Spring 2023 Newsletter

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

2023 Upper Hopkins LMG President’s Report

Jack Tucker, President 

Welcome to the Spring edition of our newsletter, which has come around very quickly!

I would really like to acknowledge our new facilitator, Nick. He’s doing a fantastic job, and I believe all members of the committee would agree he has fitted in really well.

On ground Winter has been very busy in terms of Landcare. Many reveg based projects have either been completed or are well underway. A huge congratulations to all who have braved the cold and wet to get trees in the ground!!

After three good seasons on the trot, the sight of healthy woodlands and grasslands, and full wetlands overflowing and covered in birds, combined with the sound of frogs has nearly become the norm. Let’s hope the forecast El Nino doesn’t eventuate or is a mild one at the very least.

In the case that the forecast heat and dry does come to fruition, ability for wildlife to find suitable habitat becomes more important than ever. Structures such as rocks and fallen timber, and vegetation, like tussocks and reeds, are critically important for the survival of frogs and small reptiles and their invertebrate food sources. Likewise shade and shelter, in terms of trees and shrubs, and reliable water points are key to enable wildlife survival during extreme heat and dry.

Each newsletter I seem to end up prattling on about some particular subject, and this time around I’ve decided to write about birds on farms. A healthy and diverse bird population is a symptom of a healthy and diverse farm eco system. It has been really pleasing throughout the district to see wildlife corridors established from the 80s right through until now starting to link up. This has enabled movement of wildlife, including a lot of bird species not regularly seen prior, into our farming landscape. Hopefully the trend will continue and there will be a lot more into the future!

Below are some tips and information around attracting and looking after birds on farms, learned through observation and from my bird fancier friends:

Diversity creates diversity! The number of species of trees, shrubs and grasses present will be directly proportional to the number of bird species (and all other wildlife) in any given habitat.

Shrubs and more shrubs! Wrens, Thornbills, Babblers and any number of small bird species are dependent on dense understory shrubs for nesting and protection in general. Historically low dense shrubs have often been left out of farm reveg projects due to concerns about creating rabbit habitat. In these situations, understory species can be added retrospectively, and there is generally a large jump in bird population and species present when this is done.

Allow grasses to seed. Parrots and Cockatoos are well documented seed eaters, eating spilt grain or crops. Lesser known are birds like Finches and Firetails (and many more) which largely eat small seeds like grass seeds.

Reliable water with nearby perches. Obviously, birds need to drink, but during hot weather the majority at some point will use water to splash in and cool down as well. Small birds need to drink regularly, and lots of them will stay in a relatively small ‘territory’ near water. If more water points are provided it allows for a greater overall small bird population. Water points with perches are far more enticing for some species. In a farming situation this can easily be achieved by placing fallen limb/s next to or in a dam with a loader.

Pretty and colourful may not be best. By focusing on planting tree and shrub species with large showy flowers or blossoms, an imbalance in bird species, leaning towards large territorial nectar eaters like Lorikeets, Wattlebirds or Noisy Miners may occur. These species are very aggressive and will often displace other smaller (and sometimes larger!) species that would otherwise be present. Planting some showy species is fine but the focus should always be on local indigenous species.

Always leave flight paths. When planting around farm dams or wetlands, always leave at least 2 good clear flight paths for waterbirds to enter and exit from. On a similar subject, when fencing off a dam or wetland, don’t put the fence too close to the water’s edge. An unseen fence can have nasty consequences for a fast-flying waterbird.

Retain and protect remnant trees. It is well documented that large remnant trees, dead or alive, and their hollows are critical for the survival of a vast number of bird (and other) species. The benefits of remnant vegetation for birds are too great to list here!

Avoid using anticoagulant mouse bait. Well documented in recent times, anticoagulant rodent bait has, and is having a devastating effect on birds of prey, particularly owls via secondary poisoning.

If anyone has any queries regarding farm birds/habitat/ID please contact me directly (jack@rhyniepastoral.com.au) and I will happily put you in touch with someone who knows the answers if I don’t!

Once again, I encourage everyone to spread the word regarding our group. We are always on the lookout for new members. We don’t make a lot of noise, but through the hard work and dedication of our committee we are really achieving good things both on the ground and in education.

Happy Landcaring!


Birds on Farms Project

Celia Tucker, Secretary 

Since late 2019, here at Rhynie Pastoral, we have been contributing data periodically to the Birds on Farms project with guidance and support from our friend Dave Nichols. We have three monitoring sites, two of which are located within the Shepherd’s Hut Sanctuary fence and the third is along a nearby creek line.

