Autumn Newsletter 2024

Protecting the environment, encouraging productivity, engaging our community to ensure sustainable farming for current and future generations.”

Table of Contents

    March 2024 President’s Report

    Jack Tucker, President 

    Welcome to our Autumn newsletter, and thanks to our facilitator Nick Moll once again for compiling it!

    As always it has been a busy 3 months in Landcare. Most recently we held a compost workshop led by David Hardwick and sponsored by Australian Soil Management. This is the third time we have had David deliver workshops in the area, and like the others this was very strongly attended and well received. Well done to our Soil Health Sub Committee!

    The Willaura market was another extremely popular event, and it was great to see Nick onsite flying the flag for UHLMG in conjunction with Elia Pirtle (Nicks equivalent) from our neighbouring group, and good friends, Project Platypus. Elia’s interactive display definitely attracted plenty of interest from people of all ages and backgrounds!

    We are very pleased to be teaming up with Elia and Project Platypus to deliver a series of educational days (1 each term) that are focused on biodiversity to our local rural schools: Buangor, Pomonal, Moyston, Maroona and Willaura. The first one was held at The Nook near Moyston and the children learnt about bugs and helped survey this piece of bushland where they recorded 103 different critters, representing at least 40 different species! Results are now available on for those of you who are interested to learn more about what they found! It is exciting for our group to be engaging more with the Junior Landcarers of our region.

    The extreme weather over the last few months has been really testing for agricultural and natural ecosystems alike and has really come to a head in recent weeks with the heat and fires. It seems nearly everyone locally knows, or is connected somehow, to someone who has been affected by the fires and it has been an amazing community effort helping each other out.

    Clearly the fires have been disastrous for a lot of land managers in our area, but I have listed a few things that in Landcare terms could be turned into positives post fire:

    In regard to the fires, and getting a small positive out of a negative, there is great potential in burnt farmland to start with a clean slate and re-fence according to land – class and topography. This could potentially incorporate shelter belts/wildlife corridors and water points in strategic places and could be a real opportunity to fence off wetlands, riparian zones or areas prone to erosion.

    Given the timing of these fires, with (hopefully!!) the Autumn break not too far away it could be a prime time to look at projects such as liming and improving or establishing perennial pastures. Apart from obvious livestock production benefits, well managed perennial pastures can assist in opening up the soil and remediating compaction, improving water infiltration rates and increasing water and nutrient holding capacity. 

    It has been well documented across Australia that the effect of cats and foxes worsens considerably in the wake of fire, and that both species will move into burnt areas presumably due to the ease of hunting, with less available cover for their prey. This also means there is less cover for the cats and foxes themselves, and it could be an opportune time to increase pest predator control in the form of shooting and baiting. Along the same lines, fire will have exposed rabbit warrens and fox dens that would otherwise be hard to spot or inaccessible, which presents a really good opportunity for gassing or ripping.

    A large number of native flora species rely on fire to either open seed pods, or stimulate germination, or both. This can present an opportunity for ‘free’ reveg work. Low-cost stock exclusion areas made from second hand fencing materials can be easily erected around areas of natural regen post fire and can typically be removed to allow stock back in in 4-5 years. Likewise individual guards can be placed around seedlings, particularly highly palatable ones like Banksias and Casuarinas to protect them from the likes of stock, wallaby’s and deer. In my experience trees which have germinated naturally on site tend to be far more vigorous and healthy than those that have been hand planted (and free!!).

    One downside of this fire induced germination is that it works on noxious weed species such as gorse and blackberry, just like the natives. This however can be turned into a positive. By identifying weed seedlings early and spraying them, a large dint can be made in the seed bank, even in hard seeded species like gorse after fire.

    As always I encourage people to spread the word about our group and our newsletter!

    Happy Landcaring!


    MiniBeasts of Moyston School Field Day

    Elia Pirtle, Landcare Facilitator

    In an exciting day out, over 100 students from Willaura, Maroona, Moyston, Pomonal, and Buangor Primary Schools came together in Moyston for a special “bug-bioblitz” cluster day field trip. The trip was organized by the schools’ local Landcare facilitators: Nick Moll of the Upper Hopkins Land Management Group and Elia Pirtle of Project Platypus. Their goal? To get kids excited about nature and teach them about the tiny creatures that play a big role in our world.

