AgVic Talk Season 8

Biosecurity Basics: stories on how people can build biosecurity into their day-to-day farming practices.

We all play a role in keeping Victoria safe from biosecurity risks.

To help all Victorian’s play their role, this podcast season ‘Biosecurity basics’ takes a deep dive into the fundamentals of biosecurity, including practical things listeners can put in place to play their part in protecting our animals and environment.

This season has been produced by Agriculture Victoria in collaboration with RSPCA Victoria.

Find out more about Agriculture Victoria’s work on managing biosecurity in Victoria.

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Episode 11: Keeping your chickens happy and healthy with Cathy Ronalds and Dianne Phillips

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Ag Vic talk, keeping you up to date with information from Agriculture Victoria.

Drew Radford:

For a new small landholder, often one of the first additions are some chooks in the backyard. From eggs being readily available through to being really entertaining, there are many reasons to have them. However, they do also mean that you're part of the livestock sector.

G'day, I'm Drew Radford, and being part of that brings some responsibilities. Cathy Ronalds has been on a learning curve of her own with this. She and her family recently moved from one to 11 acres in the Dandenong Ranges. This has meant more chickens, a new coop, and a greater understanding of her biosecurity responsibilities in the poultry sector. Cathy joins us for this Ag Vic Talk Biosecurity Podcast. Thanks for your time.

Cathy Ronalds:

No problem. Happy to be here.

Drew Radford:

Cathy, you live on around about 11 acres, but you've got a bit going on there, haven't you?

Cathy Ronalds:

Yeah, that's right. We've got not just chickens. We've just started getting into ducks. We've got a few sheep and we've also got horses and a dog.

Drew Radford:

That's a fair bit to keep you reasonably busy to say the least. The chickens, what are the chickens that you're running?

Cathy Ronalds:

Last count we've got about 17 or 18 chooks and they're all different breeds. We are really interested in the heritage breeds so we like exploring all the different characteristics and temperaments of the different breeds of chooks.

Drew Radford:

That's a reasonable number of chooks. You've got to house them somewhere. How do you go about that in terms of making sure that they're safe and also secure, particularly in terms of biosecurity?

Cathy Ronalds:

Yes, so we've just come off an acre property where we had a small coop and we outgrew it and probably needed to expand that, so it's been great to move and have the opportunity to build a whole new coop again. So this time we've got a larger coop, which is about three metres by three metres, which is great because it gives us a chance for the chooks to have a bit more space, which allows us to keep things cleaner inside the coop for them and also keep them a bit healthier that way. And we do let them free-range, but we do need to manage their interactions with wild birds.

Drew Radford:

That's easier said than done. I mean, if they're out in the paddock, you can't really stop the birds from dropping in literally.

Cathy Ronalds:

That's right. That's right. Some of the ways we manage that is by limiting the way that we feed the flock. At the moment, we're feeding them just in the morning and at night out of the coop, and we're locking away the feed so that wild birds don't have access to it. In the past, we've tried having rat-proof feeders and all sorts of paraphernalia, but we've always found that rats find their way in and rats can spread all sorts of disease through their droppings. This time round, we are trying to be a little bit more clever in just the times that we feed our chooks so there isn't feed sitting out allowing rats or wild birds to get into it.

Drew Radford:

What other biosecurity practices have you got to keep that flock secure?

Cathy Ronalds:

We try to keep the coop clean so we get in there at least once a month to clean all the bedding and the straw out just so that their poo isn't sitting around. That limits the amount of rodents that will want to be attracted in there. I'm also starting to shut their coop during the day just to make sure that birds don't get in because we found at our last property where we had a significant wild bird population that the birds were very clever and figured out when there was a hen sitting on the nest. And because we had an open door all day long, they would station them themselves in the trees and they would communicate with each other. And it was often the Currawongs that would go in and nick the eggs as soon as they could and have a good feed on the food while they're in there. So yeah, we're trying to limit their presence inside the coop as much as we can now.

Drew Radford:

Well, who would've thought that nature was quite so challenging in that regard?

Cathy Ronalds:

And so clever.

Drew Radford:

Yeah, phenomenally clever. What about buying new chickens in?

Cathy Ronalds:

Because we are so interested in heritage breeds, we're always looking around and every year we're purchasing new chicks to join the flock. So this is something we do have to be really careful about. We are quite particular about where we get our chooks from. Initially, we got a few hens from backyard breeders, but we don't do that now. We just buy from reputable breeders who have good practices in place and who vaccinate and keep traffic out of their breeding flocks as well.

Drew Radford:

When you go and establish those relationships, what are you looking for with those breeders?

Cathy Ronalds:

Expertise, experience. I'm looking for cleanliness where their breeding flocks are kept. So it's good to have a look. And I like it when a breeder won't let you go in because I think that's really important, especially if we have our own chooks that we are not walking in and bringing diseases from our chooks into theirs.

Drew Radford:

And what about their vaccination regimes? Is that something you delve into as well?

Cathy Ronalds:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, we only buy vaccinated chooks Initially, we weren't always doing that, but because chickens are very vulnerable to disease, we try to eliminate as much as we can by just buying vaccinated hens now.

Drew Radford:

And what about when you bring them onto the property?

Cathy Ronalds:

We make sure that we don't integrate them with the flock initially, so we keep them very separate for anywhere between two weeks or eight weeks, depending on the season and depending on how young the chicks are. And we also do a slow integration into the flock as well, just to avoid behavioural issues, but we definitely don't allow them to integrate for a good amount of time initially just to make sure that, A, the chicks don't pick up anything from wild birds or from our flock, and more importantly that the chicks aren't introducing something to our existing flock. We also worm the existing flock as well before we introduce the new chicks.

Drew Radford:

And that integration program then, is that done by, you've got a couple of children, are they the hens or have you got a broody hen that looks after them or it just depends?

Cathy Ronalds:

It's a combination of both. If we've got a broody hen, we'll stick some chicks under her, but the kids prefer to raise them themselves. So that tends to be the way we do things. We find it's a smoother integration process if a hen raises them, but the kids really love being involved, so we often have them indoors for a while or in the garage before we introduce them to the flock.

Drew Radford:

Do you find any difference in the resilience of the chicks depending on whether they're with the kids or whether they're with the broody hen?

Cathy Ronalds:

We feel that the chicks are a little more resilient when they've been raised by hens, but that's by no means scientific. That's just my own anecdotal observations. I'm sure an expert might beg to differ with that. Certainly we've had the odd chick catch coccidiosis, which is a disease that young chicks can catch. And the times that we've had that has been when we've been raising them ourselves and whether they're picking that up from the existing flock or not, we're not really sure.

Drew Radford:

Cathy, what do you reckon is the best thing about having chooks? They seem to be very much a part of your life and crucial to the kids as well.

Cathy Ronalds:

It's really rewarding. They've got incredible personalities. They do look like they're just pea-brained little animals, but when you get to know them, all of the breeds have different personalities, and we just love getting to know all their different little personalities. All of them have been named based on their personalities or their characteristics. And I think the thing that we get a real buzz out of is seeing our kids spend so much time observing them and observing all their interactions and the pecking order between them. They really do make great pets and eggs is a little bonus that you get on top of it.

Cathy Ronalds:

They really do make great pets, and eggs is kind of a little bonus that you get on top of it.

Drew Radford:

I get the impression that the longer you've had the chickens, the more conscious you become of the biosecurity. Not just for protecting your own flock, but the fact that, "Well, I've got chickens and there's an entire industry out there and diseases that can spread."

Cathy Ronalds:

Definitely. When we started, we had such little awareness about the different diseases that are around and how easily they can be spread from other birds to your backyard flock. We've really learned a lot because they are so vulnerable. Once your hens are sick, it's very easy for other hens to catch diseases and you don't really notice that they're unwell until they're very unwell So yeah, we've definitely developed a lot of awareness in that way and definitely much more aware of the impact that the health of our flock can have on other people's flocks as well if we are not careful.

Drew Radford:

Cathy, it certainly sounds like you've learned a lot over the period of time you've had the chickens. So for those listening, what would be your top three tips for other chicken owners or people thinking about getting some chickens?

Cathy Ronalds:

A really key thing is to plan your coop. Put a lot of thought into your coop and build the biggest one that you can for the type of yard that you have. You won't regret a larger sized coop and you'll have healthier birds. I think it's important also to put some careful planning into your feeding regimes, how you're going to have fresh water to them as well, and also how you're going to manage any wild birds and rodents because when you have chooks, you have rats, they will come. I think they're the really big ones. But also I think developing a relationship with a breeder is really great. We have really enjoyed learning a lot from the different breeders that we've bought our chicks from. They are an absolute wealth of knowledge, so it's well worth going to someone reputable who has a good vaccination program, who has really clean and well-kept premises for all their breeding birds and learn as much as he can from that breeder.

Drew Radford:

Cathy Ronalds has certainly learned a lot about ensuring the biosecurity of a poultry. A person who deals with this professionally is Dr. Dianne Phillips. She's Principal Veterinary Officer for Disease Surveillance with Agriculture Victoria. However, her animal focus doesn't end when she clocks off as she also has chickens at home.

Dr. Dianne Phillips:

That's right. I have been keeping poultry for many years now, just a backyard number of birds and ducks. And I find them very interesting and rewarding to have around the house and keep me in eggs, those sorts of things. So yeah, I've been experiencing life as a backyard poultry owner for some time as well as through my work as a vet.

Drew Radford:

You've been a vet for some time, but your title's got disease surveillance in it. What does that entail?

Dr. Dianne Phillips:

So disease surveillance for us in the Victorian government is about keeping track of what diseases are occurring in livestock and other animals in Victoria, understanding what the trends are, getting early alerts to anything new and unusual that's happening in any of those livestock species so that we can act quickly and make sure that we're not dealing with any diseases that we wouldn't routinely expect to have any exotic diseases, anything of concern for human health or anything like that as well.

Drew Radford:

Certainly, poultry in front of mind for you for a couple of very good reasons. What should small scale landholders think about before owning chickens?

Dr. Dianne Phillips:

Well, I think the planning that anybody who's contemplating owning chickens should look into is how they're going to house them safely and what they're going to feed them and what they would like to achieve from owning those birds, whether it's just eggs for their own household or whether they're looking to branch out and supply other people or just this scale of operation that they want to have going on their own property.

Drew Radford:

Dianne, from a biosecurity perspective, what should small landholders think about before owning chickens?

Dr. Dianne Phillips:

So when you're looking at purchasing or getting into chickens, it's important to think about where you're going to source your poultry from. And so it's good to look for a reputable supplier that can give you some indication of what vaccination history their poultry have had, how they're kept making sure if they're from a closed flock or whether they're a flock that trades. A lot of birds would have different implications for the level of disease risk that those birds might present. So there's a number of things that a new owner should look into to make sure that they're buying birds that will be healthy and as free from diseases they can possibly manage.

Drew Radford:

What about in terms of exposure to other animals that you may have around your property?

Dr. Dianne Phillips:

Poultry are obviously animals that do like to scratch around in the dirt and in gardens. But they do need to be protected from predators. And also there's a risk if they have contact with wild birds. So ideally, backyard poultry owners will construct housing for their birds, which will prevent contact with other wild birds, which will reduce the risk of disease transmission from wild birds to the domestic poultry.

Drew Radford:

Dianne, what about rodents and even your own domestic pets though in terms of that disease transference?

Dr. Dianne Phillips:

Yeah, so when you have poultry, and particularly if you're feeding them grains and those sorts of things, it's a pretty much guaranteed that at some point you might attract some rodents, that it will be interested in mopping up any of that excess grain. So having well-designed poultry feeders that minimise that rodents can access to the poultry food is really important and maintaining hopefully a shed or a coop, which can be made rodent-proof is ideal. And then making sure that you are keeping on top of any rats or mice populations by trapping or judicious use of registered products is a good idea as well.

Drew Radford:

Dianne, why is biosecurity important for chicken owners? Especially, I imagine a lot of people just think, "Oh, it's just a few chooks in my backyard. It's no big deal."

Dr. Dianne Phillips:

Biosecurity is important for all owners of livestock because it's a way of managing the risk of introduction of any diseases or hazards to those livestock that you're keeping. And you really want to keep them as healthy as possible, so having a plan that at least covers the basics of how you're going to manage those risks is really important.

So in Victoria, if you have more than 50 birds, 50 poultry, then you do need to register for a Property Identification Code, which is commonly referred to as a PIC. That's free of charge, and you can access the details of how to do that through the Agriculture Victoria website or by contacting your local Animal Health staff. If you have less than 50 birds, you're not obliged to have a PIC, but it's certainly recommended to get one because it helps agriculture Victoria understand where our backyard poultry owners are located. And in the event of any biosecurity alerts or disease warnings that we want to issue, then we know we'll be able to get in touch with you as a poultry owner to let you know of anything that's happening in your area or region.

Drew Radford:

That makes perfect sense. Otherwise, you're totally outside the loop.

Dr. Dianne Phillips:

That's right. So we are hoping to keep people connected and aware of anything important that's happening in terms of biosecurity risks.

Drew Radford:

If you're monitoring the birds, you're seeing them every day, what sort of signs should poultry owners be aware of that things might be going well?

Dr. Dianne Phillips:

Well, poultry are prone to a few different diseases that present in similar ways, but commonly a sick bird will be fluffed up. So feathers are sort of fluffed up. They'll be reluctant to move around. They might have a swollen or droopy comb or puffy eyes or discharge from their beak or their eyes. Sometimes as well, they'll be soiled around their vent, so where they lay eggs. Normally, poultry are very clean birds. They keep themselves clean. So if they get a lot of soiling there, that can indicate that there's some disease process going on. And sometimes you'll just find a bird that seemed okay yesterday, but you just find it dead. So sudden death can happen. And particularly if you get any clusters of birds that are exhibiting any of those signs at the same time or over a short number of days, you really want to get in touch with your private vet or your local Animal Health staff with Agriculture Victoria to get some disease investigations underway and some advice about how to manage the rest of the birds.

Drew Radford:

Dianne, what if you saw something you're particularly worried about? Where could people quickly turn to for support?

Dr. Dianne Phillips:

There is an emergency animal disease hotline where we do have a vet available for any queries from the public. So if you are suspicious of an emergency animal disease in your poultry, then please contact the 24-hour emergency animal disease hotline on 1800 675 888.

Drew Radford:

And lastly, Dianne, where would you suggest someone listening to this who wants to get involved with poultry, who wants to find out more about how they can be keeping them safe and the industry safe? Where should they be looking for information?

Dr. Dianne Phillips:

The Agriculture Victoria website has quite a lot of information for backyard poultry owners, so that's a good place to start in terms of understanding your requirements both under legislation and your options for building good quality housing and space requirements for poultry, all of that material. So that's a great place to start. You can also talk to your private vet and you could also look at some of the regional poultry breeders associations that would probably be able to assist you as well. So there's plenty of information out there. And you can visit your local Animal Health staff as well if you are close to one of our offices. They'd be happy to talk to you about and provide you with additional information.

Drew Radford:

Well, Dianne, you've provided us with a load of information. Dianne Phillips, Principal Veterinary Officer for disease surveillance with Agriculture Victoria. Thank you for joining us for this AgVic Talk podcast.

Dr. Dianne Phillips:

Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1:

To access biosecurity support, programs, and information from Agriculture Victoria and the RSPCA, check out the notes with this podcast season. This has been an AgVic Talk and RSPCA podcast. All information is accurate at the time of release. For more AgVic Talk podcasts, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/agvictalk.

Episode 10: Winning the battle with weeds with Jacob Pearce

Drew Radford:
Trying to get rid of weed infestations can be difficult at the best of times, especially when some of them can produce up to 100,000 seeds per plant.

G’day, I'm Drew Radford, and that daunting number is not as problematic as it sounds. Jacob Pearce has been in a decade-long battle with weeds, some of which pose a biosecurity risk. He now has the upper hand on his 260 acres just west of Melbourne. To share what he's learned, he joins me for this AgVic Talk podcast.

Jacob, thanks for your time.

Jacob Pearce:
Thanks for having me.

Drew Radford:
Jacob, farming, is it in your blood or is it something you've come to more recently?

Jacob Pearce:
It's not in my blood per se. I married somebody whose father grew up on a soldier settlement farm, so it was via marriage. We met very young in high school, so it's something that I fell in love with when I was about 20 years old, I reckon.

Drew Radford:
That's a great story. Two journeys at once for the price of one, really. So your property now, whereabouts is it?