In its simplest form, the Birds on Farms project assists participating properties to have bird surveys undertaken quarterly at up to 4 plots using a standardised 20 minute-2 hectare survey method. Experienced landholders can carry out the regular bird surveys themselves. In other cases, volunteer birdwatchers are arranged to assist with the regular surveys – with keen landholders encouraged to join in as part of an informal training/mentorship arrangement.

The Birds on Farms monitoring project collects critical data for addressing knowledge gaps around woodland bird populations and habitat use on private land. It is designed for farmers, birdwatchers, scientists and the general public to learn more about birds on private rural properties – and to use this information to protect and enhance their habitats.

If you’re interested in learning more about this Birdlife Australia project or becoming involved, click here or contact the project coordinator (shannon.creaney@birdlife.org.au).

Chatsworth House Field Day

We are very grateful for the support we have received for the 2023 Field Day being held at Chatsworth House in October.

In particular we would like to acknowledge Bendigo Bank, through funds for community investment from the Willaura and Lake Bolac Community Bank, and Glenelg Hopkins CMA, through funding from the Australian Government.

We have a very exciting line up of speakers for this 2-day event, with a strong focus on building natural capital, farm resilience and profitability.

For more information on the Field Day click here, or to buy tickets click here.

The Benefits of Having Birds on Your Farm

Nick Moll, Landcare Facilitator

Birds can be seen as a mixed blessing by farmers. Whilst they can predate insects and increase yields, they can also eat crops and may act as carriers of pathogens. However, the benefits of birds on farms are widely regarded to far outweigh the detriments, particularly if farms have areas of natural habitat, such as wetlands, shelterbelts, reserves and remnant vegetation.

Research has found that on habitat-rich farms birds are less likely to consume crops, opting instead to consume their natural diets, such as wild seeds or insects, if it is available to them (Olimpi et al. 2022). Birds with access to wilderness are also less likely to be carriers of some pathogens, and the risk of pathogen contamination via bird vectors in general was found to be very low (Smith et al. 2020).

The predatory benefits of birds has also been investigated across many different systems and results have been overwhelmingly positive. For example, when natural habitat was available for birds on sunflower farms in California, pest damage to the sunflower seeds was reduced by nearly four times (Kross et al. 2020). A similar study in California’s vineyards found that when nesting boxes were used to attract Western Bluebirds, more than twice as many vine-damaging beet armyworms were removed from plants, and almost all beet armyworms were removed from plants within 25 metres of active nest boxes (Jedlicka, Greenberg & Letourneau 2011).

Although a lot of available research about the benefits of birds on farms has been carried out in America, a number of locations in Victoria and New South Wales have been put under the microscope by Dr Rebecca Peisley. Her research has turned up findings such as in orchards, birds were found to reduce insect damage by 20%. In vineyards insectivorous birds reduced damage to plants by 50%. In pastoral systems predatory birds helped with insect and carcass management, reduced the spread of disease and discouraged pests such as foxes. On average the presence of birds on farms increased yield by 10-15% (Peisley 2017). To access all of Peisley’s studies click here and download the PDF.

Although it can be hard to predict exactly how birds could impact your farm, it seems promising that they could provide a number of benefits to the ecosystem, to biodiversity and to your profits.

To delve further into any research mentioned here, click on the in-text reference to follow the link to the original study.

NGT’s Wetland Restoration Program on Private Land is Back!

Do you have a wetland on your land that you would like to restore? Click here for more information on how Nature Glenelg Trust can help you to achieve it.

Great Gariwerd Bird Survey Course 2023

Want to learn more about birds?

Check out this exciting 10-week course being held at the Skipton Mechanics Institute Hall on Tuesday nights 5 to 9pm . Spaces are limited so get in quick!

Citizen Science Projects

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

Perennial Pasture Systems 14th Annual Conference; Ararat Town Hall 5/9/23

Perennial Pasture Systems is a regional, independent farmer driven group; one of the activities that is conducted as part of their annual calendar of events is a full day conference.  The 14th Annual Conference will be held Tuesday, September 5th at the Ararat Town Hall.  Each year the conference follows the same format of speaker sessions, a farm tour, concluding with the Annual meeting and dinner, including a guest speaker.  

This year’s conference will commence with a session on farm and pasture investment. Lisa Warn from Warn Ag Consulting has updated the financial data from a pasture investment project that was completed in 2018. The “Greenfields Project” was a full pasture and infrastructure analysis on recently purchased land at Glenlofty near Elmhurst. Lisa has updated the results using 2023 prices and costs; it will be interesting to see the outcome.