    The adventure started at Moyston Primary School, where local Landcare facilitators, Nick and Elia, led the students in a discussion about the importance of ‘invertebrates’ – animals without backbones, like insects and spiders, or colloquially as we call them “bugs”. The students brainstormed what a world without bugs would look like – and all agreed it wouldn’t be pretty! Who would want to live in a world without any fruit or vegetables to eat (with no ‘pollinators’!), and an ever-growing ground layer of rotting plants and animal poop (with no ‘recyclers’ to break it down!).

    Once in the bush, Elia called on her background as a research scientist in entomology (the study of invertebrates) to give the students a demo on how to use the very expensive and high-tech tools of a professional entomologist. (Just kidding, these tools are incredibly cheap and simple, and are mostly made up of pillowcases, sticks, and plastic jars). The students broke up into teams, equipped with a sweep net, a beat sheet, and a kit of vials and paintbrushes, for capturing bugs for a closer look. Then we spent the morning ‘bug hunting,’ and checking out our finds under microscopes and magnifying glasses.

    After lunch, the students got creative, using their imaginations to design the “ultimate insect,” inspired by the real bugs they found. This activity made them think about the roles different bugs play in the environment and what features they would need to survive. Was their critter going to be a ‘pest controller’ or a ‘pollinator’? Did they need sharp teeth, or soft wings? (Or the ability to spit poison, like the very intimidating ultimate insect on the left!).

    Finally, it was time to get up and shake off our extra energy, before the ride back home. Nick had just the activity for it, he had created a unique game to let the students practice building food webs for themselves. Each student drew a card from a stack, and each card featured a photo of native species that could be found right here in Moyston. Then the kids had to find their partners in a food web (in other words, who they ate, and who would eat them) and link up their arms. Spiders paired up with moths, moths with flowers, cockroaches with dead leaves and bark, and birds and frogs got to help themselves to the variety of invertebrate ‘snack food’. We played the game with several combinations of species, and led discussions of what happens when an ecosystem doesn’t have enough predators to eat all the prey, or enough flowering plants to feed all the pollinators.

    The Moyston bug-blitz was more than just a fun day out, it was a powerful lesson in looking closely at the world around us and caring for it. The activities helped students see the beauty and importance of the littlest members of our natural world. And more than that, the bug-blitz let the students become important citizen scientists themselves!

    Each bug the kids found was photographed and recorded in iNaturalist, a global database where people from all over the world share observations of nature, and track biodiversity. So far, invertebrate experts have already helped us identify 45 different species, among the 103 different bugs that were found. The bugs were released back into the bush after their photo shoot. Check out all our bugs at the iNaturalist project here.

    The bug-blitz in Moyston showed everyone that bugs might be small, but their role in the environment is huge. And by learning about them and sharing that knowledge through projects like iNaturalist, we can all help look after our world a bit better. It’s a reminder that every one of us, no matter how small, can make a big difference in protecting the planet.

    Nick and Elia can’t wait to continue running these environmental themed cluster day field trips in each of the coming terms. Their time is funded by the Victorian Landcare Facilitator Program and additional grants including the Victorian Landcare Grants. Thank you to Willaura Primary School teachers for the amazing photos of the day!

    UHLMG Compost Day with David Hardwick

    Nick Moll, Landcare Facilitator

    On the 7th of Feb we were delighted to welcome back David Hardwick from Soil Land and Food who came to Maroona to talk all things compost! We had a great turn out of 30 people on the day.

    David was a knowledgeable and engaging speaker. We discussed the two types of compost: aerated compost (uncovered compost that is regularly turned) and fermentation compost (covered compost that is optionally turned once or twice to balance moisture levels or ingredients) and the pros and cons of each.

    David explained the most important signs to look out for in a healthy compost – the temperature spike to 65 – 70 degrees (Celsius) in the first day or two as a flush of aerobic activity took place, and then the temperature fall to 50 – 55 degrees which will remain stable for a number of weeks. The initial temperature spike is very important for determining if the compost has worked.

    The different types ingredients, the amount of carbon and nitrogen within them, and the balance of carbon to nitrogen required for a working compost were delved into at length, with David mentioning a number of times how little nitrogen was needed when compared to people’s expectations of how much nitrogen was needed.

    Some key takeaways from the day were to watch out for contaminated compost products (including weed seed), to select the right grade of ingredients for what you intend to do with the compost, and to get Compost Analysis Tests on ingredients and your final product to remove the guesswork.

