what the overdraft is going to go out to? There's a couple of different perspectives on doing it. One of the most simplistic is to say available funds or the other is to work out the account balance and then you just have to be mindful of what your overdraft limit might be and how far in the red you are. So for example, if you've got a $200,000 overdraft limit and your account balance is zero, you have an available funds of $200,000 and even though it's borrowed money, it's money you have access to settle other creditors. So just think about your perspective. Do you want to work on an available funds perspective or do you want to work on your account balance perspective? So we're just going to work on an account balance perspective for this example. We might start by putting our opening balance here and this might be negative 150,000. Now this is where we can get the conditional formatting going.

So if we just go here and format cells that are greater or less than we want, format cells that are less than 100 or one, light red filled with dark red text. So we can see that they're now, where this can be really good is if you want to work on an account balance and you've got an overdraft and your overdraft balance might be 150,000. You could make it turn red when your overdraft limit is extended. So even though there's a minus limit, so it might be minus 70,000, that's nothing to worry about, it's a minus number but it's nothing to worry about because you've still got credit availability there. But if it goes over or under 150,000 then you're in trouble. So we'll leave it at that and see how that plays out in this example. So now we go equals our opening balance, plus the income we've got coming in minus the bills that we've got going out and we look at that now in that second month we are down to 203,000 overdraft. And then we can either map that formula across, but I'll just do it one more time to show you.

We look at the previous month's balance plus the incomes you win minus the money going out. And then we can drag that across to there to show it back in the red. And what we'll do here is use this format painter and actually put the same formatting, just double click on this and we can spread that out over there. So they're likely to be the... Well, they've got the same formatting so we'll change this down to a hundred minus a hundred thousand just to see if our conditional formatting's working and it's not in the way I wanted it to. Format cells less than. I don't know what's going on there, I've done something wrong. Anyway, we'll move right along. So what we're going to do is just talk through how we might then use this to sort of manage our cash flow. So I mentioned earlier we've got, we started off with $150,000 overdraft limit and it blows out then to 203,000 for a couple of months before it moves back into positive territory again in December.

So you can see that there. Now it's about determining a bit of a plan to actually manage that out. So we'll just stretch this out here. What I want to do is just take a snapshot of this as it is before we start playing around with it. So how we do that is actually click up here, also click down here, and we can go move or copy and then we can create a copy here. So this we can make our original copy And this we can make a plan of attack. Now, what I'd really recommend because you've copied these spreadsheets and they're identical is just make some sort of change up here perhaps to the color so that you can differentiate between the two because there's nothing worse in modifying one and then realizing that you've actually worked on the other and you just get yourself in a jumble. So it's just good yet to change the color.

Even if you want to go so far as just changing the background color just to a really light color, see really obvious what you're doing, it's a good way of attacking it. So we've got our notes comment here and this is where we might then have a think about jotting down some different things. So over here with the nutrient account we might ask about finance options. And then, if you actually manage to secure something, you might over here put a further note about limit extended to 50,000 would cover it until 30th of the 12th. And that gives you a line of credit. And that'll cost you probably 12%. So that's something you could do there. And then you can actually just increase this number to move those things over to there. So we could go equals $2,000 plus $15,000, plus 10,500. And that adds that up neatly in that cell and we'll just delete these two. Why we didn't add these cells up is because we don't want anything showing up in October and November because the bills aren't due then they're not due until December.


How do you add the credit on there, Carmen?




Because obviously the line of credit is costing you.


Yeah, so you can add in the extra line of the interest there, interest payment for Nutrien. And you can get really fancy and then just try and work out what 12% of 10 is in each month. Or you can just make an allowance for it based on its full level. So we could just put that in there and copy that along if we want. Sorry, that's for the whole year. So we have to divide that by 12 to put in the interest payment that would be due in those two months there. So, then we go through and we'll decide we'll just pay those tires or that stock carding on time, pay the tires on time, the smash repair will just pay on time.