Jacob Pearce:
Yeah, so we're west of Melbourne, past Bacchus Marsh. We're close to Werribee Gorge State Park and it's about 260 acres that we farm.

Drew Radford:
And what do you farm on it, Jacob?

Jacob Pearce:
So we have cattle. We've had it for about 10 or 11 years and we do run cows. We breed cattle. We breed pretty lightly.

The main focus of our work is really the health of the property. When we purchased it, it had a lot of issues, covered in weeds and pests and it sort of resembled a bit of a moonscape for parts of it. So we've spent the last decade focusing on regenerative farming and planting 40,000 trees and shrubs and lots of fencing and thinking about soil health and diversity of species. So that's been the main focus.

Drew Radford:
40,000. That's not an afternoon job.

Jacob Pearce:
No, it's not. We've been very lucky to tap into funding from Melbourne Water and Grow West and the catchment management authorities over the years. Some of it's with tree planters, but others it's been us and the kids just getting our hands dirty. And you can do 500 to 1,000 a day to make a big day of it.

Drew Radford:
That's impressive. You described it as a moonscape. I'm guessing then not only vegetation missing but a bunch of vegetation there that you didn't want. You mentioned weeds, so a lot of weeds?

Jacob Pearce:
Yeah, a lot of weeds. And I guess I learned very quickly that there's different types of weeds and categories of weeds and there's ones that don't upset you too much and there's ones that upset you an awful lot.

And here in the Rowsley Valley we're known as one of the main infestations of serrated tussock in Victoria. And there are other bits and pieces we've had to deal with, but that's one that we've had to really focus on.

Drew Radford:
Getting rid of them is no easy feat too, because some of them are just laden with seeds.

Jacob Pearce:
Yeah. It's quite incredible to think that some of them have tens of thousands or a hundred thousand viable seeds per plant. So getting there with a mattock and chipping one out is always worth doing. Yeah, it's a bit of a struggle at times.

Drew Radford:
It is. So just a huge amount of work to get rid of them.

Jacob Pearce:
Yeah. But fortunately there are lots of ways you can do it. If you're responsive to it and you plan well and you tap into resources and are prepared to play a long game, I think you can actually make some headway.

Drew Radford:
Yes, obviously you can make some headway, otherwise you would've given up a long time ago, Jacob. But once you've got rid of them, there's so many different ways they can just come back on to the property though.

Jacob Pearce:
It's true, but I guess you need to be aware of those different ways it can come in. So I think people don't realise just how many ways there are, through water or winds or from stock feed and materials. There's so many ways.

I think one thing I found out the hard way early was you buying feed like hay or silage, there can be weeds inside the feed itself. So you put it out in the paddock and then you come back a few months later and you see that there's new weeds coming up. That's something to keep an eye out for.

The other big one that we've had to deal with is our machinery. So the property's quite steep and we've got quite a long 3-kilometre driveway all the way to the house and past the cattle yard. So we'll often have graders and bobcats come through to patch things up and they can be bringing weeds in as well.

Drew Radford:
I would imagine that would be an ongoing fight for you. So you've got to this point and you said you've got to keep on top of it. So what are some of the biosecurity practices you've put in place to reduce the impact of weeds on your property?

Jacob Pearce:
So with the one about hay, I mean, you can always make sure you find good suppliers. There are different levels of protein content in the feed, so some of them do good testing on their feed as well. And you can ask for commodity vendor declarations that give information about where it's come from and what's in it.

You can also minimise the amount of feed that you buy. That's about something else. You can reduce your stock numbers, and that's partly why we... we're lucky enough to have off-farm income, so we don't rely on the income from the cattle as our main source of income. So we reduce numbers radically and don't overgraze so we don't need to buy feed in very much at all.

And then on the machines you can ask them to clean them, high-pressure cleaners before they come on site. And being aware that you might not be able to stop it, so when they do, go keep an eye on those areas. I mean, I had issues with Bathurst burr coming up once on the edge of the driveway, which is a pretty serious weed that can actually puncture tyres. So as soon as you see it, you got to get straight on top of it.

Drew Radford:
Yeah, you did mention ‘keep on top of it’. You've had things like aerial spraying. It must be tempting to go, ‘Okay, well, that looks great. Job done’.

Jacob Pearce:
Yeah, and that's where people can I think fall into the trap of feeling like it's an impossible task if things do return, but I think it's about being vigilant and remembering that when you do spray your weeds, that's not the end of the game. You've got to do follow-up work.

I've been a bit complacent at times over the last decade where I think an area is under control and then I forget about it and maybe graze it a bit too hard and then 6 months later it's coming back and I think, ‘Oh gee, I really should have done some more follow-up there’.

And I think that the biggest thing that people probably forget about is the reestablishment of other species. So if you go and spray all your weeds and kill them, well, you've now got a whole lot of bare soil. You need to put something else there to grow that will take the space. And things like serrated tussock are serious weeds, but they're not very competitive. So if you have other good-quality grasses in their place, then you're going to do a better job of keeping on top of it for a long period of time.

Drew Radford:
I always marvel, Jacob, at farmers in terms of the breadth of stuff they've got to be across, whether it's markets, whether it's equipment, whether it's the latest agronomy. You're adding to it, I guess, weed expert as well.

And I'm not saying that flippantly because you must have to develop quite an eye for recognising a huge swathe of weeds. It must be a huge educational process.

Jacob Pearce:
It is, but fortunately there's a lot of resources you can use. So local Landcare groups have excellent material about weeds that are common in your area, and also best management practice guides that say, ‘Here’s how you actually can reduce them’.

But you’re right, you need to keep an eye out and you learn very quickly about things that are going to cause problems down the track and things that might not. Sometimes there are things that are actually... native grasses, like native spear grasses that look a lot like Chilean needle grass, and so you have to identify whether it's the good type or the bad type before you go and spray them all willy-nilly. You got to think about it from a holistic perspective but also long term.

The other big one is the seasons, that if it's wet or dry, that can impact how you change your management practices, what weeds you're going to see. There's always so many competing factors to take into account when you're dealing with it.

Drew Radford:
Well you’ve certainly been on a journey with your property. What advice would you have for other small-scale land managers, and farmers about weed management?

Jacob Pearce:
I think the first thing to do is be aware of what you have. So really get out there with a keen eye and map and figure out what you're dealing with, what the area's dealing with, and then put together some kind of plan of what you're going to target.

We often target particular species. If I see the artichoke thistle coming because we haven't got any of that, or there's these cactus species, Opuntias, I think they're called, like prickly pear. The birds can drop seeds in. If you see one come up on there, immediately dig it out because you don't want something new to come and take over.

And then for the weeds that you do have, you need to have a plan to target certain parts of your property in a manageable way so that you can actually make some headway.

I think the other one that I often talk about is being collaborative with your neighbours. You can fall into a trap. I've met a lot of people that move to an area and very quickly start complaining about their neighbour's property and how the seeds are all blowing in from the neighbour's property. Although it is true at times, I think people have a tendency to have rose-coloured glasses and say, ‘Gee, it looks terrible over the fence, but it's not too bad here’.

So try and be a bit maybe blunter with yourself and say, ‘Well, I need to get my own house in order first’. But then also work collaboratively, offer to share equipment, share resources, get your neighbours involved in Landcare. There's a lot of good opportunities that can help you.

Drew Radford:
It sounds like the Landcare group's been very important for you to the point now that you've got a role as president in it.

Jacob Pearce:
Yeah. It's brilliant. I fell in love with it straight away because there's so much local knowledge there. There are people that are in their seventies and eighties that have gone to primary school in this area with each other and they tell you about the seed storm of the serrated tussock in the late 80s and the droughts in the 70s and you learn a lot about the local area and the kinds of challenges that you might face in the future as well.

Drew Radford:
Jacob, what about livestock in terms of introducing new livestock onto your property? Is there a risk of new weeds coming in with those?

Jacob Pearce:
Yeah, so believe it or not, you can actually get weeds in the rumen of the animal and then in their excrement. So it might be that there's something sitting in the digestive tract and if you buy new sheep or cattle or goats in, then you'll start seeing other species turn up. So something else to keep an eye on.

I think any time you're bringing animals or equipment or plants onto your property, there's a potential for weeds to spread, even in things like car tyres.

Drew Radford:
So in terms of livestock, when you bring new livestock in, do you put them in a quarantine area?

Jacob Pearce:
It's something you can do. You can quarantine them. And that's an excellent thing to do, because then you can find out if there's something you need to look out for and then treat it immediately.

Drew Radford:
Jacob, there's weeds and then there's prohibited weeds. What's the difference and what happens if you come across one? What do you need to do?

Jacob Pearce:
There are some there that are listed as prohibited because they're so serious. You should always contact your local AgVic, Agriculture Victoria office and ask for advice. And like I said earlier, it might be that the species you think it is, it actually isn't. And that would be great news, but reach out, ask for help.

Drew Radford:
In terms of asking for help, you've mentioned your Landcare group's been an amazing source. Are there any other areas that you draw upon for advice?

Jacob Pearce:
There is so much knowledge in different parts of the country, different department groups, and there's also a lot of publications around, as I said earlier best practice management guides. So there's one out there for rabbit control, there's one for weeds, for different types of weeds, for serrated tussock, Chilean needle grass, for Paterson's curse.

Don't feel like you're on your own with this. A quick online search will find lots and lots of resources. But really I think in your local area, it's best to tap into the local knowledge, because if you travel 10 kilometres, it can be a completely different environment.

Drew Radford:
Lastly Jacob, what would your top tips be for weed management?

Jacob Pearce:
You've got to build it into part of your overall plan for your farm. Whether it's a big farm or a small hobby farm, you can make a difference and you can... by being responsive and efficient and effective with the work you're doing, you really can make a difference.

So the first thing is to identify what you have, figure out what your plan is going to be, tap into the local resources, and that might be even things like not just knowledge, but equipment, Landcare equipment, and then have a go.

And then also look at the evidence, see what's working on your property, see what's not working, speak to people about it, and then keep going.

Drew Radford:
Jacob, you've given us some fantastic insights about how to deal with this. Your property must look remarkably different now from what it was 10 years ago.

For now, though, Jacob Pearce, farmer and president of the Rowsley Landcare Group, thank you so much for joining me for this AgVic Talk podcast.

Jacob Pearce:
Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1:
To access biosecurity support, programs and information from Agriculture Victoria and the RSPCA, check out the notes with this podcast season.

This has been an AgVic Talk and RSPCA podcast. All information is accurate at the time of release. For more AgVic Talk podcasts, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/agvictalk.

Episode 9: Feeding cattle with Brett Davidson and Rachael Laukart

Welcome to AgVic Talk, keeping you up to date with information from Agriculture Victoria.

Drew Radford:

Looking out over a few hectares and thinking, "Wouldn't it be great to have some cattle on my land," is one thing. Actually having them there and ensuring they're appropriately fed, is entirely another.

G’ day, I'm Drew Radford and owning a small herd of cattle is an enticing proposition. After all, they can keep the grass down for one thing, but they do eat a lot. So what happens if that runs out and you need to change their diet by bringing in feed and are there biosecurity implications in doing so. To help answer those questions, I'm joined by Brett Davidson, who is Dairy Regional Manager in Tatura for Agriculture Victoria. He's a self-described cow tragic and he also works in the biosecurity space, helping producers manage risk and improve biosecurity practices. Also answering some of these questions is Rachel Laukart, Education Officer with the RSPCA. Thank you both for your time.

Rachael Laukart:

Thank you, Drew. Hi, Brett. It's great to be chatting to you both today.

Brett Davidson:

Hello, glad to be speaking again.

Drew Radford:

In this episode, we're going to be focusing on owning cattle, feeding them in particular and some of the biosecurity considerations around that. So what should people think about before actually owning the cattle when it comes to this area?

Rachael Laukart:

Essentially what I would love for us to consider first, is what do we have on property? I'm hoping that we've got lots of pasture and we've got that throughout the whole year because we've considered what stocking rate is, which is how many animals or how many cattle we can hold on that property at a period of time. And so we want to really be encouraging people to be feeding their cattle on pasture and grazing because we've got ruminant animals and they work so much better when they're grazing.

Drew Radford:

Brett, what about from a biosecurity perspective?

Brett Davidson:

From a biosecurity perspective, there's actually a thing called RAMs and I'm not talking about sheep, it's Restricted Animal Materials. So, there's certain feeds that we can't feed cattle and that's so that we prevent things like mad cow disease, which most people will be familiar with. What we're trying to do is actually just keep all our animals safe and feed is a way that certain diseases can be passed on.

Drew Radford:

But that RAM terminology, it's a really important thing in terms of not feeding them something that they're not supposed to have. So, in terms of what they are supposed to have, what are the feed requirements for cattle?

Rachael Laukart:

So Brett, when we think about feeding cows, let's remember first that they’re ruminants foremost and what's the major kind of aspect of ruminants would you say?

Brett Davidson:

Well, they eat the stuff that we don't eat, so they eat those fibrous diets. So when we talk about fibrous diets, we sort of want a thing called neutral detergent fibre, which we'll see in our feed tests. You sort of want that in the range between 30 and 50 for the rumen to work in a healthy manner. If you're getting above that, sometimes their intakes are restricted, and they might not be getting enough energy or protein and below that you're getting into miss-timed feeds and you can get acidosis and sick cows and that really shows up in their manure.

Brett Davidson:

When we are talking about a 600-kilo cow, she can eat 15 kilos of dry matter. So, in a pasture context that could be up to a hundred kilos of green grass a day.

Rachael Laukart:

Which is insane because when we think about, I love that point that you've brought forward around making a distinction between dry matter and what we might consider as fed, and this sounds a little bit technical, but essentially dry matter is what the dry component of the feed is, so once we've taken all the water out. And so, we can be feeding them absolutely 16 kilos of dry matter and what that looks on an as fed basis when we add the water back in, if we're feeding pasture for example, is this huge amount.

Brett Davidson:

Yeah, definitely. And most beef cattle can drink up to a hundred litres of water a day. Dairy cows can get even closer towards double that. You really got to make sure you've got plenty of fresh water for your animals.

Drew Radford:

They're huge quantities. I don't know whether Joe average getting into running a few cows on their three hectares would weigh that up to start with.

Brett Davidson:

You don't sort of realise that the weight of them. Now when you're talking cattle at 600 kilos and some bulls are over a tonne, you've got to have a fair bit of feed to keep up to them at certain times. So when we get to drought conditions, you really got to do some serious feed budgeting and make sure you've got feed on hand first if you can. It's just phenomenal how much they eat, I always get amazed.

Drew Radford:

And in terms of being fully fed, I guess it's not just quantity as well, it's got to be the quality of what they've got the forage on, must make a difference as well.

Brett Davidson:

Yeah. So you want to be buying feed from a reputable supplier and you want to be getting your feed test with it. It should be standard to get weight dockets and feed tests. It should tell you how much energy and protein and fibre are in there, so your NDF levels. And if you're buying it through a reputable supplier, it should have a fodder declaration on there too to say that it doesn't have any Restricted Animal Materials in that. I know some people that like to show cattle will be feeding grain, which is what I'd call a sometimes food for cattle unless you're in certain production systems. But for what we're talking about today, if you're looking to feed cattle, you really need to be focusing on pasture first and then hay, silage, whatever, but fibrous stuff. But if you are going to supplement them with some grain sources, you do want to buy it from a supplier and they will need to provide you with the energy and protein levels and it should have a statement on there to make sure that it's safe to feed.

Rachael Laukart:

It is a really great point we want to make sure that she is fully fed and then we want to make sure that she's got enough energy and protein in that food that she's eating to meet the other needs that her body needs and we can start to manage those things like looking at body condition scoring, so to make sure that she's got sufficient and good cover of muscle and fat over her and that means that we're meeting her needs in regards to body reserves for whatever she's doing. Maybe she's a heifer that's growing out and she doesn't need to do any more than just meet those needs and that's her requirements. But we also might have animals that are lactating, and they might need to be having a little bit more energy and protein in that mix to keep that body condition on her.

Brett Davidson:

Yeah. And we've got resources online too, that actually highlight what body condition scoring is. Where to look for, what to look for, so that you can check your animal.

Drew Radford:

We were talking about mixing feeds there a little bit, but there will be points where you're going to transition them from one diet to another. So what needs to be considered?

Brett Davidson:

Well, that can be from something simple as going from green lush feed to dry feed. Ruminants are a big fermentation vat so you don't want to upset it, so you just want to introduce something new slowly. So if the green grass is going to run out and they need to go to a hay or a silage diet, you want to be introducing that slowly over a few days before you run out from one to the other. You want to make it a smooth transition.