    A week after the Compost Day on the 14th of Feb a large, male roo was unfortunately struck in front of my place and I decided to give mortality composting a go (composting with dead animals). I used a mix of old hay and wood chips thoroughly wet with water mixed with an old inoculant I had leftover at low rates (approx 10 litres inoculant to 800 litres water), covering the roo with about a metre of the compost mixture on all sides, I then covered it with builders plastic and waited. The temperature spiked to 68 before dropping to 55 and sitting there for a number of weeks.

    Over the recent heat wave the water moved to the outside of the compost heap, drying the centre, but not wanting turn it and uncover something unsavoury I made do with overhead watering which may or may not have worked. Now, at week 4, the compost heap is about 2/3’s of it’s original size and the latest temperature reading from the 14th of March was 42, so it seems to be waning sooner than it should. Whether it’s successful or not at least there’s been no smell!

    The best way to learn and improve is by giving it a go, happy composting everyone!

    If you didn’t attend the Compost Day and would like some resources on composting email me at and I can send them through to you.

    Thank you to Australian Soil Management for sponsoring the day and thank you to Chris Coad for hosting!

    Chris Coad has been delving deep into composting himself after the Compost Day. He began a static pile inoculated compost using ten old round bales of pasture hay (unrolled), wet with 10,000 litres of water. Chris mixed the wet hay (now at 50 degrees Celsius) in layers with one load of Bedford pig manure/straw bedding (courtesy of Max Valance), five loader buckets of ‘Aged Pig Manure’ (CN 9:1, temp 40 degrees), three loader buckets of sheep manure and one wheelbarrow of chook manure. He then used 20 litres of fermentation compost inoculant (brewed by Jayne Drum) mixed in 1,000 litres of water and sprayed it over the finished pile. The whole pile was then covered in builders plastic and weighed down by tyres (on the 8/2/2024).

    The compost heap was consistently measured in two places, check out his results below:

    Number of Days After Covering:Temperature (in Degrees Celsius)
    Day 2: 45 & 60 degrees
    Day 3:48 & 65 degrees
    Day 4:50 & 64 degrees
    Day 5:50 & 64 degrees
    Day 12:54 & 50 degrees
    Day 15:55 & 50 degrees
    Day 19:55 & 50 degrees
    Week 5:46 degrees
    Fermentation compost temperature readings over 5 weeks (manure and hay mix).

    It looks like it’s holding its temperature well – thanks for sharing Chris!

    Perennial Pasture Systems – Girls & Grass

    Perennial Pasture Systems – Girls & Grass

    The Girls & Grass social research project using photovoice to explore the impact of drought on young farmers commenced in February.


    This project is being financed through the Federal Governments initiative – Future Drought Fund – The Drought Research and Adoption Program will support networks of researchers, primary producers, and community groups to enhance drought resilience practices, tools and technology. Eight Hubs across Australia have been funded for four years.

    The Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub has its headquarters at the University of Melbourne’s Dookie Campus, it is a statewide partnership between four universities, the state government (Ag Vic) and five regionally well connected and engaged farming groups. In our region it is Southern Farming Systems (SFS). The others are: –  Food and Fibre Gippsland, Mallee Regional Innovation Centre, Birchip Cropping Group and the Riverine Plains.

    The PPS agreement with SFS is for between 6 – 8 people to participate in the project – using a method known as photovoice to explore the impact of drought on young farmers.  The aim is to have some useful suggestions/information that will enable PPS to support our farming families more effectively in future drought episodes.

    Seven rural women have participated in the project with three meetings in February.  Photovoice involves the use of two images to help express the thoughts of the individual participants and to create discussion within the group. The first photo is a depiction of what drought has meant to them. The second photo is an image of what drought could be next time. The photos are put together with the transcripts from the discussions. The professional social researcher is in this case, Professor of Social Work and Human Services with Federation University, Jennifer Martin.

    Jennifer and her team will compile a report by collating all the material, drawing upon common threads, and suggestions of what could be helpful in the future.

    The project methodology is called photovoice, it involves the use of photos to help express the thoughts of the participants and create discussion.

    Left to right – Bianca Kilpatrick (G&G committee member), Debbie Shea (Facilitator), Tricia Sweeney (G&G committee member), Jemma McDougall, Kate Vance, Professor Jennifer Martin and kneeling, Zoe Crouch.

    Now is the Time to Search for Tussock following Summer Rain

    Ivan Carter, VSTWP Communication Officer, 0422 605 953

    Now is the right time to check your property for the noxious weed serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma). The recent rains and mild summer in some parts of Victoria has been good for pastures and crops, but unfortunately, also good for the growth of serrated tussock. Controlling serrated tussock before the plant goes to seed is critical to prevent further spread, lost productivity and increased control requirements.