We might decide to pay this with a credit card and pay this one with the credit card and that would mean that we can put it into our December, due bills there. The fuel bill, we might ask about finance options there and if we can then pay both of those things and we can just add that in there once we've finalized that. So this is a gray area where you might use color tests until you sort of really determine that that was going to be available to you. You might just put it in a tentative color. So on orange and then green when it was finalized.


Do you use list options or do you find those helpful?




Do you use list options? So drop down menu?


Oh no, because I don't think given how repetitive this is, it's really worth the effort in setting them up. So you might do that for something that was a little bit more complicated. So if you're doing one of these things where we were working here on allocating all your livestock out, and then over here you might have class of livestock, and then you might want to set yourself up a little dropdown box where you can choose whether they're ewes or steers or heifers or whatever they are and then you would be using that over and over again. But certainly for this level I think that the key thing is just to keep it really, really simple and just make sure that it's on track. So we didn't have anything in there for electricity but we might just call them and ask for an extension and they're normally pretty good to extend things out.

Same with the water bill. We'll call and ask for an extension and then we can just say confirmed. And you might also be making a little note on the bill as well as to what plan you've put in place there. So we've got to pay our fodder bill and we've got to live, so pay our drawings. So the interest payment and the machinery finance. Now if you are in difficult circumstances, you can actually often talk to your bank about delaying those. You are potentially breaching the terms of your agreement. So have a chat to them and potentially to your accountant as well about what sort of penalties there might be involved in this. So basically if you're looking to borrow money into the future or extend finance into the future for some sort of expansion project, this might put a little negative box against your name saying that you can't make that payment and it's not such a good thing.

But if that's really not on the agenda and you are just trying to make things work, you can renegotiate some of your interest payments, principal payments, certainly machinery finance and the Australian Banking Associations just released a paper about saying that banks have got all of these options on the table given recent floodings and recent events. So certainly well worth asking the question even if it's not something that you want to do. The BAS again, ATO, very flexible with their payment programs, especially if there's been some disaster type event. Now you can go and ring up the ATO and spend hours on a hotline and talk to them about your story and potentially not get a very good person on the other end or you can actually ask your accountant to handle it for you and they can negotiate some sort of payment deal. So often they do like some sort of incremental payment, which obviously suits businesses with a very consistent cash flow.

It doesn't really suit agricultural businesses whose cash flow is quite lumpy. But if you can get your accountant to ring up on your behalf or to enter the information in the portal on your behalf, often they're more successful. And often if you're feeling stressed, it's just one of those other things that somebody else can handle on your behalf. Insurance may be also worth talking to them about extended payment terms and... Oh, thanks. Tess has just put up some information up there. So now we've got things looking a little bit better. So with our original we were 203,000 in the red and we had an overdraft balance of 150 and now we're down to 172. And it just means if we can move that buzz, and maybe we can cut the groceries a bit or put a bit on the credit card here, we might well be able to stay within the overdraft limits for that month and then obviously things are turning around quite rapidly after that. So have we got any questions, Tess?


I do. Your most useful shortcut. I know you've used the auto sum button there. Is there anything else that... Quick tips?


Oh, yeah. So one thing that's really good is to... Just trying to think about the best way to show you this. So these formulas, when you click and drag them, they work really well here cause we're consistently doing the same sum, aren't we? We're basically saying to Excel, just add up these 15 odd rows above this cell and put the answer in there. When we try and drag something like this across, it actually starts looking at different cells. So if we look here, we are looking at B16 to C16 and if we look here, it's moved it along, it goes and it looks at C16 multiplied by D16, which gives us nothing at all.

So one little trick you can do here is just put a dollar sign in front of these and it's called an absolute reference. And basically what it does is when you're dragging these cells across, it will always look at B16 and 16, no matter how far you drag that along. And that's really good for things like that that you've got multiples and it's going to be relative per month. So you can actually then change that and have that flow all the way through. So again, you're just putting those little dollar signs in front of those things there.