Brett Davidson:

There's plenty of good resources online. AgVic's actually got some nutrition calculators and it's under www.feedinglivestock.vic.gov.au. There's plenty of nutritionists out there, clever people like Rachael. But yeah, please have a look at the resources available.

Drew Radford:

What about grain feeding then?

Rachael Laukart:

So similar to if we were going to change any other aspect of the diet for a cow, is that we want to change onto these diets really slowly and feed small amounts and build them up over time. So that's a really important aspect for when we are choosing to introduce grain into a diet. And we want to make sure that we're making those decisions off advice and to make sure that we're looking at the outcomes for the animal as well.

Brett Davidson:

And you need to make sure you've always got plenty of long fibre in there. If you are going to feed grain, you will need to have some type of buffers in there to reduce the risk of acidosis. So, you can buy premixes already done, or if you're doing it yourself, you can add your bicarb and other modifiers. But yeah, you certainly need to do it slowly, never quickly.

Drew Radford:

Great insights as always. Rachael Laukart and Brett Davidson, thank you so much for taking the time and joining me for this Biosecurity Basics, AgVic Talk podcast.

Rachael Laukart:

Thank you very much.

Brett Davidson:

Thank you.

Speaker 1:

To access biosecurity support, programs, and information from Agriculture Victoria and the RSPCA, check out the notes with this podcast season. This has been an AgVic Talk and RSPCA podcast. All information is accurate at the time of release. For more AgVic Talk podcasts, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/agvictalk.

Episode 8: Biosecurity management plan with Hannah Manning and Ben Pickles

Speaker 1:
Welcome to AgVic Talk, keeping you up to date with information from Agriculture Victoria.

Drew Radford:
A farm biosecurity plan is essential to help prevent, eliminate and minimise biosecurity risks on a farm. It contains practical steps to prevent the introduction and spread of pests, diseases, weeds, and contaminants.

G’day, I'm Drew Radford and in Victoria, there's also a farm biosecurity management plan. This requires visitors to follow prescribed biosecurity measures, and offences apply to visitors who fail to comply with these. Importantly, thanks to a number of online templates, it's pretty easy for a farmer to put into place.

To understand what's involved, I'm joined by Dr Hannah Manning, veterinarian livestock industry development officer with Agriculture Victoria. Hannah, thanks for your time.

Hannah Manning:
Thanks for having me, Drew. Great to be here.

Drew Radford:
Hannah, you're based in Colac and I understand you grew up there with dirt in your boots as well.

Hannah Manning:
I did. I had a wonderful childhood in Colac and I've been out and about around the world and come back.

Drew Radford:
You come from a family of farmers though, don't you?

Hannah Manning:
I do, yes. Mum and dad still have the farm not far out of town.

Drew Radford:
Was that part inspiration to become a vet?

Hannah Manning:
Yeah, I always loved being outside and the four-legged creatures always held my attention, so it was a natural career choice. I'm very lucky to have gone to vet school and been able to do all sorts of things since.

Drew Radford:
Large animals though, primary production.

Hannah Manning:
Yes, dairy cattle and beef cattle have held my attention for a fair bit of my professional career.

Drew Radford:
Right, so you grew up in and around the dirt. You've got it under your nails now working in this particular sector. You then would have a very good first-hand appreciation of the importance of biosecurity on a farm then?

Hannah Manning:
Absolutely. It's one of the things the farmers can do to protect their business and their livestock and their crops.

Drew Radford:
I understand you've been running workshops around this topic as well.

Hannah Manning:
We have been. It's been great to get around the state and talk to lots of proactive farmers wanting to be on the front foot to look after their products and their farm.

Drew Radford:
So why should farmers have a biosecurity plan, Hannah?

Hannah Manning:
A biosecurity plan means that they've just sat down and had a think about their business and areas of their business that are risks of introducing pests and diseases that might be in the form of livestock or introducing feed, those sorts of things. And that way they can think about steps or processes to limit the risk of introducing unwanted pests and diseases on the farm.

I like to think of it as controlling what we can control. Farmers have a pretty good control over their boundaries and it's their choice what comes onto the farm. So putting time into thinking about keeping unwanted pests and diseases away is a really proactive way of looking after the business. And I always say prevention's better than a cure in these sorts of things as well.

Drew Radford:
So what's involved then Hannah, in terms of developing a farm biosecurity plan?

Hannah Manning:
Step one would be to find a template for a farm biosecurity plan. There's heaps available on the Agriculture Victoria website, different industries and different businesses so that you can find one that suits your farming business. And then after that it's about sitting down and the template will walk you through all of the different things that you should consider in your business. And that might include farm inputs, so what's coming onto your farm such as livestock or machinery and what you can do to prevent diseases and weeds and pests sneaking on because sometimes they're not very obvious. They might be lurking underneath the surface.

So it's about taking the time to think about your risks and where diseases might enter your property. And then it's putting it down on paper. It'd be great too if you could have other people involved in the farming business involved in that discussion because they might be thinking about things that you don't and they might have some great ideas on how to limit introduction of pests and diseases. And then once it's all in writing, I don't want to put it on a shelf to gather dust. It'd be great if it was out and everyone involved in the farming business knew about it and contractors were aware of it when they were coming onto the farm. And then it's a really important one to have on the calendar to review at least annually because things change in the business and in the model and all sorts of other things. So just having it current and up to date will allow the farmer to control what they can control and look after their farming business.

Drew Radford:
You're right too though, things do change. I mean there could be new pests, there could be new weeds that you need to be aware of.

Hannah Manning:
Yeah. And it might be a new contractor or new staff or a new business model. You might've changed your farming practices that would affect your biosecurity plan.

Drew Radford:
And I assume also if you start introducing different livestock, there's a range of documentation as well.

Hannah Manning:
Yeah, there is a range of documentation. So having spent the time in thinking about what you want from animals being introduced from your farm, where they've come from, that might involve quarantine periods before they get to the farm or after they get to the farm. Might involve some testing. It's just about the level of risk that the farmer is comfortable with.

Drew Radford:
I want to ask you about a biosecurity management plan or BMP because it sounds very similar, but how is it different from a farm biosecurity plan?

Hannah Manning:
It does sound very similar, and I like to think of a biosecurity management plan as just a farm biosecurity plan with a bit of icing on top. And by icing I mean that there's just a few more steps, but it gives the farmers more options in regard to enforcing their biosecurity plan.

It's pretty new legislation. In 2022, the Victorian government introduced changes to the Livestock Management Act and these changes involve a voluntary framework to support farmers to be able to make sure their biosecurity measures are maintained, such as visitors needing to gain consent before coming onto a property.

For the farmers, they just need to do a couple more steps on top of that farm biosecurity plan which also involves compliant biosecurity signs at entry points with specific information such as contact details on those signs to make sure that it fulfils all the criteria of that legislation.

Drew Radford:
Hannah, is there a map as well?

Hannah Manning:
There is a map, a farm map. It doesn't have to be fancy. A free drawn hand one is suitable for that job.

Drew Radford:
I like the way Hannah you described it as kind of icing on top. I assume though even if you've stuck the signs up and you've drawn the map, that's got to be added to your farm biosecurity plan.

Hannah Manning:
It is on top, yeah. So step one would be your farm biosecurity plan and then that's your base, and then there's a template for your biosecurity management plan that you can add onto your farm one. And that's all available on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Drew Radford:
There's a few steps involved there. They don't sound complicated. So just go to the Agriculture Victoria website and you can get the templates you need, which I imagine step you straight through it.

Hannah Manning:
Yeah. And it is about making sure that all of the boxes are ticked in that document so that it fulfils all the requirements for the legislation.

Drew Radford:
Is it a one size fits all or are there different templates for the type of production that you are doing on your property?

Hannah Manning:
Yeah, there are different templates and it depends on the type of farm that you're running. If you're part of a livestock production assurance program, you'll need to use the relevant template. For a lot of the beef and sheep guys, the livestock production assurance. So LPA would be a great starting point.

Drew Radford:
That's Dr Hannah Manning from Agriculture Victoria. So what does developing a biosecurity plan and a biosecurity management plan look like from a farmer's perspective? Ben Pickles has a small holding called Creek View just north of Bendigo. He runs rare breed sheep and also chickens, and biosecurity is front of mind for him.

Ben Pickles:
So I work full time and then just run the sheep stud as a bit of fun. It is a rare breed stud, so biosecurity is pretty important for that side of things. I think there's four studs and less than 200 breeding ewes in Australia. So yeah, if something was to happen to my stud or something else, it'd be pretty detrimental to the numbers.

Drew Radford:
Ben, the rare breed that you are running are Dorset Down Sheep. What's unique about them?

Ben Pickles:
Their ability to put on muscle and their growth rate is phenomenal. They come out of from England I think in the early fifties. They have black points, so they have black feet and face. Don't really make them that desirable for the wool market side of things.

Drew Radford:
And you've got a few other things going on on your property as well, haven't you? It's not just the stud.

Ben Pickles:
Mainly just the stud sheep, but I run poultry as well. So I breed exhibition poultry, which there's also some rare breeds in there. Same sort of thing like being rare. It is hard to maintain blood lines and things like that, especially in poultry where they're a bit more susceptible to diseases.

Drew Radford:
So you've given me a bit of an insight there in terms of biosecurity. It must be very important to you in terms of securing those lines.

Ben Pickles:
Yeah, definitely. Setting up quarantine areas is pretty major just because we do a lot of shows. You don't know what you're going to pick up when an animal comes back from a show. We try and keep it isolated for a week or two just to make sure it hasn't brought anything back with it.

Drew Radford:
So that's quite a bit of structure then in terms of setting up those quarantine areas, is it?

Ben Pickles:
It can be. The poultry side of things is quite simple. It's just a few what we call training pens. So they’re just pens that they just go into just so they're not walking around with all the other poultry and that. The sheep, they just get their own paddock double fenced and doesn't share a water trough. Some of the other paddocks have got those double water troughs where they fit through a fence. You don't really want that, sharing water with another one.

So besides that, it's fairly straightforward. There's plenty of guidelines, you can have a look around and get ideas and stuff.

Drew Radford:
Well in terms of those guidelines, how do you go about choosing the right biosecurity plan?

Ben Pickles:
I went to some Agriculture Victoria workshops and they spoke about all the different biosecurity plans you can get. I found the sheep one wasn't actually that relevant to what I did. Sort of touched on like lot feeding, things like that a bit more. So I actually found the alpaca one, I suppose it was a bit more niche. It was a bit more relevant to what I did with the show side of things. You've just got to work out what your farm's actually doing. Like if you're doing a lot of feeding, then yeah, sheep one's pretty good. Or if a dairy, I'm sure the dairy organisations would have something set up or beef or goats, cattle, pigs, every sort of organisation has their own.

Drew Radford:
What then motivated you to not only have the biosecurity plan but also a biosecurity management plan?

Ben Pickles:
So inside that Agriculture Victoria workshop that I did, they sort of touched on both and they sort of brought up that with the management plan you sort of get a lot more power with it. It's sort of just a thing inside your normal biosecurity plan. Sort of ticking off the last few boxes, something you've actually lodged and means you can prosecute anyone that comes onto the property.

Drew Radford:
And when you completed the actual biosecurity plan, what sort of changes did you start making? Was it those things like the double fencing and the containment areas?

Ben Pickles:
They're great for just pointing out your weak sort of spots. Mine was probably domino effect I suppose because before the hobby farm I did run about 400 daubers on surrounded acres that I leased off the old man. And when I took that over it was just infested with burrs. And so I've always had this pet hate for weed seeds and that. So I was always sort of checking livestock and that for weed seeds coming in. But then there's just other things you didn't really think about like waterways.

So my farm's called Creek View, it's got a creek runs through the back of it. But you don't really think of that until the floods that we've had where I'm finding all these weed seeds have been washed in with all this water. So the management plan that I have actually does touch on that side of things that you wouldn't really think of, stuff that you might never have experienced or even heard of. And some of those things just pop up.

Drew Radford:
It's also about managing visitors and people on and off the property as well.

Ben Pickles:
Yeah, that's right. So they recommend that have spare boots or a cleaning facility for different boots, check car tyres when they're coming in. I was a bit more relaxed when I first took it over, like invite mates for a bonfire or something like that or show off some of the chooks and that I've bred this season. But now I still let people in, but there's a bit more steps involved. So it'll be word them up beforehand, "Hey, don't come with the shoes that you've just gone down to your chook pens sort of thing. Try to wear a different pair or something like that."

Drew Radford:
So what sort of advice would you give to other small-scale landholders regarding on-farm biosecurity plans and biosecurity management plans?

Ben Pickles:
Start with a biosecurity plan and just sort of, I see it as a journey, not a test if that makes sense. Just tick off as many as you can, find the weak spots and just keep reviewing it. You don't have to get it all done in one go.

Drew Radford:
Ben, any last thoughts you'd like to leave for other small-scale landowners on managing their own biosecurity?

Ben Pickles:
I'd say definitely start with a quarantine thing. That's probably your biggest help I think. That's going to stop a lot coming in. Checking for weed seeds as they come in on your sheep. Bathurst Burr is a shocker. But also disease-wise, if you've got that animal penned up, you might lose that animal. But it means you haven't lost 30, 40 of your others as well.

Drew Radford:
Ben, it certainly does sound like you've been on a bit of a journey with this to say the least. But you put a load of steps in place to ensure the ongoing security of the rare breeds that you do have. For now though, Ben Pickles from Creek View Farm. Thank you so much for taking the time and joining us for this AgVic Talk biosecurity podcast.

Ben Pickles:
Thanks very much.

Speaker 1:
To access biosecurity support, programs, and information from Agriculture Victoria and the RSPCA, check out the notes with this podcast season. This has been an AgVic talk and RSPCA podcast. All information is accurate at the time of release. For more AgVic talk podcasts, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/agvictalk.

Episode 7: Tips for feeding your alpacas with Taryan Matthews

Speaker 1:
Welcome to AgVic Talk, keeping you up to date with information from Agriculture Victoria.

Drew Radford:
If you ask someone, what's the first thing that comes to mind when I say animal biosecurity? Odds on stock feed's probably not going to be it. G’day, I'm Drew Radford, and bringing fodder onto a property for sheep, goats and alpacas does have a range of biosecurity risks associated with it. The good news is, there's ways of mitigating those. To find out how, I'm joined by a farmer who brings a lot of fodder on to help sustain their 600 alpacas. Taryan Mathews from Precision Alpaca Group, thanks for your time.

Taryan Mathews:
Thank you for having me.

Drew Radford:
Taryan, we're going to talk alpacas and you've certainly got a few of them. But it's in your blood, you literally grew up around them, didn't you?

Taryan Mathews:
Yeah. So my parents started in 1994. We started off as just a small hobby farm. Well and truly got the alpaca bug and quickly expanded to be a much larger business, which is now 600 head.

Drew Radford:
That is a much larger business, and the family story runs beyond there because I understand that's how
you met your husband as well.

Taryan Mathews:
Certainly is. So my husband and I met at a few shows and we got talking. He's actually from Nowra, New
South Wales, whereas I'm from Central Vic. And through all that, we got talking, and eventually, he
moved down and we joined our studs. And he was also second generation, his grandparents started in
the late '90s as well, just before he was born. So we've both been born and bred into alpacas.

Drew Radford:
That's quite a history, and a remarkable one, because it gives you a great insight to the animals. So
you've got 600 of them. Feeding them, I imagine then, is a bit of an issue unless you're able to grow all
your own feed.

Taryan Mathews:
Yeah, so we're in a bit of a dryer climate where we are, so feed's always something that we need to be
quite aware of and bring in. So yeah, different types of hay from different places, which brings a lot of
the issues that come with buying in feed.

Drew Radford:
You're talking about, I assume, weeds and biosecurity issues?

Taryan Mathews:
Yeah, correct. So anytime that you bring anything into your property, any inputs have the potential of
bringing in new pests or bringing in disease, so you have to be able to mitigate those risks.

Drew Radford:
And so how do you mitigate those risks?

Taryan Mathews:
So making sure that the feed vendor has a Commodity Vendor Declaration when you're purchasing the feed from them. This ensures that the feed's fit for purpose. When it comes on property, you want to check for pests, you want to check that the feed is of a certain quality, is of the quality that you're expecting. And then once it's on property, having it in a specific area that's fenced off, preferably shedded away from the livestock, giving it that bit of a quarantine period. And then, getting to use it once you've checked that there's no untoward things happening with the feed that you've brought in.