    Summer rains can cause a second seeding event for serrated tussock, which can lead to germination of more seedlings in Autumn. Now is the time to inspect your paddocks and ensure any plants are treated prior to seeding and further spread across the landscape.

    “Before flowering serrated tussock has a lime green appearance. When flowering the flowerheads have a distinctive purple colour developing as the seeds ripen in late spring and sometime late summer. These features help serrated tussock stand out from the native tussock grasses,” Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party Chair Lance Jennison said.

    Image 1: A serrated tussock plant in seed. Note the small purple seeds (VSTWP).

    The VSTWP has developed an online video and information sheets to help landowners identify the unwanted grass, which can be found at

    “Serrated tussock has a fine leaf and will roll smoothly between the index finger and thumb, while native tussocks feel as though they have flat edges,” Mr Jennison said. “The leaves also feel rough when you run your fingers downwards due to fine serrations,” he said. “A mature serrated tussock plant can produce thousands of seeds in a season, blowing up to 20 kilometres from the parent plant.”

    Controlling mature serrated tussock plants before they flower and seed can be done with registered herbicide, manual removal or cultivation. “Having a healthy pasture and competitive ground cover is one of the most important aspects to weed management, serrated tussock is a prime example of a weed that does not like competition and well established pastures,” Mr Jennison noted.

    Serrated tussock now covers more than 250,000 hectares of land in Victoria. Large infestations require ongoing management and the integration of a number of control techniques and result in reduced stock rates and land valuations. The Victorian Serrated Tussock Working Party (VSTWP) began in 1995 in response to the community’s deep concern with the spread of serrated tussock and can provide tailored advice for landowners impacted by serrated tussock.

    For further information, please visit, or contact the VSTWP on

    Image 2: A large infestation of serrated tussock in a grazing paddock near Bacchus Marsh Victoria (VSTWP).

    Nominations Now Open for the Landcare Victoria Board

    If you’d like to be involved in determining the strategic direction of Landcare Victoria over the next few years, please consider submitting a nomination. While all valid nominations will be accepted, candidates with relevant governance or financial skills and experience are strongly encouraged to nominate.

    Board nominations are open from 28 February to 10 April.

    Four positions are to be declared vacant at the 2024 AGM:

    ·         North Central

    ·         Port Phillip & Westernport

    ·         Wimmera

    ·         Professional Landcarer (open to all registered Professional Landcarers statewide)

    Additionally, there are three extraordinary vacancies:

    ·         Glenelg Hopkins

    ·         Goulburn Broken

    ·         Mallee

    For more information on the structure and function of the Board and to download a Nomination Form, please see our website.

    Bitterns on Farms – Expression of Interest

    For more information, or if you want to find out if you have or could have bitterns on your farm, please contact Chris at

    Birdlife Australia will also have a stall at the Lake Bolac Eel Festival this Saturday the 23rd of March, so you can drop in to have a chat with them and find out more.

    On-Farm Emissions Action Plan Pilot – Expression of Interest

    The On-Farm Emissions Action Plan Pilot is part of the Victorian Government’s commitment under the Agriculture Sector Emissions Reduction Pledge to provide practical information, tools and services to support farmers to understand and reduce emissions.

    The three-year pilot will work with up to 250 farm businesses across Victoria to estimate their on-farm emissions profile and identify potential actions to manage and reduce emissions while maintaining productivity and profitability. Participants will then be eligible for grant funding to co-fund recommended actions from a total pool of up to $5 million.

    The final round of the Pilot is targeting the beef, dairy, sheep, grains, pig, poultry and horticultural sectors. The program is an opportunity to learn about and assess your on-farm emissions profile and develop an action plan.

    Online EOIs open on 8 March 2024 and must be submitted by 11.59 pm on 03 April 2024.

    Producers interested in participating in the Pilot should email: to receive a summary document that describes the requirements of the pilot program and a link to the online Expression of Interest (EOI) form.

    To learn more about the Pilot click here.

    On-Farm Emissions Action Plan Pilot

    Events, Events, Events! – See upcoming events, courses and webinars of interest below

    Perennial Pasture Systems – Girls & Grass – Private Viewing of Just a Farmer

    Friends and members of Perennial Pasture Systems (including members of UHLMG) are invited to attend a private screening of Just a Farmer in Ararat on Monday the 25th of March at 6:30pm, hosted by Girls & Grass Advisory Group.