Would you mind just clicking... Oh, just so I can see that formula again. So it's just in front of the letter reference. The dollar sign goes.


The dollar sign.


Sorry, it's Sally speaking. But yes, thank you.


No worries, Sally. Yeah, so just in front of the B and just in front of the 16. So there's more complicated ways of doing it sometimes if you want to basically fix this cell and not that one. But yeah, they're probably a little bit more advanced.


Oh no, that's great. Because I've found that very frustrating in the past when you want to drag a formula and it changes it all along, you just go, ah. That is a wonderful thing.


I know. And when you've got a spreadsheet like this and you're only really dragging out numbers or a simple formula, it's irrelevant because it's so easy to type that in. But when you are dealing with these more complex formulas, you really want to be able to copy them because it saves you a lot of time if you can.


No, thank you.


And it also reduces your errors, which is something that Excel's great, but if you're not really careful, you can quite easily make an error with things. So I always encourage you to check, everyone to check, and to get someone else to look up over them as well.


And what did you call that dollar sign? That it was an absolute-


That's an absolute reference.


Thank you.


Yeah. Anyone got any other questions?


Could we revisit the conditional formatting one down the bottom and see if we could get it?


Oh no, but it's like performance anxiety.


No pressure, it's no pressure.


It's like doing the triple splits you're an ice skater and when you've already stuffed it up once before and then you try it again. So one thing I will show you though is this-


Was there an error in that conditional formatting, though? Or was it actually correct?


What did you see, Sally? What did I... Where did...


Ohm I didn't see an error when you were doing the demonstration down the bottom. I found that very helpful, thank you. Before you changed the numbers I thought it looked like it was working correctly.


Yeah, okay, I'll just see again. Conditional formatting less than minus 150,000. See, that's less than 150,000 so that...


No, but it's got a minus sign over it.




They're all minus.


Yeah, but...


They're lower again down below your overdraft for 150,000, so they should be red.


Oh, right. Yes.


You might just fell out of a bit, yep.


That's included.


I think it was red.


Oh no, it is right, Sally. You're right. So what I need to do is just change that and just see, and we'll just extend the overdraft out to 175,000 because our bank manager's just given us a short term extension, which is also the other thing that you can ask for, and we're still not working.


Another question here. We're only doing it quarterly here, can we extend it out till next June? So for financial year?


Yeah. So I think then, I'll just show you this other spreadsheet. Can you see that new one up there now, Tess?


Just waiting. We can still see the old one.


Oh, okay. I might have to stop share and then start share again. Yeah, so this is what you would be doing. So the other one was more like a crisis one. How do we just get through the next three months before we can organize some of this other flood assistance or before your big income for the year's going to drop in. So that happens, it happens in even the best of run businesses. But what we're trying to aim for is to develop something like this, which is a 12 month budget, January to December or July through to June, whatever format you want to work with, whatever sort of suits your, I would say, suits your production cycle best, then you're going to be looking at developing something like this where you've got your crop receipts, livestock accounting for GST. So in that really simple example, we were just doing a quarter, we weren't really worrying too much about GST, we were just looking at that payment that might be due but not worrying too much about it at all.

If you're doing it for a full 12-month period, and this is really what I suggest you do is mapping it all out like this, then mapping out your payments coming out as well and then looking at determining your cash balances as well as the GST payments that you might have coming in then every quarter. And that's where we can then build onto that some more comprehensive additional spreadsheets where we're looking at modeling all of the sales which make up this one or two grain sales line. And then again all of the information sitting behind all of this, the price estimates as well as number estimates for our livestock income as well. So that's really the ideal that we're working towards. It's probably a bit beyond the 45 minute webinar. So Tess might just want to run through what Agriculture Victoria have organized. And I can share my screen again and show you what we've got.