Drew Radford:
Does that quarantine period vary, Taryan?

Taryan Mathews:
For us, we try to buy feed very much in advance, so a few months in advance ideally. So that quarantine period lasts that full amount of time. You'd want at least 10, 21 days. We try and keep it much further than that for both biosecurity reasons and for the reasons of you don't want to run out, you don't want something unexpected to happen and suddenly you're left with no feed.

Drew Radford:
You've talked about obviously the vendor declaration forms, but what about just inspection upon arrival
in terms of stock feed labelling?

Taryan Mathews:
So stock feed products are required to include a statement on the packaging, or invoicing if it's hay that doesn't have packaging on it, as to whether they contain restricted animal products, or RAM, or not. And it's important to check the labelling before feeding the supplements to any of your animals. If they do contain those restricted animal products, it'll have a quite large label that says this product contains Restricted Animal Material, do not feed to cattle, sheep, goats, deer, or other ruminants. And that includes alpacas.

Drew Radford:
Just harking back a little bit, Taryan, when you're storing that quantity of feed, what about pest
management?

Taryan Mathews:
There's always going to be pest management issues anytime that you have feed stored. So having either baits or traps, depending on how big a cohort of pests you're working with, is always important. Our sheds are all concreted and enclosed, but obviously, mice can still get in.

Drew Radford:Taryan, what about mould or moisture?

Taryan Mathews:
Yeah, so that's a real big one, and especially in the last couple of summers where we had high humidity summers and that sort of misty rain. So you do want to be checking your hay, especially in those conditions, for mould. Mould, apart from being able to cause slipped pregnancies and things like that, they can cause respiratory issues and other quite severe health problems in your animals.

So mould's one thing that you've got to always be looking out for. Keeping the hay dry or your feed dry, not getting wet on the ground underneath it, they're all really important parts of stopping the mould happening in the first place, but also inspecting your hay as you go through it to make sure that even with those precautions it hasn't had a little mould growth somewhere.

Drew Radford:
In terms of feed, are there different feeding requirements for different classes of livestock, whether
they're breeding or lactating or what?

Taryan Mathews:
Yeah, absolutely. So there's quite different requirements based on the energy output. So energy output's going to change based on whether they're pregnant, lactating, growing, or whether they're just sitting in a paddock eating grass. So our mums and babies and our weanlings are run separately from the big main herd so that their energy requirements can be catered to a little bit more thoroughly. Basically, you go from that last trimester of pregnancy, when they're putting quite a lot of energy into growing out that baby and they need to start lactating, and then all the way through to weaning and your weanlings growing out and making sure that they're growing really well. You want quite high protein feed because they're putting a lot of energy into either growing a baby or growing themselves.

Drew Radford:
What about supplements?

Taryan Mathews:
All of our animals have access to pasture and then that's supplemented, pretty much most of the year, with a high-quality grass hay, and that's got rye, clover, those kinds of grasses in there. Alpacas like quite a varied diet and they like quite a leafy diet, so that's a really good feed mix that they enjoy. And then we supplement that, especially with your lactating mums, your weanling babies, with higher protein feeds, which are your vetch, your clover or your lucerne. They're three really good ones for high protein and good calcium levels for bone growth.

Drew Radford:
Taryan, I'm not sure about how robust alpacas are, but I imagine watering points are a bit of an issue. I mean, you're going to have to have them taller to start with and contamination is something you'd want to avoid.

Taryan Mathews:
Yeah, yeah. So you want to have water troughs high enough to reduce contamination from faecal matter and dirt. You also want to consider the design of the trough for easy cleaning. Alpacas do like to go for a bit of a swim and they will use a trough if it's available. So you want to be able to make sure it's cleanable if you do have one that jumps in there and has a bit of a swim on a hot day.

You want to check that the waterways around your animals are free of weeds and pests. Waterways are one way for weeds to travel and pests to travel quite efficiently around our ecosystem. You want to make sure that any water that is available to them is not contaminated by effluent, stormwater drains, etc. And a lot of pests and a lot of diseases can survive for a really long time in water until they find another host, so keeping those waterways uncontaminated to begin with is your best way of avoiding disease outbreaks from waterways.

Drew Radford:
Lastly, Taryan, what advice would you have for people who are new to owning alpacas, goats or sheep around feed and biosecurity around supplying feed?

Taryan Mathews:
I think the biggest advice that I can give is to go to the Alpaca Association website and get to know a little bit before you go into alpacas. The alpaca world in Australia we have Q-Alpaca and Alpaca CheQA, which are quality assurance programs that can help you monitor and manage known disease and help you reduce the risk of an emergency disease outbreak.

Other than that, there are other really good resources on the Australian Alpaca Association website and, also talking to feed suppliers, making sure that you get a good relationship with a feed supplier in your area who does have the necessary declaration and who does follow the correct protocols for making sure there's no restricted animal products, etc. You want to have that relationship with that feed supplier before you have the animals so that you're not clutching at straws trying to get feed in. And also talking to other breeders in your area so that they can help you out and they can point you in the direction of reputable feed vendors in your area.

Drew Radford:
Taryan, you’ve given great insights into what’s required around biosecurity for feed for Alpacas. Taryan Mathews from Precision Alpaca Group, thank you so much for taking the time and joining for this AgVic Talk podcast.

Taryan Matthews:
Thanks for having me, its been great

Speaker 5:
To access biosecurity support, programs and information from Agriculture Victoria and the RSPCA, check out the notes with this podcast season. This has been an AgVic Talk and RSPCA podcast. All information is accurate at the time of release. For more AgVic Talk podcasts, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/agvic-talk.

Episode 6: Introducing new livestock with Geoff Kroker, Brett Davidson and Rachael Laukart

Speaker 1:
Welcome to AgVic Talk, keeping you up-to-date with information from Agriculture Victoria.

Drew Radford:
Introducing livestock to a property is a time of excitement but also trepidation, because potentially they may expose existing animals to new diseases.

G’day. I'm Drew Radford, and the good news is there's simple steps that can be taken to minimise those risks. To discuss how, I’m joined by Geoff Kroker who spent his career working in livestock research and development and also extension. In retirement, he's continued to be involved in the sector with a 55-acre property just south of Bendigo.

Geoff Kroker:
We bought that property about 14 years ago and immediately set about establishing Phalaris and sub-clover pastures and attending to internal fencing and water troughs and the like, all with a view to rotationally grazing a flock of about 50 white dorper ewes.

Drew Radford:
Livestock's been your game in one way or another for your whole professional life. So you prepared the property, but you must be pretty focused on managing new livestock whenever you introduce them to the property. What steps do you take?

Geoff Kroker:
Before we get into that, I do run the flock as a self replacing flock now. Obviously I had to buy in sheep to start off with. I'm now only having to buy in rams every couple of years. I run it, as I said, a self-replacing flock. But nevertheless, I'm very keen to avoid bringing in any health problems with rams that I do buy in. I have had experience with Johne's disease, which unfortunately I think we brought in with some of the ewes in the early days. So biosecurity is very much front of mind for me.

Drew Radford:

With it being front of mind, then Geoff, what steps do you take then when you do introduce any new stock, which are rams these days, onto your property?

Geoff Kroker:
When I'm buying rams, I only deal with reputable ram breeders, and by that I mean breeders who participate in the Ovine brucellosis scheme, so there's minimal risk of bringing on brucellosis. I look for breeders who vaccinate all their sheep with good vaccine against Johne's disease, obviously. Very conscious of that. As well as all the normal six-in-one vaccines against clostridial diseases. And I'm keen to deal with ram breeders who are free of foot rot. That's the first step that I take.

Drew Radford:
What's the next step then for you, Geoff?

Geoff Kroker:
Well, the next step is to go out onto the property and inspect the sheep myself, looking for any physical defects, look for lameness, any signs of lethargy or just poor health. You are looking for sheep that appear to be alert and able to walk freely. And I guess one of the really important things is to obtain a hard copy of your paperwork, your National Vendor Declaration and making sure that that lists all of the relevant vaccinations and drenches and other health treatments that the rams may have had. And ideally, I also like to obtain a health declaration in addition to the National Vendor Declaration, because health declarations provide more detail on the health status of the animals that you're buying. But not all ram breeders are set up to provide those, so you can't always insist on that, but that's the ideal.

Drew Radford:
That certainly is the ideal and taking it to the next level. And once all of those boxes are ticked and you've done that inspection, what next in terms of introducing them to your property?

Geoff Kroker:
When the animals actually arrive on the property, the very first thing I do as soon as they get off the trailer or the truck is to drench them with a high-quality drench and a quarantine drench. In other words, one that has shown little or no worm resistance problems. So talking about a triple combination drench is what I typically use. Once the rams are drenched, I leave them in the yards for about two days, feed them on hay and water in the yards, so that allows time for their stomach contents to empty out and any nasty bugs or parasites that they might be carrying are confined to the stockyards. And then if possible, I try and keep the new arrivals isolated from other livestock for two or three weeks after they arrive, which is usually pretty easy with rams because they're only going in with the ewes for a short mating period. And I just make sure that they're kept isolated for that two or three weeks just in case anything else might arise.

Drew Radford:
You mentioned there whether they've been brought in by a truck or via trailer, what if there is a third party transporting for you? Does that add any consideration?

Geoff Kroker:
Absolutely. You'd like to make sure that the animals are going onto a clean truck. And because I'm only dealing in small numbers, I usually go and pick up the rams myself, the tandem trailer, and that's always kept clean before the animals hop on. But if I was using a carrier, I'd be insisting that the truck's washed out before my animals are put onto it.

Drew Radford:
No, I think it's a very valid point to make. And if you've taken your trailer onto somebody else's property, what's that mean when you bring it back to yours?

Geoff Kroker:
It could be a problem too, and you can make sure that you hose off the wheels of the vehicle and give it a good clean when you're finished with it for the day.

Drew Radford:
And Geoff, moving on, the stock are now on your property. You've quarantined them for three weeks. What about ongoing livestock management beyond that point?

Geoff Kroker:
Probably Drew, the main thing there is maintaining your fences in good condition, and that's to ensure that firstly, your neighbour's animals can't come onto your property and bring any unwanted health problems with them. And secondly, so that your animals can't escape and pick up any diseases and parasites from another property. I've actually double fenced my property using shelter belts where the fence joins a neighbour and also along the road, so that gives you pretty much a solid guarantee that animals aren't going to get off your property or come onto your property. If you do have any escapees, I think before bringing them home, you need to think pretty hard about whether you're going to treat them as new arrivals when they do come home. In other words, go through the quarantine, drench and isolation and all the things we've just talked about.

Obviously regularly inspecting your animals for early signs of health issues and treating them early. For example, I regularly collect faecal samples from my ewes and have my vet conduct a worm egg count so that I can pick up on parasite problems as early as possible and treat the sheep accordingly. Finally, I do have a very competent sheep vet. I'm fortunate in that regard. I have him come out and check the rams about two months before mating begins. Just give them a general health check so that we know their right to do what they're being paid for.

Drew Radford:
Indeed. And Geoff, you mentioned the double fencing and you pointed mainly to the security of making sure that it's harder for them to escape and get out. But I assume a big part of that is also, especially with neighboring properties or anything wandering past, nose-to-nose contact, eliminating that.

Geoff Kroker:
Absolutely, yes. It eliminates that with the double fencing. The fence is about four metres apart, allowing for a row of trees, so there's no way the animals can even have that nose-to-nose contact.

Drew Radford:
Geoff, what advice would you give to other small-scale landowners who are thinking about introducing new livestock to their property?

Geoff Kroker:
For hobby farmers, thinking about going into livestock right from the start, probably the most important consideration is to think about what species and breed of animals are best suited to your property and what you might like to run best suited to your lifestyle. I've selected sheep and in particular a shedding breed of sheep specifically because they don't need shearing or they don't need crutching and they're generally easy-care sheep with minimal healthcare requirements and minimal infrastructure requirements. They don't need shearing sheds, for example. But I think it's very important to be aware of the time that's required to properly care for animals and meet their needs in terms of food and water and shelter and importantly healthcare and biosecurity.

Finally, I guess people need to be aware of the legal requirements related to livestock ownership. They must have a Property Identification Code. And I'm finding that people that buy sheep from me occasionally hobby farmers don't have that. You must be part of the National Livestock Identification System, which involves using electronic tags with sheep now. And you need to meet the animal welfare requirements. So all those things need to be thought of before you go into livestock production, because you can't just buy sheep, put them in the paddock and forget about them for weeks on end.

Drew Radford:
You make a good point there, Geoff. It's changed dramatically over time and there's quite a bit involved. So who and/or where do you go for information to make sure that all those things are being covered?

Geoff Kroker:
I am part of a BestWool/BestLamb group that Agriculture Victoria runs, and we meet every couple of months and discuss matters of technical issues relating to sheep production, and that's a great source of information for me. I do read widely. I'm a member of Meat and Livestock Australia, and they send out hard copies as well as electronic copies of information on all sorts of things. I read that. Finally, I have a very good relationship with a private veterinary consultant in Bendigo who provides me with fantastic information as well as a seasonal newsletter and a reminder on things to look out for in relation to sheep management.

Drew Radford:
That’s the voice of Geoff Kroker. To delve into this topic a little deeper I’m joined by Brett Davidson who is Dairy Regional Manager in Tatura for Agriculture Victoria. He's also working in the biosecurity space, helping producers manage risk and improve biosecurity practices. Assisting him with that is Rachel Laukart, Education Officer with the RSPCA. Thank you both for your time.

Rachel Laukart:
Thank you very much, Drew.

Brett Davidson:
Thank you. Glad to be here.

Drew Radford:
Brett. When it comes to bringing new livestock onto a property, I imagine there's a range of documentation and things to consider way before they even arrive.

Brett Davidson:
You certainly need a National Vendor Declaration. So that actually is a bit of paperwork about the animal and if it's had any treatments and any exposure to any other restricted materials. Additionally, you need to make sure that the animals are fit to load. Any animal needs to be able to be weightbearing on all feet and you just need to make sure that they're healthy and fit. And it's your responsibility as a producer to make sure they are.

Drew Radford:
Are there other things that need to consider with that transportation as well, Brett? If it's an excessive trip, if it's an exceedingly long trip, do they need to be stopped and watered and taken on and off?

Brett Davidson:
Yes, there's rules and regulations for that. So, animals will be stopped and spelled. They also will be given water and feed depending on the time of the journey. There is a fair bit of information available. Please have a look at the fit to load guidelines and then there's also livestock transport guidelines as well.

Drew Radford:
For the first time small landholder is getting let's say eight cows on their property. There's quite a bit there to make sure there's taken into account and all ticked off.

Brett Davidson:
Yeah, definitely. You certainly want to make sure that they're healthy and fit. And then when you get them to your property you need to quarantine them for a period for certain diseases that may or may not show up straight away that might cause the rest of your animals to get sick.

Drew Radford:
So in terms of that quarantining, Brett, what do you need to consider? Is a fence line enough? Or have they got to be a paddock apart? And what sort of durations are we talking?

Brett Davidson:
So it should be in line with what your biosecurity plan is, so it can be up to three weeks. And what you do not want the animals to do is actually have any nose-to-nose contact with other animals. So a fence line usually isn't probably quite enough. For me, here we've got a special quarantine pen, it's double fenced and there's either a tree line or a laneway. So when they do get off, they still have company but they don't have physical contact with my herd until I know that they're fit and sound and ready to enter the herd.

Drew Radford:
And is there any documentation that needs to be taken into account validating that process? Yep, I've quarantined them or is it just common sense saying, well hang on, I don't want to risk what I've already got on my property?

Brett Davidson:
For an individual it should be in line with your biosecurity plan with what you need and what your requirements are. So you just need to really think about what are the important things. It might be something as simple as worms, but it might be something bigger. And there's a range of pre-testing you can do as well.

Drew Radford:
Well briefly, what are some of those pre-tests?

Brett Davidson:
For dairy cows you can actually test for the different types of mastitis. So if it's a new bug it can be transferable and can make the rest of your cows quite sick. One that's been in the news a lot is foot-and-mouth disease, which currently isn't here, but if it does get in, and there is a risk at the moment with itbeing so close, we need to have all of our best quarantining methods in situ I suppose. I suppose what I'm trying to get at is that if you think an animal's lame, you might not know what it's lame from. It might be just lame from foot rot or might be just a cracked toenail. Might be just something simple, but it could be something as serious as foot-and mouth disease. So if you're not checking to see what the issues are and quarantining and making sure they’re fit to load first before you even get to your property, you could miss something that's really serious that could really impact the rest of your animals.