    Finger food will be served in the foyer. Excitingly, Leila and Sean McDougall will also be coming along to give a talk and answer questions at the end of the viewing.

    Book your ticket here.

    Just a Farmer – Alternative screening times

    Not in Ararat or can’t make this time? Check out other times and screening locations here, or view the trailer here.

    Whole Farm Planning Course for Fire Affected Farmers

    2023 in review, SFS Results Morning at Willaura

    The 2023 farming season was yet another challenging year, with its’ highs and lows. The Southern Farming Systems(SFS) Annual Trials Results Morning on Wednesday 20 March at Willaura in SW Victoria, will reflect on the season, use retrospect and get a reality check to move forward into 2024.  This is a SFS member’s only event, new members are welcome to sign up via the link or on the day.

    Key topics that will be explored include:

    • SFS Pasture trial results & future trials
    • Cam Nicholson, Nicon Rural Carbon Farming towards 2023
    • SFS Cropping Variety by Management trials yield and profit with differen management factors
      • Wheat –  winter and spring varieties, Plant Growth Regulators(PGR’s) and fungicides
      • Barley – varieties, PGR’s & plant density
      • Canola – Triazine Tolerant & Clearfield varieties and plant density to investigate what degree canola will compenate after and establishment damaging event
    • Discussion lead by facilitators Ashley Amourgis and Greta Duff,SFS with a panel of growers that pariticpated in the GRDC Hyper Yielding Project focus groups and awards, what was their experiences being involved in the group? What did they change/adopt during the 3 year project?
    • Take home messages for 2024

    Get your ticket at

    Sheep Containment FeedingBoost sheep enterprise resilience and performance 

    Have you considered containment feeding your sheep? 

    Do you containment feed sheep at certain times but want to do it better? 

    Do you want to know more about why, when and where you should containment feed? 

    Then you can benefit from taking part in the NEW Containment Feeding Program! 

    What is this project? 

    The inclusion of containment feeding in livestock enterprises can lead to improved productivity, improved reproductive performance, enhanced landscape and pasture management, greater drought resilience and increases in profitability. 

    A new project has been developed focused on supporting sheep producers to implement best practice containment feeding, suited to their individual farming systems. Expressions of interest are now open to participate in a pilot program where you will join a small group of like-minded sheep producers, paired with a trained advisor. The advisor will then work one-on-one with each of the producers in the group to support the decision-making, planning, design and implementation of a containment feeding setup best suited to the farmer, sheep enterprise and farming environment. 

    When is it happening? 

    Introductory Workshop 

    Dunkeld – Monday 25th March 8.45am – 5.00pm

    Inverleigh – Wednesday 27th March 8.45am – 5.00pm

    What is expected of producers? 

    Producers in the pilot program are expected to participate in a 1-day workshop, which will be a small group of sheep producers. Each participant will then have the opportunity to work one-on-one with an advisor to work through the decision-making processes, planning, design, and implementation specific to their farm and needs. Ideally, the producer group will meet again later to see what worked well (and what didn’t!) 

    Cost –Free, but places are limited so register your interest quickly via the link

    This project is supported by Southern Farming Systems, through funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.

    Southern Farming Systems Researching and Developing Profitable Pasture Systems for the HRZ

    In 2022, Southern Farming Systems (SFS) established the Rokewood pasture trial site to fulfil mixed farming member needs and fill the gap in pasture research and extension in the region.  Stocking rates on farms in southwest Victoria have remained relatively constant over the past 20 years. Yet there is evidence that higher stocking rates are possible and sustainable, which can result in greater farm profit.

    Recently SFS has been successful in gaining a Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) project that will run for the next 5 years to benefit mixed producers through proof-of-concept trials, research and extension activities with workshops and 1:1 advice/consultations to bridge the theoretical gap in stocking rate by addressing a  combination of productivity constraints, insufficient knowledge, producer’s tolerance to risk and the confidence to implement new practices.

    The Rokewood site will become a Producer Demonstration Site funded by MLA to test whether and how new research fits within farming systems, through the addition of 14 new trials focussing on showing how pastures can be more productive in the region.  And supporting producers and agronomists to learn new skills through more detailed workshops to gain confidence in implementing and adopting some of the practices on their own farms, with free consultation advice.

    To kick off the project SFS is having an open site inspection on Wednesday 13th March from 4.30pm, to show case existing trials that featured at Feedbase Focus in November last year (see their seasonal progress), discuss the future trials that will start this autumn and what is available to local producers to increase their skills and knowledge.