So there's a couple of resources, one I've put into the chat, but then also on our Feeding Livestock website. Can I steal the screen for a second, Carmen? So this is Agriculture Victoria's Feeding Livestock website. And if you go to the either beef or sheep, depending on which animals you have, there are access to our drought feeding books which have all of the information that you need to be able to supplementary feed or feed budget with any pasture availability. But then we've also got some tools and calculators which link through to both industry publications, industry recognized publications and any that are ag. There's a couple of Excel based ones here, which is a Pearson Square which allows you to formulate a two feed Russian.

And there's also an instructional video there on how to use a Pearson Square. So if you click view calculator, it allows you to download the Excel spreadsheet directly from the website. We've also got links there to the New South Wales drought feed application as well. And then another feed budget spreadsheet, which again is an Excel-based spreadsheet. Which allows you to create a longer term budget for feed. There's one for cattle here, but on the sheep page there's one for sheep as well which indicates the consumption of the animal in a nice Excel spreadsheet. So you can use that one.

The one that I've put into the chat is just a PDF version, which is a one you can put on the kitchen table and quickly formulate an emergency 14 day feed, budget feed and water budget in the emergency that we are currently experiencing in Victoria. If, and so there's more information on this website than you know would need, but if you want to click through to the drought books it does have... You can click through to all of the different chapters to be able to read them at your leisure. If you do want a hard copy of the drought books, we do have those available as well. So if you would prefer to have one posted to you, more than happy for that to occur. Just send me an email and I'll arrange to have one posted to you. Thanks, Carmen. I'll stop sharing.


Very good, Tess. So did you want to talk about the courses now?


I do, yes. So might go to your website, even.


I will, if I can get it up. Hold on.


I'm up. I'll share.


I just might go in myself because I might get behind the scenes and show everybody.


So as part of the Future Drought funded Farm Business Resilience program, we are funding two of Carmen's online training modules, which are excellent. One is the Farm Budgeting Masterclass and then another is Excel for Farm Business. So they will be subsidized to the value of $50. So after this webinar, there's a QR code, you fill out an expression of interest to be able to receive a checkout code and you can register for those courses.


Very good. Now, you might just have to go out of sharing screens so I can share mine.


Am I still sharing? Shouldn't be.


Oh, just doesn't give me the option of this other screen. Hold on. What can you see now, Tess?


Just you.


Now as good as that is, try to see why we're not having any luck here. I might get you to do it. Doesn't seem... Oh wait, hold on. Show all windows. Oh here we go. Share, right.




Now we can see it. Very good. So I'll just move some of this out of way. So as test is explaining, we've got two courses here, the Excel for Farm Business and Farm Leasing for Business... Oh sorry, Farm Budgeting Masterclass, Farm Leasing for Business Growth is just another course that we've got hosted on our platform that's available from another consulting business, Arista. So the Farm Budgeting Masterclass includes that template that I just showed you on the screen, which goes through the annual budgeting process. So there's a number of different modules there. The first one just working out how you work out the numbers in a complex farming business, sometimes you're just looking at it and going, oh it's just all too hard to work it out. But this basically takes you through line by line the best way of estimating each thing.

The second module goes through the Excel spreadsheet and how to use it. Now, Excel's only one budgeting tool. You might be using Phoenix or you might have Agrimaster, another program that does just as good a job. If that's the case, I'd suggest to keep using it. But this goes through how, again, you might want to look at the relationships between line items in your budget. Then moving on to how you manage your cash flow without sacrificing productivity. Because I think a lot of people hear budgeting and just think it's all about cutting costs. I don't think it is. It's all about maximizing profitability and we talk about ways of doing that. And then looking at how we manage things in terms of farm finance and what the options are there. And then module five is managing it mid-season, and then going on through the whole review process. And we're two from there.

So that's the budgeting course. And then we also have, if we can go back to here, the Excel course. So we talked about a few little basic Excel skills and I know that a lot of you are probably far past what I demonstrated in this webinar. This will go through some more of those higher level skills and more complex formulas and also talk about how we can actually extract some of the information to do some really simple reporting, or cut and paste information from our Excel spreadsheets into emails and letters and reports and things if we need to do that. So that just goes through all of those sorts of things there. Project costing, just the basics and then takes you through right from, so some people might want to just skip module one, which is just the basics and move on to how you build financial reports or how you do project costing and that sort of thing. So they're the options available. So, the courses have reduced to $50 thanks to the support of Agriculture Victoria and the programs that they have funding those.