Drew Radford:
I imagine that's an understatement to say the least, Brett. And Rachel, I'm guessing too in terms of that quarantining, you're hiving off a corner of your property to do this. So then comes into consideration, well, adequate access to feed, maybe it increases needs on that front and also water I would imagine.

Rachel Laukart:
Yeah, so it is really important that we do have that quarantine space because when you bring new livestock on, you don't necessarily know if they are going to bring anything with them. And so we need to have that space that can be kept separate, that there is that space between. So Brett's touched on nose to nose contact, we don't want any of that. So we don't want the animals that have just come on the property to have any access or share any amenities with any other livestock that are there.

So that means water. They've got to have different water points. They can't share a trough over a fence line. They're not allowed to go nose to nose, they're not allowed to touch each other. They can see each other, but we don't want them touching. And so it's really important that we have that aspect before we bring livestock on. And it's such an important thing to consider around making sure that these animals are healthy before they come on the property. And I know that we don't necessarily get that opportunity to go and view animals perhaps before they go get picked up, but if the opportunity arises, I'd really encourage people to do that to make sure that animals that they are purchasing and bringing on property are fit and healthy. And those fit to load guides are fantastic to be able to go through, it steps you through the process of making sure that you're making good decisions around the livestock that are coming on site.

Drew Radford:
Okay, you've done all of this, everything's in place, you've done your quarantine, it's time to take them out of quarantine. But are there things that you need to do to your stock before you actually mix them?

Rachel Laukart:
It's a really good opportunity to take a bit more of an integrated approach. So if we want to highlight and promote good biosecurity practices through every aspect of how we manage livestock, then we go, okay, we've done all the quarantine and we've brought the animals on and we know that they're healthy to the best of our ability, and they've spent a bit of time in quarantine perhaps up to three weeks and they still look good, they're still healthy, they're doing all they need to do. Let's take this opportunity to do a couple of more things before we let them loose with everyone else. And that might look like some husbandry practices, for example, if we've got sheep, do they need to be shorn before we let them go? Do we need to do some things like have a look at their feet and do a bit of hoof trimming before we let them go in with everyone else? Can we vaccinate them? Are they up to date with all their vaccination and worming? Are there any of these preventative measures to set them up for success when they're out in the paddock?

Brett Davidson:
And they are herd animals too, so you need to be making sure that there's food and space for them so that when they are introduced together…they will have a pecking order. So there will be some fighting when you mix groups. Most of the times it's okay, but to try and limit that we do fence line socialisation. So ours will actually have a good electric fence between them and we'll have our two different groups. And then what will happen then is that they'll be fed next to each other, given some hay so that they get used to socialising, especially with bulls. They'll be growling at each other and doing broadside threats and throwing dirt and mud everywhere. And when those behaviours drop away after a few days and then they take no notice of each other, that's when you can open the gates and let them in. But if you just drop them off the truck straight in together, you could risk injuring some of your new livestock, which it's quite valuable and you bought them for a reason. You don't want them hurt.

Drew Radford:
Great insights as always, Rachael Laukart and Brett Davidson and, thank you so much for taking the time and joining me for the biosecurity basics podcast AgVic Talk podcast.

Rachael Laukart:
Thank you very much

Brett Davidson:
Thank you

Speaker 1:
To access biosecurity support, programs, and information from Agriculture Victoria and the RSPCA, check out the notes with this podcast season. This has been an AgVic Talk and RSPCA podcast. All information is accurate at the time of release. For more AgVic Talk podcasts, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au\agvictalk.

Episode 5: Designing a farm map with Clem Sturmfels and Ian Powell

Speaker 1:

Welcome to AgVic Talk, keeping you up to date with information from Agriculture Victoria.

Drew Radford:

Maps drawn up for farms were not that long ago the domain of large landholders with deep pockets. That, though, is no longer the case.

G'day, I'm Drew Radford. These days anyone with access to a smartphone, or a computer, can easily access a range of aerial images and maps that will include their property on them. Besides being interesting to look at, they're also needed for Biosecurity Management Plans. However, something like this, you don't even need to go digital. Pen and paper can suffice.

To discuss some of the options, I'm joined for this AgVic Talk Biosecurity podcast by Clem Sturmfels, Agriculture Victoria Land Management Extension Officer.

Clem Sturmfels:

Oh, no worries, at all, Drew. Happy to be on board.

Drew Radford:

Clem, mapping. What's your role in Agriculture Victoria, and how's mapping such a central part of that?

Clem Sturmfels:

Drew, my role, I guess it's always been linked to mapping. My background is controlling soil erosion and helping farmers with farm water supply, particularly specialising in dams. Maps have always formed part of that work. They can be very simple maps, from a sketch, or something a lot more complicated.

Drew Radford:

Clem, we certainly will delve into that a little bit deeper, but before we do, why are maps important to small property holders?

Clem Sturmfels:

The reason maps are valuable to everyone is that complex ideas can be conveyed very quickly and efficiently. A map is simply a picture. Pictures allow us to process information very quickly and efficiently, rather than having it in text, or even in speaking language. A picture is something that we manage to process very quickly, and quite complex ideas can be processed quickly.

Drew Radford:

I imagine it's essential, also, in terms of farm biosecurity plans.

Clem Sturmfels:

Absolutely. I think most of us are becoming aware that one, it's essential just for the farmer to manage the farm and minimise biosecurity risks, but on top of that there's a mandatory requirement for you to have a plan as part of the property risk assessment in your LPA (Livestock Production Assurance). You must have a plan showing where the high-risk sites are on your property. Then likewise, if you are looking at managing public access, a mandatory requirement is that have a map for your Biosecurity Management Plan.

Those maps need to show things like where the public do have access, or where the gateways are on the farm, where the farm boundary is, and even where the signs are on the gateways around the farm. But anywhere where the public may access your farm, maybe along a river frontage or something like that, then not only do you need the map, but you also need those signs to go with it if you want to pursue the public for trespassing.

Drew Radford:

Clem, for those unfamiliar, what is an LPA property risk assessment? What map is needed for that?

Clem Sturmfels:

An LPA, Drew, stands for Livestock Production Assurance, which is a industry-introduced scheme to ensure that our meat and wool products, particularly for the export market, are free of any contamination. So, that contamination could be anything from heavy metals to a whole range of things that might contaminate that, including physical damage to livestock or skins, or something like that.

Drew Radford:

So, what features do you think really need to be included on a map?

Clem Sturmfels:

Again, it depends on the type of map you're talking about. For example, a map of a farm water reticulation system needs to be highly detailed and quite precise, if you want to do it nicely and usefully. Whereas, at the other end of the scale, something like a Biosecurity Management Plan can be a much simpler map, just showing some fairly basic features. It can be a different scale to a bigger farm map. An LPA actually needs quite a lot of detail. You'll need to zoom in, often, on the farmyard to identify where various things are around the farmyard, to meet the requirements of a potential audit for your LPA.

Drew Radford:

Clem, there's a lot of great information you're giving there. I've got to be honest, I'm lousy with a box of crayons. I struggle to draw a straight line. So, how can small landholders get started?

Clem Sturmfels:

My suggestion is they start really simply because at any point in the mapping process you can upgrade. The sort of equipment we've got, now, you can even do things like photograph your old plan and project it up on the wall and draw it onto a big farm map. There's lots of options available these days that we didn't have previously.

To be honest, I love paper. I've always loved paper maps. I've just finished printing off a whole stack of laminated, very large farm maps that we're using at an upcoming biosecurity workshop. They've got this lovely plastic surface and allows you to grab a texter and sketch all over them.

But having said that, there's no reason why a simple piece of A4 or A3 paper can't be a good starting point, where you just draw up your map. It can be a sketch. It doesn't need to be to scale. If we're talking LPA or the Biosecurity Management Plan, BMP, it can be really quite a simple map, as long as it's got the minimum requirements that those maps need. To be sure that you've got that covered, you really need to go back to the checklist and guidelines that are associated with your LPA Risk Assessment, or your Biosecurity Management Plan, to make sure you've ticked off those particular parts of the mapping that are needed.

But then, there's a whole range of options in-between. That can be just drawing things up on a very simple computer program. You could for example, get a satellite image off the internet, paste it into a Word document, and then simply start adding symbols to that photograph to make up quite a neat-looking map.

Or, you can go to the next level, where you might get a bit of professional assistance to get that satellite, or air photo, printed off at a set scale, so you can make accurate measurements with a ruler or a set of grid squares, where you work out area. Even better, if that printed off map has got laminated surface on it, you can then draw all over it, take a photo of it, rub it off again, and then you might do your biosecurity plan. You can clean off your map and use it for something else.

Drew Radford:

Clem, you alluded to it briefly, but I assume there's some fairly high-end options, as well.

Clem Sturmfels:

There is, and there's stuff in-between. There's things like Google Earth Pro or just Google Earth itself, which can make quite effective maps. They're reasonably easy to use, whereas as you increase the level of technology and detail, they get more challenging.

Once you get into the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) end of the system, you need to be computer savvy. You need to be prepared to sit down and operate the system on a weekly or monthly basis to keep your hand in, like any detailed software. So, it's not something I would recommend to somebody who's flat out trying to manage their farm.

There's a whole range of paid for mapping products, which you could use to develop a biosecurity plan. That might be something like AgriWebb, or a similar one. They're pretty expensive. They're specifically for managing stock or managing crop, managing pasture, and how much grass you got left in a paddock. Not perfect for biosecurity mapping, so I wouldn't be rushing into them. But if you're already using them, by all means.

In the GIS product range, you've got some very expensive products such as MapInfo or ArcMap. At the other end of the scale, there's a totally free product, which we're now using in the department for our whole farm planning courses, called QGIS. The advantage of QGIS is it can be modified or programmed by anybody, it's totally free, it's open source.

So, we've taken that to a step further where we've developed our own project, which we've called QGIS My Farm Plan, which comes complete with something like 200 mapping layers, all the symbols, all the colours, all the labels. There's a whole folder called Biosecurity Mapping where you can actually use, if you like, a checklist, to go through and say, "Well, what sorts of things should I be including on my Livestock Assurance Scheme, your LPA?"

Drew Radford:

What would be your top three tips when it comes to designing a farm map?

Clem Sturmfels:

Start with the very basics. Then, get to the more detailed, depending on what sort of media you're using. If you were using, say, a laminated photograph, using something you can rub off easily and redraw. So, play around. Might be a wax pencil, the old wax pencils, or it might be a water-based texta, or a pencil if it's on paper.

I always start with the farm boundary because it gets my eye in. Particularly if I'm using an air photo, it makes me really start to interpret the features on the map. While you might think, "Oh, everybody knows where their farm boundary is," slightly a different challenge when you're up in the air looking down at it, to actually work out.

I would really be starting by drawing in the boundary, having a good look at the landscape, looking at where the shadows are to try and pick up where the ridge lines are and the drainage lines. Maybe, drawing in what you think is a drainage line. Often, even people who haven't got experience in it, can pick up sort of a dark line. There might be a drainage line. Then, you might get these white patches which indicate a dry, northern face of a hill. Or, depending on which way the sun's shining, what time of day the photo's taken, you can usually pick up the ridge lines, as well. And if you've got contours, well, you can certainly draw in your ridge lines.

So, you're starting to build up a three-dimensional model of the farm. Even simple things like dams. Get a blue pen and draw in the dam, over the top so it really stands out. Then, you can start marking some of the more detailed features.

Drew Radford:

Clem, you've given some great pointers there. Where can people go to find out more information?

Clem Sturmfels:

I would certainly get on the Agriculture Victoria website. There is a host of information on there on biosecurity, on whole farm planning, preparing a farm plan. If you want to go to the next level, look for, and again on the website, it'll list current workshops being held around the state and whether that's for a biosecurity workshop, whether that's for a whole farm planning course. A lot our courses include that mapping aspect in their work. I guess my first port of call would be look for a biosecurity workshop itself. Generally, they'll be covering that mapping issue because it is a mandatory requirement of your LPA Risk Assessment.

Drew Radford:

That's Clem Sturmfels from Agriculture Victoria. Someone who's putting this into practice is Ian Powell from near Thorpdale in Gippsland, where he runs 30 cows. This however isn't his full-time occupation, yet, as by day he's an industrial engineer.

Ian Powell:

Well, it's actually a preparation for retirement. My longer-term plan is to wear out, not rot out, so this is part of the path towards doing that. I do have another place at St. Helen's Plains. We had cattle on that for a while, but stopped around 2006 when the drought was really biting in the Wimmera, for us.

Drew Radford:

What are you actually running on the property you've got at Thorpdale?

Ian Powell:

Currently, I've only got Angus cows and calves and one bull. I may add to that with some sheep that'd have to be Dorpers, or some hair shedding variety. Possibly, I might do a little bit of horticulture down the track.

Drew Radford:

You own cattle and that essentially puts you in the livestock sector. You've got a scientific background, and I would put to you that you understand, really well, the importance of biosecurity.

Ian Powell:

From my perspective, my main concerns right now are obviously weeds getting into the property, so pretty vigilant knocking those off. I don't buy in hay. I prefer to cut my own hay. People are welcome to buy it, but I prefer to cut and produce my own, than risk bring in some other new weed variety.

As far as animal biosecurity. Now, I have a greater awareness of my risks in that one, too. So, probably will be very selective in what I buy. May even go back to doing AI (artificial insemination) for creating more calves in the future. We'll see about that. We had a little trial on the other place once, and it worked out quite successful.

Drew Radford:

Ian, as part of your approach to biosecurity management on your property, is mapping essential to that?

Ian Powell:

It's part of the process. So, I first did the map so I could understand the usable paddock sizes I had. There's a website, Nearmaps is what I use to get an aerial view of the farm - then along that, I'm able to draw the lines, and they give me the length. If you create the cell, link it all the way up and make the cell, then you're able to get the area of it.

The reason for doing that one, at the time, was so that I could work out, roughly, what quantities of lime I could put on the ground to start correcting the pH. So, I needed to know what the area was. I'd already had an agronomist do a soil test. I knew, roughly, the rate. Then, I could make a combination budget decision and quantify how much lime I had to buy to get spread out. Now, the extension of that one going forward will be, later on, understanding where weeds dominate, or anything else that might be a problem for me down the track. I can isolate paddocks for various reasons, and then be able to track what goes on with them.

Drew Radford:

So, you were able to pull up the aerial of the property and calculate the landmass size and what you needed there. I understand you've then gone and drawn up your own map, as well.

Ian Powell:

I followed, by and large, the existing fence lines on the property, so I haven't created a new layout for the farm. I've used the existing fence lines, which are fairly reasonable. The farm had been owned by the previous family for 99 years before I had the good fortune to buy it, so it's fairly well laid out. Taking into account the geography of the land works quite well. There might be some minor changes down the track, but I think it'll be more when I start putting in temporary fences for strip grazing.

Drew Radford:

Ian with an engineering background, my head is immediately running down the path of imagining you using computer-aided design programs and advanced software, but what did you actually use to draw it up?

Ian Powell:

On Nearmaps, you can see, quite well, the existing fence line. You're able to just zoom into those and pick it up and drag a line down, and move it across and around, and follow the fence line very accurately That's what I did. Nothing very high-tech.

Drew Radford:

Ian, you say it's not high-tech, but I've seen the maps you produce. They're detailed aerial images with fence lines of each paddock measured out to nearly the centimetre. The paddocks are coloured in and labelled. Also, the total size is calculated. What do you do, then, with these maps that you've produced?

Ian Powell:

I went through and I drew the lines on the image of the farm. I'd worked out the areas for each one of the paddocks. I, then, took snapshots of that. I made a PowerPoint file up, with each paddock size and a snapshot of it on each slide in the PowerPoint file. So, there's an overall photo of the farm, with each paddock with a number. Then, there are zoomed in slides in that PowerPoint file, with each paddock individualised, which shows the area of the paddock, as well. With that PowerPoint file, now, I can send it off to the people spreading the lime, or other people, and identify which paddock to go into. I haven't, as yet, depicted where the gates are on those paddocks. They're fairly obvious to see when you're on the road. Down the track I'll be depicting gates, and more importantly, probably water point connections for when I start going for strip grazing so that I can tap into those.

Drew Radford:

So, that's in terms of calculating what you need to add to a particular paddock. Do you also use that for biosecurity needs?