    Come join in the conversation and follow along as the SFS team wanders through the existing trials discussing the current progress, limitations and considerations for the different pasture types, the current moth and cricket pest burdens seen in the state, and hear about the new trials starting in April and what we hope to see from them later in the year. Starting at 4:30 pm, refreshments will be provided at the walk and it will be a relaxed event, giving participants a chance to network and ask questions. For catering purposes please register by visit the SFS website at

    Southern Farming Systems Events 2024

    Eel Festival 22-23 March 2024 – Themed ‘Song, Story, Dance; Ceremony and Celebration’

    The 14th Lake Bolac Eel Festival is fast approaching with an exciting program of regional music and cultural offerings confirmed. Over Friday 22 March to Saturday 23 March this year, it includes a variety of activities to appeal to people of all ages and stages. Thanks to sponsor support, the festival’s very reasonable entry prices have been kept the same as the last festival in 2022. See to purchase. The cost to attend ($33) includes dinner by Castlemaine’s Murnong Mammas served by RMIT students.

    The festival kicks off on the Friday night with an Art Auction and dinner in the Lake Bolac Memorial Hall. Talented regional artists are providing some 30 pieces for auctioning at affordable prices.

    “The Art Auction is a really fun night where you can also meet the artists involved as well as make new friends in the area,” festival chair Rachel Taylor said.

    The following day sees the festival proper kick-off with a Welcome to Country followed by a day of impressive music performances, interesting workshops and information stalls with food stalls to keep you going into the night. The music program includes: Brett Clarke, Seal Prince and the Roof Rats, Tim Scanlan, Bruce Watson, Skyglass, Gabby Steel Band, Andy Alberts Band and Neil Murray.

    A key feature of the day is the Festival Forum which explores the festival theme: ‘Song, Story, Dance: Ceremony and Celebration’. The 2-hour forum will feature an Indigenous dance presentation by musician and cultural warrior Brett Clarke; with Elder Aunty Adeline Thomas presenting the women’s perspective.

    Eels will be the topic for Tasmanian eel expert, Malcolm Johnson and Heritage Park Ranger, Tyson Lovett-Murray from Budj Bim Cultural Landscape. Dr Rod Giblett from Deakin University  will examine the environmental history of the Hopkins River. Also presenting is Wergaia/Wamba Wamba Elder and Chair, Yoorrook Justice Commission, Prof. Eleanor Bourke AM. The commission is the first formal truth-telling process into historical and ongoing injustices experienced by Victorian First Peoples.

    Workshops include indigenous basket weaving, easy ukulele, carving a butter spreader, making botanical headbands and masks, and making an eel-skin musical instrument.

    Volunteers are a vital part of the festival, with a minimum of 4 hours before the festival or 2 hours on festival days rewarded with a complementary ticket to attend the festival proper. Contact Una Allender at or on 0419891920.

    Eel Festival Art Auction – Regional Talent Under the Hammer

    Some 30 artworks by talented regional artists will go under the hammer at this year’s Lake Bolac Art Auction. The auction which showcases South West artists helps raise money to keep the festival at affordable prices.

    “The auction is a chance for people to purchase unique artworks at very affordable prices,” festival chair, Rachel Taylor, said. “It’s also a great night out with an Indigenous-inspired dinner by Castlemaine’s Murnong Mummas.”

    Artists whose works will be on sale include: Eileen Harrison, Howard Brandenburg, Ken Rookes, Brett Clarke, Anne-Marie Randall, Josh McLean, Kylie Moroney and Tinika Clifford.

    Artworks are in a range of media including textile, linocut, photography, illustration and drawing inspired by nature and Indigenous history and knowledge.

    Reserve prices range from $100 to $400 with 30 percent of proceeds supporting the ongoing viability of the festival.

    The festival, the 14th to be held, is on Friday 22 to Saturday 23 March with the art auction on the Friday night.

    Auction attendees will be treated to the music of Where Water Meets, a captivating chamber folk duo.

    Auction and dinner tickets have been kept at the same price as the last festival ($33) and can be purchased via

    The festival is held every 2 years to mark the autumn gathering of local First Nations for the eel season.

    It is sponsored by Ararat Rural City Council, the Willaura and Lake Bolac Bendigo Community Bank, Pitch, GWM Water, Glenelg Hopkins CMA, South West TAFE and the Beyond Bolac Catchment Action Group.

    Applications are still open for artists who would like to submit up to 2 artworks. Contact the Art Auction Coordinator Lisa Hall at or on 0488 102 191.