Cam Morris from Ag Diagnostics will continue the pasture investment theme by looking at management options to quickly improve profitability on existing paddocks prior to a pasture renewal stage. Cam will also present plans for his recently purchased farm on King Island; his home territory.

Professor, Bill Malcolm from Melbourne University will complete the session by analysing farm expansion options in his usual entertaining and informative manner.

Farm employment is an important issue in farming businesses and joint session will be conducted during the second part of the conference with Carlyn Sherriff from Pinion Advisory and Stuart Robinson, farm manager at Terrinallum Estate putting presenting information on how to find quality farm staff and how to be a preferred employer.

Lunch will follow with a lamb based menu provided by Deb’s Diner with the food and conversation always a conference highlight.

It will be back to the serious stuff after lunch when Dr Kate Burke from Think Agri and Dan Jess from Illoura Farms at Ballyrogan will tackle the main theme of the conference “Rolling with extremes – Are we ready or just going steady”? The session will look at on and off farm tactics to help “bullet proof” the farm business and is sure to be a very thought provoking session.

The conference tour will then be conducted at Tom Brady’s new property “Jallukar Ridge” at Rhymney where participants will see many of the conference themes being implemented in a practical way.

The day will finish with the Annual Conference Dinner and guest speaker. PPS feels privileged to welcome high profile AFL personality, Peter Jess to the conference to tell his story of playing football for Avoca and rising to be an influential player manager. He is now focused on the welfare of former players who have long term effects of concussions which they received in their playing days.

The conference is open to anyone interested in agriculture to join its members at the 14th Annual Conference. Contact the PPS Project Manager at yadin061@tpg.com.au for further information or get tickets here.

Soil Carbon explained in new eLearn

Heather Field, Agriculture Victoria Climate Change Service Development Officer

Are you keen to understand more about soil carbon?

Agriculture Victoria has developed a soil carbon eLearning module that will provide a great introduction for those seeking a better understanding of soil carbon, its role and function in agriculture. 

Over recent decades farmers have been actively working towards conserving and increasing soil carbon and reducing soil carbon losses by improved farm management practices.

Soil carbon is critical for soil health, improving productivity, profitability and resilience.

While soil carbon is easy to lose, and can be challenging to increase, it’s important to remember that maintaining your soil carbon levels whilst producing food and fibre is a great outcome.

The introduction to soil carbon eLearn delves into:

  • soil health benefits of soil carbon
  • difference between soil carbon and soil organic matter
  • influence of soil type, climate and land management on soil carbon stocks
  • impacts of agriculture practices on soil carbon
  • where to go for further information and resources.

If you would like to learn about the importance of soil carbon, this is a great resource.

Access the Introduction to soil carbon eLearn here.

Workshop Event on Agriculture, Water and Economics – Online Recorded Session

The Yarning Circle presents how traditional fire and water knowledge is supporting better practices for agriculture in regions around Australia.

With a 10-minute presentation from the panel and then a 40-minute Q&A from the audience to the panel. Listen here.

Research-in-Action Cesar Australia Webinar

Southern Farming Systems Events

AGRIFOCUS 2023 – Farming in a changing climate

AGRIFOCUS 2023 is Southern Farming Systems leading technical event for high rainfall zone farming systems.  This unique event provides access for farmers & agronomists to the latest research and expertise.

AgriFocus is being held at the SFS Streatham trial site on the 18th of October.  Keynote sessions will be themed around ‘farming in a changing climate’ which will explore farm carbon emissions and farm profitability under climate change.

The choose your own adventure matrix is filled with presentations in the field offering both proof of concept in trials, and key information from leading experts.

The trials featured on the day will include:

  • Soils – Soil ameliorants of lime & gypsum, Subsoil amelioration
    • Cereals – Varieties, Disease management and resistance ratings update, PGRs, Nutrition
    • Canola – Varieties, Disease management, Weed management, Plant densities
    • Faba Bean – Varieties, Disease management, Weed management
    • Vetch – Management for hay production
    • Crop Sequencing – exploring crop rotation, diversity, intensity, sequence, end use and more
    • Plus exhibits from our partners, including machinery from Premier Partner Swayn and McCabe Claas Harvest Centre.

“If you are farming in the high rainfall zone, this is a field day not to be missed!  To have access to research trials in your own backyard is priceless” said Michelle McClure, AgriFocus Coordinator.

AgriFocus is in its thirteenth year and Southern Farming Systems needs farmer support to keep the industry forging forward and pushing the boundaries for the HRZ, don’t take it for granted.  Look forward to seeing you there!