Ian Powell:

The main thing I do is if cattle come into the place for the first time, I concentrate them in one paddock. That way whatever is excreted, I can go around there and deal with any new infestations, or prospective infestations, that might arise pretty quickly and see it. Then afterwards, they can go to the other paddocks and I won't really don’t worry about having brought fresh and unwanted weeds onto the property. So, it's one paddock I've dedicated, bring the cattle into, and I can monitor that one there.

Drew Radford:

Ian, you've clearly thought about this in detail. What are your tips for anybody coming to design their own farm map?

Ian Powell:

Well, it's much easier if you're on flat ground. If you're in the Goulburn Valley or in the Wimmera, definitely much easier. If the place has been farmed for a long time, it's probably best to follow the fence lines that others have been able to work successfully with. You can, maybe, make them smaller for smaller operations, where you want to concentrate things. As far as the biosecurity going, it's really a case of deciding where you want to concentrate the introduction of new livestock, or anything you bring in new, so that you can go back and look in one area and try and pick those off very quickly, by regularly walking that paddock and checking it.

Drew Radford:

Ian, lastly, where do you go for information and advice when it comes to biosecurity in particular?

Ian Powell:

I had the good fortune to chat with someone from AgVic on biosecurity. I became aware of a lot of other things I need to be more attentive to. Simple things. For example, even when I've had to call the vet out to look at livestock, I've laid out the gates so that they can go to one spot and park their vehicle. All vets will be attentive to what they might bring in, but just in case there's one spot for that.

The people that come here and spread the lime, their equipment is very clean so don't have to worry about them bringing in weeds.

As I mentioned before, I cut my own hay so I won't bring in weeds from that. I actually mow along the fence line, very closely, so that I can see weeds and blackberries, any infestation starting along the fence line to try and stop them as much as possible before they come over the fence.

Sometimes neighbours on the other side of the road might have less diligent control over those, so you can't completely control that. You can stop it at the front line on your place as much as possible. I do that. It takes a lot of time, but do that very closely, as well.

Drew Radford:

Well, Ian, it sounds like you've taken a very structured and analytical approach to keeping your property safe, and effectively, everybody else in the industry, as well. For now, though, Ian Powell, thank you for joining us for this AgVic Talk Biosecurity podcast.

Ian Powell:

Ah, you're welcome, Drew.

Speaker 1:

To access biosecurity support, programs, and information from Agriculture Victoria and the RSPCA, check out the notes for this podcast season. This has been an AgVic Talk and RSPCA podcast. All information is accurate at the time of release. For more AgVic Talk podcasts, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/agvictalk.

Episode 4: Buying and selling livestock 101 with Ben Fahy

Speaker 1:

Welcome to AgVic Talk, keeping you up to date with information from Agriculture Victoria.

Drew Radford:

For the uninitiated biosecurity can be daunting especially when terms like Property Identification Code and National Livestock Identification System are bandied about. G’day I’m Drew Radford and while these terms might sound like word spaghetti newcomers, Ben Fahy, who is Livestock Traceability Manager with Agriculture Victoria simplifies it all.

Ben Fahy:

What we say is a Property Identification Code is like your driver's license. It's the detail of where you live. That's the detail where the animals are. And it's a registry that we have of who you are, what your phone number is and how best to contact you.

The NLIS tags that we use to identify animals, livestock, they're like the license plate of car, your number plate. So that identifies that individual animal and forevermore stays with that animal. We can then, with that detail, start to look at the animal's life history as it moves around in its life.

The National Vendor Declaration is done by the owner or the carer of the animals. It has real important detail, and it's like the registration papers. It's like ensuring that there's enough information in there that someone receiving the car could look at it and say, "Right, it's registered. Everything's right with it." It can continue along.

And then finally, we do recommend that producers that are selling or moving livestock off their property fill in what we call a National Health Declaration. And it's like a mechanic's report. It's like someone saying, "We've looked at this animal in this case, and to the best of our knowledge, it doesn't have anything wrong with it." Or it might've been vaccinated with a particular vaccine that protects it from disease in the future. And so you can list all that information there. It gives that really clear snapshot of the health and the history of those animals so that the receiver of the animals can then better manage them as they take them on and do whatever they're going to do with them next.

Drew Radford:

Ben, that makes so much sense when put into that context. So how's it applied to small scale landholders, land managers, when moving animals on or off or between farms?

Ben Fahy:

The key is to think about the basics. So for us, we need the property that they own or that they keep their animals on to be identified with a Property Identification Code. Now, PICs, as we refer to them, they're the cornerstone of any traceability system. They give us the ability to know where animals are located within Victoria and across Australia, but importantly, they give us the information of who would be managing or caring or own those animals. And so if there's a disease or food safety or even fire, flood events, we can quickly make contact with those producers, owners of animals, to tell them really important information that will keep possibly them safe, but more importantly, keep their animals safe and protect them from disease events that could cause them to be sick.

So it's a requirement that they have a Property Identification Code, but then as they move animals on and off, there's a whole number of different things that they need to remember. One, when moving animals off, there's a need to have an identification for that animal. And predominantly we see that as a tag, NLIS, National Livestock Identification System tag. They're nationally approved. They're available for sheep, goats, and cattle. And so when you're moving those animals off your farm, you need to identify that particular animal.

The other thing that's very important is the completion of a vendor declaration. So that's the owner or the person that cares for these animals fills in information that relates to their history, and importantly, fills in information that relates to their suitability for entry into the food supply chain if they're going that way. But even if they're not heading into a sale yard or an abattoir, if they're going to another property, it's information that that person receiving the animals really needs to know.

So we've also got a Vendor Declaration that details the history of the animals, the property that they came from, and that gives key information to the receiver of the animals when they're moving off the farm. It's important for any movements off the farm for animals, that they ensure those animals are suitable for the trip ahead. Whether it be a short trip to a show or whether it's a long trip to another property interstate, you need to make sure that they're fit and healthy.

Now nationally, there is a quality assurance program that industry, the drive is for, and it provides a really good system for producers to understand what all the requirements are for owning livestock, from biosecurity to welfare to traceability, and that's the Livestock Production Assurance System. It's run through Integrity Systems company, and producers or owners of animals that join up to the LPA Quality Assurance Program, they can access what we call National Vendor Declarations, and that's the accepted vendor declaration across the country. The majority of sale yards, abattoirs, even purchasers that are having animals come back onto their property, they will only accept Livestock Production Assurance backed animals, and so you will need an LPA Vendor Declaration.

I think it's important that we recognise the risk of movements onto the farm, and there's many movements that can occur onto a farm, not just animals. But if we look at animals, there's a need to transfer those animals onto your property when you receive them. So there's an electronic database, the NLIS database, which is housed in Sydney, and it collects all of the information of animals moving onto properties, moving into sale yards, moving into abattoirs, and even those animals that go for live export.

And so it collects all that information and is a ready resource for both industry but also state and territory governments if we need to trace in the event of a disease outbreak, if we need to know where animals have come from, if we need to know where animals that may have mingled with a particular animal have gone to, so cohorts of a particular animal. So it's a very important database, and it's receiving probably, across the country, millions of movement details per week, so a significant amount of information goes in there.

So a person receiving animals needs to do the transfer of those animals onto their Property Identification Code, and so in doing that, they show that they've become resident on the property. And if we needed to, we could look up that particular PIC and we could see that movement and we could also see where they moved from.

If you receive an animal, you should also receive a vendor declaration, and from that you'll know the Property Identification Code that that animal last came from, and the piece of information on the vendor dec, the PIC, goes with the tag details of that particular animal, and then it's uploaded to the NLIS database and it's kept there. And it informs the life history of those animals as they move around in their lifetime, so we can tell from where they were born and how many properties they've moved onto in their life from looking at the NLIS database.

Now, producers, owners of animals that have new animals that come on, introduce animals, they need to notify the NLIS database within two days of the arrival of those animals. And that's important because we're then very up to date with that moving information, and we can trace very quickly where animals have moved to or come from, and it just gives us that really good head start in trying to manage a disease event or food safety event that may occur.

Drew Radford:

Ben, there's a lot of information to absorb there, and you've been very detailed, and I thank you for that. What about feed?

Ben Fahy:

Yeah, so certainly feed is another one of the commodities producers or animal owners will bring on. It's important to record what feed you bring on, where it was sourced from. There are commodity decs for, whether it be grains or fodder that you bring on. And so if there are residues contained within that feed, you as the owner of the animals need to know that, and you need to make sure that they're suitable feed to be provided to animals.

So ensuring that you keep a record of those fodder that you have, when you fed it, where was it sourced from, so that there's something that you can go back to if there is an issue with either your animal as a result of the fodder, or if there's a query you have around the fodder quality and its source.

Drew Radford:

Ben, what about vehicle movements? I mean, is there a requirement to record those or is that more a business management practice?

Ben Fahy:

For movements on and off the property by people, it may be your local vet, it might be your local livestock agent, it might be an animal health officer from Agriculture Victoria, we recommend that you always keep a log of those people and movements on or off. It might be a milk tanker if you're a dairy person. Any movements of people and vehicles on and off the property, our recommendation is you keep a log of that.

Now, you don't have to have a really high tech solution for that. There's some great solutions out there on your phone that you can get an app for. But it might be as simple as just in your diary or the calendar that you write down all your appointments. You just record that local vet came today, or we had a visit from our livestock agent today. So it can be really simple, but it again provides some really good information for you as the landowner and the person owning the animals to refer back to.

But in the event of that disease or food safety issue, we can quickly speak to you because we have your details on our Property Identification Code register. And you can say to us, "In fact, I had my vet out two days ago," and that could be a really important piece of information for us to inform our tracing and fill in some of the gaps of where a disease may have come from or spread to.

Drew Radford:

Ben, we've covered a lot of ground. Any last thoughts you'd like to leave small landholders with?

Ben Fahy:

Look, I think the one thing probably to keep in the back of your mind if you're a small landholder is you may not own a large number of animals, but you're an important part of the multi-billion dollar livestock industry that Australia relies on, and so any actions that you take or lack of action can affect that industry both positively and negatively. And so whilst you may not be selling thousands of animals and you may not be selling them direct to saleyards or big producers, you're certainly a vital part of that livestock industry, and so doing what you can to protect that industry helps protect all of the people that are involved in that industry.

Drew Radford:

Ben, that's a really important point to finish on. Ben Fahy, Agriculture Victoria, Manager of Livestock Traceability, thank you so much for joining us for this AgVic Talk biosecurity podcast.

Ben Fahy:

Thanks for having me.

Speaker 5:

To access biosecurity support programs and information from Agriculture Victoria and the RSPCA, check out the notes with this podcast season. This has been an AgVic Talk and RSPCA podcast. All information is accurate at the time of release. For more AgVic Talk podcasts, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/agvictalk.

Episode 3: Common questions about biosecurity with Rachael Laukart and Brett Davidson

Speaker 1:

Welcome to AgVic Talk, keeping you up to date with information from Agriculture Victoria.

Drew Radford:

Biosecurity, it's everyone's concern, but surely I'm not everyone if all I've got is an alpaca and a couple of sheep on the back block.

G’day, I'm Drew Radford, and the answer to that is, yes. So, what then does that involve? This series of AgVic Talk is dedicated to answering that with a deep dive into the biosecurity fundamentals of managing a small-scale landholding.

To start us off, I'm joined by Brett Davidson, who is Dairy Regional Manager in Tatura for Agriculture Victoria. He's also working in the biosecurity space, helping producers manage risk and improve their biosecurity practices.

Assisting him with that is Rachael Laukart, who is an Education Officer with the RSPCA.

Thank you both for joining us for this AgVic Talk podcast.

Rachael Laukart:

Thank you very much, Drew. It's a pleasure to be here today.

Brett Davidson:

Thank you.

Drew Radford:

Brett, let's start with you. I imagine biosecurity is important to you, not just professionally, but also personally because I've heard you describe yourself as a cattle tragic. Where does that come from?

Brett Davidson:

Oh, it just comes from many hours on my grandfather's farm as a kid, I suppose. I think I used to annoy the hell out of him just with cow questions the whole time and following him around. I don't think it's got better as I've got older, it's probably got worse. It's a lot of fun, cattle. I really enjoy them. I know Rachael is one too, and that's something we've got in common.

Drew Radford:

Well, you do have it in common, but Brett, you also run some cattle yourself, do you?

Brett Davidson:

Yeah, we do run a cattle enterprise on the side of my full-time work, and it keeps getting bigger. It's good fun.

Drew Radford:

So certainly got some skin in the game. And Rachael, cow tragic as well?

Rachael Laukart:

Yeah. I got to start off my career working in the commercial sector, in dairy, a bit of beef feedlotting and some lambs in there as well, and now I get the pleasure of working a bit more in that welfare space with RSPCA and working with people who don't run necessarily commercial enterprises and some of those smaller numbers of livestock.

Drew Radford:

Well, you are working with everyone because you and Brett have been running a series of online seminars, talking with smaller landholders about biosecurity.

Rachael Laukart:

Yeah. When we started working off in this space, we really saw a need to make sure that information was readily available and in a way that could be understood by the everyday person. There's fantastic information out there around running livestock in commercial settings and we wanted to make sure that was really accessible for people who were running them in smaller numbers, so that's really where we've come together and created this space where we've got a lot of education offerings and we can have some of these discussions.

Drew Radford:

This series is aimed at helping smaller producers, so does that include people with an alpaca or a few sheep, or maybe even a small cattle stud?

Rachael Laukart:

We will happily assist people who own one livestock, two mini livestock, and we really will be focusing, and particularly from an RSPCA perspective, on animals that are less than 10 in number. And then if we've got animals that exceed that number, we start to work absolutely with AgVic to be able to support people in that practice.

Brett Davidson:

We're supporting everybody and that's why we work together.

Drew Radford:

I'm wondering though if sometimes there is perception, I've only got a few cows or a couple of sheep so biosecurity isn't something I need to think about, that's the responsibility of professional operators?

Brett Davidson:

Well, biosecurity is everybody's responsibility because there is certain viruses and diseases that can swap between species. For me, the ones that come off the top of my head, the ones that do impact human health a lot are leptospirosis and Q fever, and they're two quite serious diseases. It is everybody's responsibility because if we get those building blocks right and they are fairly simple, we can maintain, protect our animal's health, but also that of you and your family as well.

Rachael Laukart:

I really encourage people to consider biosecurity as part of their everyday practices when they're managing their livestock because there's so many things that we can incorporate on a daily basis to prioritise biosecurity and make sure that everyone's doing their part.

Drew Radford:

Do you mean by that, Rachael, that word, vectors, whether it's mud on your boots or fluids?

Rachael Laukart:

Yeah, absolutely. So there's different ways that things can move around, and part of that might be through the transfer of mud from one place to another, or it might be in manure, it might be in the movement of animals, or nose-to-nose contact between animals. So depending on what we're mainly concerned about or maybe what we're trying to target specifically, that's when we'll be looking at those vectors. Brett, what comes to mind when you think about vectors and how would we manage them?

Brett Davidson:

One of the messages we're trying to get is the Come Clean Go Clean message, but there's five vectors, so manure on vehicles and boots, nose-to-nose contact, or aerosols. Certain serious transmittable diseases are that way, like anthrax. There's also insects, biting insects, so blood-to-blood, obviously they're a bit hard to manage, but you can do that from time to time when it's necessary.

And then there's water and food. So when we talk about food, we talk about restricted animal materials or RAMs, and the foot-and-mouth in the UK was someone feeding meat materials to pigs and that started the whole UK foot-and-mouth outbreak. This is why we talk about why it's everybody's responsibility, it can be something minor how things get in, but if we've got those practices in place which are fairly simple, it's actually quite easy to manage.

Drew Radford:

You've painted a detailed picture there and a concerning picture when it goes wrong. So the idea of running a few cows or sheep is one thing, but I imagine there's a lot of practicalities to weigh up in terms of what is even the appropriate animals to run on your property? How do people make those decisions? What do you need to consider?

Rachael Laukart:

I think it can be incredibly exciting to be looking at bringing livestock onto your property. People do it because they want the experience and it's so fulfilling to have livestock, but before we get swept away with that emotion side of things, we really need to think from a practical perspective of what's actually going to be most appropriate around the type of livestock that we run, so that might be around species selection. So, do we run cattle or do we run sheep? Do we run goats or alpacas? And being able to think about that from a bit more of a practical and logical perspective really helps us make those decisions early on and set us up for a really successful experience.