    To learn more about the Eel Festival or to purchase tickets to attend please click here.

    Soils For life – Soil Health Challenge

    The Soils for Life Soil Health Challenge for Croppers has begun!

    As part of the Soil Health Challenge for Croppers Soils for Life are offering a limited number of grain growers two years free access to the Soilmentor soil health monitoring app, worth $1,000! This is a great opportunity for farmers to track and better understand their soil health in a group learning project.

    To learn more about the Soil Health Challenge click here or to join the challenge click here.

    Viewing Birds as Farm Assests

    On Farm Trail – Precision Agriculture – Protecting Wetlands Together

    Jileena Cole, Landcare Facilitator – Beyond Bolac Catchment Action Group


    Farm Dams

    Southern Farming Systems 

    Farm dams are critical to farming properties, but they are limited in their capacity to hold water for extended periods and rely on regular rainfall to fill them.

    Their vulnerability during drought periods has researchers looking into small farm dams. SFS is leading a project with Federation University researchers to help understand small farm dam hydrology and help improve decision-making during drought and a future impacted by climate change.

    This project is part of the Victorian Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub, funded by the Federal Government’s Future Drought Fund.  

    This week saw the first installations of instrumentation installed at several southwest farms to measure rainfall and run-off.

    The equipment installed:

    • Next to the dam, a weather station that captures rainfall with various sensors that measure wind direction and speed, solar radiation, and temperature.
    • 20 to 50m upstream in the dam catchment, a soil moisture probe is installed to measure catchment runoff.
    • Lastly, there is a water level sensor in the dam to measure fluctuations in dam height with rainfall and water loss.  

    These instruments will continue to be installed across Victoria at other small dams near Bendigo, Wangaratta and Gippsland.

    Researchers from the Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation (CeRDI) aim to create a spatial tool with the data to allow the rapid calculation of the likely runoff for different rainfall scenarios into existing small dams to help farmers prepare, cope and recover from drought.

    This will then be combined with existing tools and calculators from Agriculture Victoria to enable farmers to assess and plan the adequacy of their current farm dams to capture sufficient water and cope with drought.

    New SPAA Manual brings Grower Insight to Precision Ag

    Australian grain growers will benefit from new insights into precision agriculture (PA) for the grains industry with the release of the PA in Practice III manual.

    The publication was launched by Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Western Panel chair Darrin Lee today (February 26) at the Grains Research Update in Perth.

    Produced by the Society of Precision Agriculture Australia (SPAA) with GRDC investment, the manual is part of the project precision fertiliser decisions in a tight economic climate.

    Mr Lee said Australian growers were eager to implement PA into their farming practices, and for many the goal was limiting per hectare fertiliser usage while maintaining crop yields.

    “Through our National Grower Network (NGN) and grower feedback mechanisms, GRDC has identified grower demand for education and extension to optimise the outcomes of PA adoption,” Mr Lee said.

    “Growers want to know the questions they should be asking suppliers, agronomists, and consultants. They want to be aware of potential challenges and have the chance to listen to other growers’ success stories and advice.”

    Mr Lee said a 2021 grower survey by SPAA and GRDC indicated that more than 50% of respondents wanted to use precision agriculture to make planting and fertilising decisions based on more data.

    “Through the updated PA in Practice manual, growers have access to over 100 pages of content detailing PA throughout the season: pre-sowing, sowing, in-crop and at harvest. In addition, comprehensive case studies facilitate peer-to-peer learning and make the information easy to digest for growers.”

    SPAA Executive Offer Angelique McAvoy said the manual catered to all grain producers, agronomists or advisers regardless of their knowledge of PA.

    “PA in Practice has been designed as a comprehensive foundational manual that clarifies definitions and provides step-by-step guides to applying PA such as remote sensing imagery, interpreting yield data, developing strip trials, or what to consider when choosing a new PA platform,” Ms McAvoy said.

    “Complementing each chapter are 18 case studies from grain growers across Australia, providing relatable and regional perspectives. The generosity of all those who have contributed their knowledge and thought leadership to produce the content of PA in Practice III is greatly commended.”

    Ms McAvoy acknowledged the publication’s author Alisa Bryce for her pivotal role in simplifying technical content and creating a valuable resource for a broad agricultural audience.

    “PA in Practice will remain a vital SPAA educational resource that will be integrated into webinars and other learning platforms. It will play a key role in bridging knowledge gaps and addressing barriers to the adoption of PA,” Ms McAvoy said.