Thank you, Carmen. So I don't think there was any further questions in the chat box. I might just start the poll. It's still not allowing me to start the poll. I don't know why.


Do I have to get out of what I'm doing?


Does it have polls down the bottom that allows you to, because Chris is... He got out, so.


I'll stop sharing this poll. Maybe... Can you do it now?


Sally's just asked, do we need to be in Victoria to access the subsidized courses? No, you don't. If you provide the details in the expression of interest so that we can capture the data on who we are funding for the courses, then there's no obligation to be in Victoria.


Oh, look Tess, I've done it. There we go.


So that's got the poll up now, does it?




Excellent. Benefits of not having a shared account. So we really appreciate your feedback.


I'm not seeing anyone participating in it. If they can... Can you see the poll?


I don't think...


Maybe I need to stop sharing.


No, not yet.


Not yet. Sally. Oh wait, hold on. We've got one person responded and that wasn't me. Oh, Rowan can see.


Rowan can see. There you go.


Rowan's a bit of a whizz kid, Tess. He's a...


And Fiona. Yep. Excellent. People can see it. That's good. We really value your feedback. It does allow us to manage where we put our efforts into and where people are interested in certain topics. And so thank you for your feedback. An expression of interest link, I will just pop the link into the chat box as well. But I will send around the link in the email with the recording. It's limited to the first 30 participants for each of the courses. So if anyone is number 31, feel free to contact me at... Depending on interest it might be something that we could look at continuing to fund. Can not press the submit button. Do you have to go... So it won't let you at all. You might not have ticked all of the questions. I believe that they're all questions that you need to answer.


Oh, so it does go down.


And then you have to scroll down. Yeah. And the button on the scrolling on the side can be a little bit hit and miss. You might have to move over to find the scrolling button on the side. Excellent. Thank you all. But, thank you all very much. And yeah, as I said, there'll be an email with the recording, it will have links to the resources from Agriculture Victoria. It will also have a link to the Microsoft Forms expression of interest link that I've just shared into the chat as well.

And if there's any problems with the course, it'll have Carmen's contact details on there if you're having trouble logging on or anything like that. And if there's any other issues with the recording or anything, my email will be on there as well if you need any assistance. Feel free to share the email that you receive. People that haven't registered to attend this webinar can register to attend the recording or to watch the recording. So feel free to send it to anyone who might be interested. Again, they will have access to the expression of interest if they fill out the form. So thank you very much, Carmen, for your time today and thank you all very much for attending.


You're welcome. Oh, and Hannah's got a question. Can we express interest in both courses. And people can, can't they, Tess?


Yes. Hannah, when you go through and hit submit on your expression of interest, it will ask you if you would like to submit another response. And yes, you'll have to fill out the same details again. But yes, you can express an interest in both of them, just not on the same form. The automated process didn't allow me to do that.


We're fancy but we're not that fancy, aren't we, Tess?


We're low tech.


And Tess, can I just ask, is that link coming through an email? Because I just wasn't able to access the poll at all, I'm sorry.


Yeah, I'll send the poll link around as well.


Okay, thank you.


Because yeah, feedback is very valuable.




Thank you all very much.


Yeah, no. That was great. Thank you very much.


And if anyone's got any questions that they just didn't want to ask in front of everybody, just feel free to... I'll just put my email address up, and you could just email me directly.

This webinar series is part of Agriculture Victoria's Farm Business Resilience Program which is jointly funded through the Federal Governments Future Drought Fund and is supported by Agriculture Victoria's Innovative Livestock Networks project which is funded by Meat and Livestock Australia.

Page last updated: 14 Jun 2023