Brett Davidson:

Rachael and I have talked about this quite a bit, producers need infrastructure and space to keep animals. They also need a bit of shelter, and infrastructure is probably one of the main things if we're talking about new systems and what type of animals to get.

Rachael Laukart:

If we are thinking of maybe we want a couple of sheep because maybe we a smaller space to be able to run animals in, some of our smaller animals might be a really good option. But also, let's consider that there's husbandry components, and what I mean by husbandry components is things that we need to do for them to help maintain them and make them have a good and healthy life with us. That might look like having access to yards to be able to yard them and shear them once a year, or to be able to check their feet to make sure that they're not getting overgrown hooves.

It's really important when we are thinking about bringing livestock onto our property to take a bit more of a seasonal or yearly perspective to go, "Do we have enough grass to make sure that we've got enough food for them year round?" Or, "Have we got enough water access to all the points in our paddocks to make sure that over summer, we've got plenty of water available for the animals that we're running?" So some of these things we need to consider before we select perhaps the species and even the number of animals that we want to run on our property.

Brett Davidson:

Rachael and I have both had numerous experience with pasture and animals and to be honest, most of the time it doesn't match up. There's either too much grass or not enough. So you do need to be able to manage how you're going to do that, and invariably, it really means buying some hay at some point in time or some supplementary feed.

Drew Radford:

And we're going to drill down into that a little bit further in a later episode, but Brett, in terms of infrastructure, sheep versus cattle, I imagine you've got to think about are my fences going to be robust enough? How do I load them on and off and separate them? There's a whole lot of stuff in terms of infrastructure.

Brett Davidson:

Yeah, but you need a crush for cattle. The average cow weight's a bit over 600 kilos now for beef cattle, mature cow weight. Some bulls can quite often get over a tonne. They're not really keen on just standing there while you give them vaccinations and things so you need to be able to restrain them, and that's even for vet checks. It can be for a minor thing like a hayseed or a cyst. You've got to be able to have them in a setting where you can actually help them out to keep them healthy.

Drew Radford:

There's a number of things to consider. How do producers overcome some of these common challenges?

Brett Davidson:

If you've got your common everyday practices in place about biosecurity, it's actually quite easy to manage. But the things we haven't talked about yet that are very important, which is having a property identification code, this is a requirement if you own livestock. It's also a requirement to have a NILS tag, which is a National Livestock Identification System, and that just helps with full supply chain tracing. It follows that animal all the way through its lifetime.

Farm maps are a good thing, just having your areas, putting some zones in place like your cattle yards, you may not have your animals there the whole time, or you have a paddock that you can use for quarantine sometimes. There's also pre-testing. Some buyers, they'll actually do a lot of pre-testing for you, whether it's Johne's disease or a Pestivirus or those type of things. They're out there but they're not that common, but if we've got good biosecurity practices in place, we can keep our cows healthy and happy.

Rachael Laukart:

We are really wanting to be able to set ourselves up for success in these systems, and the ways to do that is to be able to implement some of these really straightforward practices on a daily basis that might be Come Clean, Go Clean. It's a fantastic way to be able to protect the animals on our property as well as animals on other people's properties, but also being able to supervise and keep eyes on our animals. That might look like making sure we do a bit of a paddock walk each day, and we can bring that as part of our routine to make sure that we can pick up on any of our livestock that might be looking a little bit poorly or starting to show some signs that we need to maybe get them in for a bit more of check over, and we can pick up on these signs early if we're constantly going and having a look at them on a regular basis. And we can just bring that as part of our daily management plan with them.

Brett Davidson:

There's a couple of simple things that we've got in place here for our property, which is, we've got boot washing stations at the yards and at the house just so that if anyone does have dirty boots, they can give them a clean. Obviously, clean water is good and then detergents, even better. But we've got a couple people that do come on our property a lot, like our agronomist and our vet. I've actually bought some cheap gum boots for them, so then when they come to my place, they just swap boots so they don't have to clean their boots all the time. They're just putting on a set of boots that don't leave the property, they walk out on the property, and they swap into their own shoes before they hop in their car and go home or to the next property. But that just stops that spread.

Drew Radford:

There's a whole lot of stuff we're talking about here. Do you need a formalised biosecurity plan?

Brett Davidson:

You do need a plan, yes. As part of your meat and livestock registration, you do need a plan. It doesn't have to be onerous. Rachael's got quite a good one for their RSPCA farm as well.

Rachael Laukart:

Yeah, absolutely. For us here, we make sure that we've got a bit of a farm map going. So on the property, we know what areas we can have a bit more movement, and then we make sure that the animals that stay here full-time are in a different part of the property so that there's no crossover between animals that we might be looking after for a short period of time, and what we would consider our permanent residences.

Drew Radford:

These broader plans, are biosecurity signs actual detailed instructions on a sign, on your property, part of that?

Brett Davidson:

Yes, they are, Drew. Those signs usually have your name and phone number on them, like I have. People get to the front gate, they can ring you. And good biosecurity's really about a conversation to start off with, just to explain to other people coming on your property what your expectations are. And once you've done that, that's fairly right, that also from a legal standpoint, it'll actually help protect you from trespassers. So, there is very good reasons for having a sign. It just helps everybody out. If you're having those conversations with people and you've got people calling you before they come onto your property, that takes a lot of the stresses away about trying to manage different things and it makes biosecurity easy.

Rachael Laukart:

It does make it so much easier, doesn't it, Brett? If we think about some of the people who support us around owning livestock, and that might be vets or stock agents, that they can roll up to the front gate and your mobile number or best contact number is there for them. They can give you a bit of a bell, let you know that they are there, and then you can have any conversations around what your individual biosecurity plan might look like, for example, asking them to change boots before they hop out of the car.

Brett Davidson:

Or turning up with clean vehicles if it's a carrier. They're just simple things that you can pop in place.

Drew Radford:

What other considerations or permits do people need to consider when keeping livestock? And we're also talking about peri-urban areas in this series, so I imagine zoning's even part of that.

Brett Davidson:

You certainly just need to check with your local shire rules because they've got different regulations. For example, where my sister lives, she's not allowed to have a rooster. So she can have chooks, but she cannot have a rooster. And obviously with pigs, cattle, sheep and goats, there is some restrictions in some zones. If you're in those peri-urban areas, it's probably best to check with your local shire about what rules they've got in place. And you really need to have a Property Identification Code, that's mandatory and that's easy to get. It's just like having a car licence or anything like that. If you go onto the Agriculture Victoria website and type in, "PIC," you'll find a quick and easy registration there.

Drew Radford:

Lastly, what are your takeaway messages, Brett and Rachael, for people who want to have livestock on their property, on their smaller holding, what would you like them to take away from this episode?

Rachael Laukart:

We want people to consider that everyone has a responsibility to manage biosecurity on their own property with their own animals. It's very easy and straightforward to be able to incorporate some of these simple factors into daily management, and we really encourage you to start incorporating these things so that it becomes second nature, because it really is.

Brett Davidson:

And I'd just like to add that having livestock's so much fun, I get such a kick out of getting new calves each year. Our kids have really enjoyed livestock so much. It's a great way for kids to learn about things as well. Enjoying livestock's great, but no one wants to deal with sick or injured livestock so we need to do what we can, and simple biosecurity goes a long way to protecting your animals from all types of different issues that can come up.

Drew Radford:

You've both given a lot to think about, but for now, Brett Davidson from Agriculture Victoria and Rachael Laukart from RSPCA, thank you so much for taking the time and joining us for this AgVic Talk podcast.

Brett Davidson:

Thank you Drew, and thank you, Rachael.

Rachael Laukart:

Thank you so much, Drew. Thanks, Brett.

Speaker 1:

To access biosecurity support, programs and information from Agriculture Victoria and the RSPCA, check out the notes with this podcast season. This has been an AgVic Talk and RSPCA podcast. All information is accurate at the time of release. For more AgVic Talk podcasts, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/agvictalk.

Episode 2: Farm with a Difference with Jill Noble

Speaker 1:

Welcome to AgVic Talk, keeping you up to date with information from Agriculture Victoria.

Drew Radford:

If you have a small landholding with even just a couple of sheep on it, then you're part of the livestock industry.

G'day, I'm Drew Radford, and being part of that also has some responsibilities, and it involves terms like Property Identification Code and National Livestock Identification System. These terms, though, are not as daunting as they may first sound but they are crucial for livestock biosecurity.

Jill Noble from Hallston Valley Farm has this front of mind every single day, as she's part of a farming operation that some would argue is exposed to more biosecurity risks than most. Jill, thanks for joining me.

Jill Noble:

Pleasure. Nice to be here.

Drew Radford:

Jill, I've been really looking forward to interviewing you, because you run a farm with a difference. Can you tell me about it?

Jill Noble:

Yes, thanks. It's quite a diverse farm. Primarily our main product is sheep, both stud sheep, so selling rams, ewes and lambs; and meat, red meat. We provide a paddock to plate product mainly across our local region, so primarily Gippsland, even though we do deliver right up to including some Geelong region.

Then we also have an agritourism arm to our business, where we provide farm experiences, very sort of intimate one-on-one farm experiences. For example, we do birthday parties and romantic getaway type farm experiences. We do farm experiences for disability providers and people with a disability. And then we also have a couple of cabins. They're like tiny homes, but no one lives there, but they come and have a farm escape if you like, and that's run through another provider who owns the cabins. So it's quite diverse.

And then we also do a bit of education too. I run a podcast myself. I write a sheep magazine, and we do a lot of on-farm and off-farm education with other new upcoming farmers.

Drew Radford:

Jill, that's a really broad farm business, to say the least. And before we delve into the associated biosecurity risks, I just want to understand the farming side a bit more in terms of livestock. What are you running and what sort of numbers?

Jill Noble:

We're running a self-shedding British wool sheep, so it sheds its wool. It's the only wool shedding sheep in the world. It's called Wiltshire Horn sheep. We've got about 300 of those, so about 150 breeding ewes, and then rams and replacements, so about 300 head all up on 155 acres. We also manage a few other smaller properties in the South Gippsland area, where we occasionally have animals on and off there. And then we have a couple of alpacas. We have some cattle, so I generally bottle raise some steers every year.

Drew Radford:

There's a lot going on there, and I would argue a really valuable resource giving people access to a working farm. And it is a working access too, because I've seen on your Insta page people lamb marking. It's not just come and pat an animal. So this must bring with it then a whole other raft of biosecurity issues, because people are always trying to manage what comes on and off their property to mitigate biosecurity issues.

Jill Noble:

Yeah, it does present a major issue. One of the key things we had to do was sort of almost build a dedicated car park. Occasionally we might have 10, 20 vehicles a week coming onto our property. These aren't delivery vehicles either, actually people who will come either to stay on the farm or on the property or come for a day. So those vehicles bring with them lots of potential biosecurity risks, as often they're coming from other farms. So we built a dedicated car park so the cars come and park in a particular car park and generally don't traverse around the farm. So they're quarantined when they come onto the farm.

Drew Radford:

What about the people, though? I mean, when you talk about people coming on your properties and you change boots over.

Jill Noble:

Yeah, it's another challenge. So with the boots, depending on the environment, what's going on, we occasionally have washing stations and mats for visitors, particularly where we know that those visitors have been on farms recently, on their own farm perhaps, or maybe it's someone who's just constantly on a farm. We do a lot of washing. We're lucky in Gippsland. It does rain, so we have water that we can wash things, so washing boots or washing trailers or washing equipment we might use. So there's a lot of that that goes on. And humans as well, so encouraging humans to bring appropriate clean clothes when they're coming on to our farm, particularly if they're going to work and do the lamb marking.

Drew Radford:

I would imagine then record-keeping is particularly important for you.

Jill Noble:

With the visitors who come for the weekend, we are notified in advance of their name, and there's an ongoing record of every single visitor who stayed on our farm through an app, which is really good and we can trace that back. And then for everyone else who we bring on for our education purposes or farm experiences, same idea. We are keeping records of who they are or where they've come from, what organisation they might be with.

Drew Radford:

Well, the other ongoing relationship you have is obviously with your animals, so what about record keeping for them?

Jill Noble:

We find that the use of the NLIS tag system, we actually use an Enduro tag. So it's a very endurable tag which has two prongs, so it lasts a very long time in our animals. And we use that in conjunction with a radio frequency identification scanner and a piece of agricultural software which is called an indicator. So when our animals come on and off our property, we use that to track them.

And of course, we're using our e-declarations online as well. We do a lot of shows. We attend a lot of agricultural shows. So with that, those animals will go off our PIC number and come back on PIC number afterwards, so we have a trace of all of that. And we'll also use our scanner as well for that purpose.

Drew Radford:

So you've got a tourism side going on. You've also got a lot going on. You mentioned there showing animals, so they're being moved on and off the property. Plus you've got other properties you're looking after as well. My head's starting to spin in terms of the biosecurity management requirements.

Jill Noble:

There is a lot. So we use a lot of quarantining when the animals come on and off. We've got quite big sheepyards. We have the animals quarantined in there. We will always keep our vaccinations up to date, particularly 5-in-1 vaccinations. I even use a vaccination for an internal parasite, so that's for Barber's pole worm, which is quite a big challenge in our region.

Probably something else to mention is we have quite a lot of feral animals. We have quite a lot of deer on our property as well, and they also give us a huge biosecurity challenge, because they also are carriers of a lot of internal parasites. So we have a huge external biosecurity problem with other animals, particularly deer coming onto our property. So with that, the vaccinations both for the bacterial diseases and also the one we use for the parasites is very useful. And then we would also use drenches and quarantine drenches as well.

Drew Radford:

Animals like deer are hugely problematic, because obviously they just bound over your fences and you've got to go to extreme levels to try and keep them out. So is there another level of monitoring that's required of your animals then in terms of faecal testing or anything like that, just to make sure that you're constantly on top of this?

Jill Noble:

Yeah, we definitely use quite a lot of faecal testing. Apart from our quarantine drenches, that's what we would use to make a decision about any other drenches to administer. So we try and do a little bit of everything to try and help manage all those problems.

Drew Radford:

With you juggling so much, you must have some good insights. What would your top three tips be to give small-scale landholders, land managers, about traceability and record keeping?

Jill Noble:

I mean, of course, it comes down to affordability, but the electronic systems really are very easy to use and administer, but they do come at a cost. So if that was something that a small holder was looking at, that would be something to consider, and then effectively it all becomes an electronic record.

Without that, though, with a small flock, you can easily do it on a spreadsheet, just keeping track of it yourself. And then, of course, when you use the National Vendor Declarations, that actually keeps a track of it too. So between all of those, it really does help us identify any risks or reduce any risks or track or trace any issues that might occur.

Drew Radford:

There is a lot to track and trace, Jill, and there's a lot of information you've got to be across, which is constantly changing and updating. So where or who do you go to for that information to make sure that you are always up to date?

Jill Noble:

There's lots of different places to keep up to date. I follow Sheep Notes, which is the little notelet that comes in the post, but also there's an online one as well. I always devour that once it comes to my inbox. And because I'm, I suppose myself, I'm creating content around these topics for the sheep magazine and the sheep podcast, I'm always chatting with lots of different people, and even at shows talking to lots of different people. So I think it's a range of mentors. And then it's good to also have a good relationship with a vet, a local vet, someone who does know your local area and who has been to your property and could potentially identify hazards that you wouldn't identify.

Apart from that, one other resource might be where you are just keeping up to date with global aspects, so any other extension providers in other countries where there might be some developments. So for example, the Barber vaccination, which is a great tool, that was developed with the Moredun Institute in Scotland. So what are other jurisdictions, other countries doing that perhaps could be very helpful for us as small holders?

Drew Radford:

Some great insights there for other property holders. Any simple 101 things that you've done with your place that pretty much everybody should have?

Jill Noble:

I think everyone should have a biosecurity sign on their front gate with their phone number. It just identifies risks before they even enter your property, so I think that's an essential. We've also had a lot of trespassers, so locking any gates that are very visible, particularly from roads. Closing gates just generally on your property. Cleaning trailers when you use them to go on and off your property. Always using gloves. I know these are so basic, but they're so important. Always using gloves.

And then if you are working animals, and even if you've got no sick animals, but work from the younger animal to the older animal. So if you're going to be perhaps marking your lambs, for example, separate your lambs. Do all the work you have to do with your lambs, and then maybe check your ewes. Younger animals don't have any immunity. They're very weak immunity, much like children. So when we work them younger to older, we generally ensure that we don't pass on anything that might be in your older flock to the younger animals. And the same would be if you are working with a sick animal, tend to that sick animal after you tend to your healthy animals so that you yourself don't carry that risk internally to your healthy flock.