    The manual’s release complements a national series of seven SPAA variable rate technology workshops supported by GRDC investment and delivered in 2023, which provided training to support growers’ fertiliser decision making, particularly with rising input costs.

    The publication is available on the GRDC website.

    (left to right) GRDC Grower Relations Manager West Luke Dawson, GRDC Western Panel Chair Darrin Lee, SPAA Executive Officer Angelique McAvoy and SPAA President Phil Honey at the launch of the PA in Practice III manual. Photo: GRDC

    About Us: GRDC is one of 15 Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) responsible for planning, investing in and overseeing research, development and extension for 25 leviable grain crops. Our purpose is to invest in RD&E to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers.

    Growers Urged to Report Mouse Numbers

    Grain growers across Australia are being urged to check paddocks for mouse numbers and record mouse activity as part of a national campaign aimed at early detection and effective control ahead of this year’s winter crop.

    Concerns about mouse numbers were front of mind at the latest meeting of the National Mouse Group (NMG). NMG is a Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) investment, developed to co-ordinate action to counter mouse plagues and comprising specialist researchers, grain growers, advisers and industry stakeholders.

    GRDC supported mouse researcher Steve Henry from CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, is encouraging growers to monitor and log mouse activity this season through the free MouseAlert website, via X (formerly Twitter) using @MouseAlert or though the FeralScan Pest Mapping app.

    MouseAlert is a free online tool that allows growers to record and view mouse activity in their area, aiding in the collective efforts of the National Mouse Group to track and manage mouse populations effectively.

    Mr Henry said monitoring also had a key role in providing organisations, such as CSIRO, with a more comprehensive understanding of mouse activity, which could assist in research that informed and improved management strategies for growers.

    “We are urging growers to get out of their utes and check their paddocks. Even if you think mouse numbers may be low, get out, walk through paddocks and look closely for any signs of current mouse activity. High stubble loads can hide the signs of mouse activity,” Mr Henry said.

    “While mouse numbers varied across cropping zones, if present in high numbers, they could have devastating impacts on crops being sown in the coming months.”

    Regular monitoring and early identification of mouse infestations is essential. If left unchecked, a mouse population can quickly escalate and result in crop losses, reduced yields, and increased costs associated with pest control measures. In addition to eating crops, mice can also damage infrastructure such as irrigation systems and farm buildings.

    “This year, we are seeing localised and patchy mouse activity. In some areas, good summer rains could lead to increased mouse numbers, but conversely, flood events may have helped to keep mouse populations low. The key message is to monitor,” Mr Henry said.

    Growers who do record high numbers are advised to apply control measures when background food is at its lowest, which is generally at sowing, to give mice the best chance of finding and eating the bait and to protect germinating crops. 

    Growers should also be aware that the emergency permit for ZnP50 expired at the at the end of December 2023, so 25g/kg zinc phosphide baits (ZnP25) are currently the only registered bait available. Zinc phosphide bait must be spread according to the label rate of one kilogram per hectare.

    Growers are reminded, as with the use of any registered product or product under permit, to report unexpected outcomes (including lack of efficacy or off-target effects) directly to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)’s Adverse Experience Reporting Program.

    While correct use of bait products is critical, GRDC Pest Manager Leigh Nelson said chemical control was only part of the solution.

    “It’s not just about putting the bait out and hoping for the best, growers need to continue checking paddocks, assess the situation and decide if additional actions are necessary,” Dr Nelson said.

    “Safety is also a key concern, particularly when handling bait. Growers should take care when transferring bait from bulk bags to spreaders to avoid spills and ensure the safety of all involved.”

    For more information go to the GRDC Mouse Management page.

    About Us: GRDC is one of 15 Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) responsible for planning, investing in and overseeing research, development and extension for 25 leviable grain crops. Our purpose is to invest in RD&E to create enduring profitability for Australian grain growers.

    Safe EC Levels For Livestock

    EC values for each species of livestock denotes the level at which production decline begins:  

    Beef Cattle: 6,200 EC μS/cm

    Lactating Ewes and Weaners: 6,000 EC μS/cm

    Dry Sheep: 9,300 EC μS/cm

    Horses: 6,200 EC μS/cm

    Pigs: 3,100 EC μS/cm

    Poultry: 3,100 EC μS/cm 

    Charts colour-coded: Green = Safe, Yellow = Unsafe for some species, Red = Unsafe for all livestock

    Upper Mount Emu Creek Sites

    Fiery Creek Sites

    Hopkins River Sites

    Happy Landcaring!