Drew Radford:

Jill you manage arguable more biosecurity considerations than most. However at the end of the day you use the same overarching systems as everybody else does to do so, things like PICs and the NLIS. Jill Noble from Hallston Farms, thank you so much for joining us for this AgVic Talk biosecurity podcast.

Jill Noble:

Thank you for the opportunity

Speaker 5:

To access biosecurity support programs and information from Agriculture Victoria and the RSPCA, check out the notes with this podcast season. This has been an AgVic Talk and RSPCA podcast. All information is accurate at the time of release. For more AgVic Talk podcasts, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/agvictalk.

Episode 1: Biosecurity Basics with Erica Smith and Richard Smith

Speaker 1:

Welcome to AgVic Talk, keeping you up to date with information from Agriculture Victoria.

Drew Radford:

Running a few cows on a small block to keep the grass down, and also to put beef in the freezer, can also have ramifications way beyond your own fence line. G’day, I'm Drew Radford, and those concerns relate to biosecurity. It affects everyone.

Erica Smith knows this only too well. She purchased a few highland cattle to deal with grass and also freezer stocking. That has turned into a stud, Glenstrae Highlands, and it's spread across multiple small holdings. And her customers, well, they're other small property owners seeking their own highland cattle. So she has a strong interest in small holdings and biosecurity. To find out more. Erica joins us for this episode of AgVic Talk. Thanks for your time.

Erica Smith:

Oh, thanks for having me.

Drew Radford:

Erica. Highland Cattle, they're not that common in Australia. Why highland cattle?

Erica Smith:

I chose mine from a sentimental reason, I guess, more than anything. Grew up in central Queensland where we had Brahmans, that was Dad's thing. We used to have the cows to keep the grass down and fill the freezer every year. And then after Dad passed away, we moved down to Victoria.

Didn't know that Brahmans would be such a good choice down here, so we went looking for something that suited the climate a bit better. Found their temperament suited and they look really good. So went into highlands.

Drew Radford:

They do look really good. Do they require any extra care?

Erica Smith:

They can generally look after themselves. You need to make sure they've got shade because they've got a double layer of hair. But they have horns for a reason. So their horns regulate their temperature, and they also use their horns to scratch themselves. Or they'll scratch on trees or fence posts, and they shed out once a year usually.

I can go out in a paddock and I can brush them. So I'll just help them de-shed that winter coat come spring. But yeah, it's not uncommon to find a tree branch with a clump of hair on it or something from the cows.

Drew Radford:

It's a reasonable amount of hair too. I'd imagine.

Erica Smith:

And the birds love it. The birds use it. We found bird's nests everywhere with highland hair in it.

Drew Radford:

So Erica, you got into them for a similar reason, you had them back home in Queensland. Was it managing grass and occasionally filling the freezer?

Erica Smith:

We'd bought a property that had a small acreage. Didn't want to be mowing it all the time, needed something to keep the grass down. And cows have always been something that I knew a little bit about. So we got the highlands to keep the grass down with the aim to put one in the freezer and keep the family fed. Because we know where the beef comes from, and we always liked knowing where our beef came from.

I started with registered stud cattle just because that was what was available when I found someone to talk to. And from there, kind of went into showing. So I now breed registered stock, and I show them, and sell them on for other people to start breeding registered stock.

Drew Radford:

In that process, has your herd outgrown your property?

Erica Smith:

I'm very, very lucky in that I have good pastures, but I also have small acreages across the road and next door to me that I can utilise. So I manage my property but on four small acreages. Which keeps my animals where I need them to be, but it just gives me a little bit of extra logistics with managing who goes where.

But again, lucky because they haven't got their own cattle or animals. So I basically get the full run of it, and can do with those properties what I need to do to keep everyone safe.

Drew Radford:

Well, in terms of keeping everyone safe and those logistics, I imagine biosecurity is quite important to you. Especially spread over a number of different locations.

Erica Smith:

It's all five-acre blocks. So that's not huge, but the management of them does involve things like weed control, fertilising. When we cut for hay, you're obviously bringing in machinery that's going from one small acreage block to another. That can be a concern.

So there's a bit that I need to manage. I also manage to keep my weeds down by actually cutting my hay locally, rather than having to buy it in. Because that's another issue, that you can bring in weeds without even realising it. So it's a little bit in there. And then just making sure my fences are hot so that cattle can't escape. That is another step that we take. And yeah, we've just got a wash down area, I guess, for equipment. For unloading and loading and making sure we don't do any of those spreads of seeds and weeds.

Drew Radford:

What about people coming onto the properties though, Erica? I imagine these cattle attract a bit of attention. And also you're doing it for stud work. So I imagine you're probably getting more people coming onto your properties than your regular small acreage holding.

Erica Smith:

Yeah, it's funny. I don't actually have a lot of visitors. I don't open it up to visitors to come. And then when I do have people that are coming to look for a reason, we've got the biosecurity sign on the gate. So anyone who turns up knows exactly, they've got to give us a call and come in. But anyone who has made an arrangement to come usually gets a brief rundown, make sure your boots are clean, make sure you've got clean clothes.

Come in, and then when they leave, if it's been muddy, we'll wash them off. So that essentially they do that, come clean, stay clean, go clean. And we all work together to try and stop any potential spread of anything.

Drew Radford:

That sounds like you're being quite detailed about what you've needed to put in place to protect you, your stock, and also surrounding properties.

Erica Smith:

Yeah, there's some great tips out there. I was lucky when I first started that the breeder I got my cattle from gave me the basics, get your PIC (Property Identification Code) number, and the steps that I needed to take to get started.

And then it can be quite overwhelming with, how do we go about getting set up for biosecurity? Because it can seem like a lot. But the tools that are available on Agriculture Victoria website, with their biosecurity plans, just makes it so, so simple to be able to follow a step-by-step guide that can help you with, even just triggering questions you need to think about. Things that you might not consider yourself.

Drew Radford:

Well, you mentioned people, and you also mentioned cutting. So I'm guessing you also got stuff in place for machinery?

Erica Smith:

Yeah, so I actually in Queensland completed a Weed and Seed Assessor course. So I already had a bit of a background in how to make sure your machines were clean, how they can sneak in on mud in wheel tracks and things like that on equipment.

So with my setup, I've got a gravel driveway, which is a really good unloading place. And it also means that any equipment can be washed down and kept there, and then loaded and unloaded there. So essentially I can contain my potential weed contamination to a smaller area.

Drew Radford:

You went into this basically wanting to keep the grass down and keep your freezer full, but it sounds like you've been on quite the journey. Particularly in regards to biosecurity.

Erica Smith:

Yeah, I did. It's one of those things, also, that concerns me a little in the fact that there's so many people in the same boat I was when I first started. So you buy five acres, and you want to get a couple of cows just to keep the grass down, or a couple of sheep or something like that. And they're easy enough to buy, animals from other people who've got them, without knowing what you need to do to keep yourself safe, to keep your animals safe and to keep your neighbours safe.

So having people that you can talk to and places that you can go to find information does make it a lot easier. And it's a constant learning. You're constantly refining your plan to make it better, or thinking of another way of doing something, or something that you hadn't maybe considered before. Like, I'm bringing in a new animal, what do I have to consider introducing that animal to my herd?

Or, I've decided I've got to get rid of some weeds, so I have to bring a piece of machinery to spray my paddocks because I can't do that myself. What do I need to consider? So it's just a constant refining as well.

Drew Radford:

And in that constant refining, Erica, does that come down to diseases as well? There's always something potentially new on the horizon you need to be wary of.

Erica Smith:

It absolutely does come down to diseases. There's a potential for a huge impact of a disease that was to hit Australia that would impact our industry. We've seen it before in the UK, where an outbreak in the UK restricted the availability of genetics. Something as simple as that can impact an entire breed here in Australia.

So if we had something come in, and we had to cull, there's so many industries that would be impacted by that, not just my animals potentially that I would lose, but then how do you recover from that? What happens with the export industry? What happens with our beef industry? What happens with ... livelihoods everywhere could be impacted just by one simple thing that potentially could be stopped I guess, at a border, or just by implementing good practices.

Drew Radford:

It's a big-picture responsibility, isn't it? I mean, you've gone from literally having a couple of cows to keep the grass down to being very conscious of the broader impact well beyond your gate.

Erica Smith:

You do absolutely have to be aware of the bigger picture and what else happens. So if we can all make sure that we take steps to protect not only ourselves but our neighbours, if we work together, then hopefully we can contain these things and just keep everything safe.

Drew Radford:

That's Erica Smith from Glenstrae Highlands. Assisting producers to get the heads around biosecurity needs is Richard Smith from Agriculture Victoria. He comes from a dairy background and says a biosecurity incident could have an enormous impact on the sector.

Richard Smith:

The dairy industry in Victoria has the lion's share of dairy in Australia-wide. It's got an approximate value of a couple of billion dollars, with about 60-odd percent of that being exported. So the impact of an emergency animal disease outbreak or a biosecurity incident for the dairy industry is actually quite considerable.

It'll have flow on effects not only on-farm, but throughout a lot of these rural communities, the shut down and milk tankers, transport industry would have an impact on farm store sales and everything like that, not just the impact faced by the actual dairy farmers themselves. As well as the people in the factories would have reduced hours as the low flow of milk might make its way through.

Drew Radford:

Richard, in simple terms, what is biosecurity?

Richard Smith:

Biosecurity in the basic action is trying to protect your property, your land from the impact of a disease, a pest, or a weed making their way onto the property and causing you a production loss or an economic loss. And that's probably the best way to think about it.

What we're trying to do with practising good biosecurity is managing those risks, and trying to reduce the impact those risks that could have. So for small landholders, it could be as simple as monitoring those animals that come onto your farm, or monitoring what seeds or goods that you buy to reduce the risk of weeds coming onto your property, and then you having to spend time and effort to try and manage that impact.

Drew Radford:

And Richard, you said small landholders there. Sometimes people think of themselves within isolation, but you're part of something bigger. The impact on a small landholder can have, I assume, a much bigger impact on broader industry and community.

Richard Smith:

Definitely, definitely. What we try and encourage with biosecurity is, everybody has a role to play. I use the analogy of a pack of sliced Swiss cheese. The biosecurity measures we're trying to enact gives us, and puts in place, another slice into that pack. And what we're trying to do is trying to prevent those holes lining up and preventing an impact from occurring.

So the more biosecurity measures we can put in place, even for small landholders, it's a case of where we feel comfortable that we can manage that risk. And if everybody plays a part, we can respond to that risk, plus we know that people are willing to take action on their own properties to make sure they mitigate that risk.

Drew Radford:

Richard, you said, "If everybody plays their part." So what then can small landholders do to increase biosecurity on their farms?

Richard Smith:

I tend to talk about practical, feasible, and sustainable actions suited to their property. So we know that for smaller landholders, there's often not the economic resources that some of the large, intensive agricultural operations might have. It's a case of having a look, seeing what you produce be it a couple of sheep each year, a couple of cattle.

So sometimes the most important step is just registering for a Property Identification Code commonly referred to as a PIC. That's a very important step. That allows us to know that you've got animals on your property and enables you, particularly if you've got animals, to go the next step and get NLIS tags, particularly for sheep, goats, cattle, as well as a Pig Pass in Victoria.

The next step is keeping up to date with your recording of livestock movements. That's a requirement. It also allows you to track when your busy period is. Buying in livestock is often the biggest risk you have for managing biosecurity. You often buying from sale yards or other producers.

And it's a case of being assured when you buy that animal that they're healthy, that their welfare is being looked after by the farmer who's selling it. So it's a case of asking for an Animal Health Declaration, having a look at the livestock, and when you bring them back onto your property, just quarantining them.

In biosecurity planning, were talking 14 to 21 days, but even if you just put them in a paddock or a holding yard somewhere, make sure you feed them, make sure you provide water, and just keep an eye on them, and you're just looking for any symptoms that might arise.

It also allows them to empty out, because a lot of weed seeds will take three days to pass through animals. So that enables you to make sure that weed gets deposited in that set of yards in a contained environment, so when you do release them onto your property, you don't then have to eradicate a weed over your entire property, all you have to do is manage it in a set of yards.

So, quarantine is very important. If you do get sick animals, move them away from other animals so you're not spreading that disease from nose-to-nose contact. That's a very simple thing that a lot of the big commercial guys try and do, but it's also quite feasible for a lot of the smaller producers because often you've got hands-on with your livestock a lot more often.

Make sure that your feed and water isn't being contaminated, that's a big thing. So if you're buying in feed, or you're buying in hay, making sure that you ask for Fodder Declarations. That you store those feedstuffs in an environment where you're not going to have rats, and mice, and other pests getting to them and causing spoilage.

The next thing is protecting your border, so making sure your fences are well-maintained, that they're upright, that they're secure - particularly if you've got nose-to-nose contact over fence lines, between neighbours. You could plant trees, you could double-fence. Just try and put an exclusion zone off them to prevent that nose-to-nose contact.

Lastly, just making sure your records are up-to-date. It's really important to keep accurate records. If you've given animal health treatments, if you've moved them off your property, if you've had cases of sickness or if you've called, and vets record all that. And those are the sort of things that small landholders can do day-to-day that aren't time intensive, but also don't cost that much.

Drew Radford:

And lastly, Richard, in terms of people coming and going onto the farm, and vehicles coming and going, I'm guessing that really shouldn't just be something that big operators need to be concerned about - that'd be a small landholder operator concern as well.

Richard Smith:

Definitely, definitely. One of the most important steps is having a conversation first. There's no point having that conversation when the people turn up on your property.

If you've got a contractor coming up, or you've got a vet coming onto your property, when you make that appointment, have a chat to them. Talk about the biosecurity measures that are in place on your property, how you can manage it, talk about where you'd like them to park, talk about coming in clean footwear - often people talk about foot baths.

It's often quite a time-intensive thing to manage foot-baths because you've got to manage the chemical, you've got to keep the foot bath clean, so you've got to keep the chemical topped up. The chemical becomes deactivated when it comes in contact with large amounts of mud and manure. A good workaround is, have a couple of spare sets of clean footwear be it steel-capped boots, be it steel-capped gum boots in common sizes, men’s and women’s even as just a couple of pairs and just keep them clean.

And Glen 20 them or use a commercial disinfectant spray in between uses, and that's often a good workaround.

And just ask them to park in a location that you feel comfortable about, by the farm shed, by the house - and don't get them to drive into your production area, so into your pastures, into your yards, things like that, just exclude them and that's a good, sensible option to manage biosecurity on a small scale.

Drew Radford:

Richard, some great insights there for helping keep not only small properties safe but the broader industry safe as well. Richard Smith, Dairy Industry Development Officer with Agriculture Victoria. Thank you for taking the time and joining us for this AgVic Talk podcast.

Richard Smith:

Thank you, Drew. It's been a pleasure.

Speaker 1:

To access biosecurity support, programs, and information from Agriculture Victoria and the RSPCA, check out the notes with this podcast season. This has been an AgVic talk and RSPCA podcast. All information is accurate at the time of release.

For more Ag Vic Talk podcasts, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/agvictalk.

Introduction with Ros Spence, Minister for Agriculture

Hello and welcome. I'm Ros Spence, Victoria's Minister for Agriculture, and I'm excited to introduce you to season eight of the AgVic Talk podcast series in collaboration with RSPCA Victoria. I start by acknowledging that I live and work on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation and pay my respects to their elders past and present, along with elders from every nation across the state.

This season of AgVic Talk will cover everything you need to know about biosecurity. We'll hear from farmers from all walks of life about the types of practical things they've put in place on their properties and how you can do the same. Experts from RSPCA Victoria and Agriculture Victoria will also share their knowledge on how you can build biosecurity into your day-to-day farming practices. As we outlined in Victoria's Biosecurity Strategy, our government is committed to helping farmers take practical steps to reduce risks and keep their properties safe. It doesn't matter how many animals you have, how big or small your property is, biosecurity is everyone's business.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the farmers that have taken part in this podcast series for their enthusiasm to share their knowledge with others. I'd also like to thank the dedicated professionals from Agriculture Victoria and RSPCA Victoria, who are working hard across the state every day.

In my time as Agriculture Minister, I've been really impressed by the work they do, and I'm so proud of the valuable contribution they make to protect and promote Victoria's agriculture sector.

If you enjoy this podcast series, don't forget to follow it and share it with your family and friends. To hear previous episodes search AgVic Talk wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you.

Page last updated: 09 Jul 2024