For more information and to book your ticket click here.

Skipton GRDC Harvester Workshop 20 September: Prevent grain losses and improve profits this harvest 

Date and Location: 

  • Skipton, VIC Wednesday 20th September 

Location: “Borriyalloak” 2339 Lismore-Skipton Rd, Skipton, VIC 

Duration: 9 am – 3 pm AEST

To support growers to reduce harvest losses and improve operations at harvest, Southern Farming Systems are hosting a free harvester workshop in Skipton 20 September 2023. These Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) funded workshops will be delivered across South Australia and Victoria. 

The full day workshop, facilitated by state-based farming systems groups, will bring together harvester specialists, industry experts and researchers to discuss preventable harvester grain losses and how to measure these, improvements in efficiency and output, methods of harvest weed seed control (HWSC), the prevention of harvester fires and calibrating harvester technology. 

“These field days are invaluable – you can talk to other growers, to understand what their challenges are and talk to the operators who are using these machines. It gives you confidence in your decision-making,” said WA grower Noel Fowler who attended a workshop run in 2020 at Cuballing, south of Perth. “We’ve seen and heard now that implementing harvest weed seed control methods can give you a return in three to five years, and after that it’s money in the bank.” 

VIC grower Jane Foster was impressed with the content and scope the 2021 workshops covered and the confidence she was given to directly apply what he had learnt to his harvest operations: “To actually come to someone’s farm and to have the headers out and be able to see first-hand the implementation of some of these ideas and to see what’s working and what isn’t, it’s great.” 

The program will cover: 

  • Understanding the impact of harvest loss, how to measure it and how to change your harvester to reduce losses. 
  • HWSC latest information, sharing how to set-up for effective HWSC using mills systems (iHSD, Seed Terminator, SCU) chaff decks & chaff lining 
  • Reducing the risk of harvester fires 
  • Improving harvester capacity and efficiency 
  • Managing harvest operations, productivity, and economics 
  • Grain storage considerations 

Register here or the GRDC Events page or call Michelle 0488 600 692

Southern Farming Systems Event Calendar

13 Hamilton – Tour the Sites – Site Inspection no formal presentations come along and chat to staff about the progress of the trials 9.00-10.30am 
14 Streatham – Tour the Sites – Streatham Hall Session – Bureau of Meteorology forecasting and tools, Sub Soil amelioration and TBC Latest Frost Tools
15 Inverleigh – Tour the Sites – Site Inspection no formal presentations come along and chat to staff about the progress of the trials 9.00-10.30am 
20 Skipton – GRDC Harvester Workshop

18 AgriFocus – Streatham
1 Rokewood – Feed Base Focus – Inaugural Pasture Site Field Day 

3 Tasmania – Spring Field Day
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO REGISTER visit www.sfs.org.au/events or contact Michelle 0488 600 692

Covering Legal Matters and Obligations – a Not-for-profit Organisation Workshop

For questions and enquiries contact b.northeast@ghcma.vic.gov.au

UHLMG Spring Garden Day 2023

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

Lake Bolac Bush Playground


This is a chance for families with children up to 5yo to get out into nature and engage in a range of activities.

First & Third Wednesday of the month @ Lake Bolac Foreshore 9.15am to 12pm.

Local Heliothis Monitoring – Spring 2023

Jayne Drum, Committee Member 

Pheromone traps are currently being setup across the local area at Willaura North, Maroona, Rossbridge and Wickliffe to monitor weekly flights of the Heliothis moth, both Helicoverpa punctigera and Helicoverpa armigera species.

When a Heliothis flight is detected it gives early warning of when to expect caterpillar activity. It allows for precise application of appropriate control methods, if they are required.

H. armigera Caterpillar

Photo taken by Paul Horne, IPM Technologies

Wadawurrung Yarn on Farm

Nick Moll, Landcare Facilitator 

On the 9th of Aug I had the opportunity to go along to a Wadawurrung Yarn on Farm in Stoneleigh.

The speakers were very engaging, and we were able to look at and handle a number of rock artefacts, from axe heads to spears, knives for cutting or skinning, and rocks used as hammers or grinding stones. It was great to hear about how the tools were created and used.

The defining characteristics of each artefact and how to identify them were also explained.

The process of reporting any artefacts found on your land was clearly and openly covered and mostly just involved a phone call. It was then explained how representatives would come by when it suited the landowner, and the artefacts would be logged before they’d work with the landowner to find a suitable place as close as possible to the site of the discovered artefacts to leave them where they’d remain protected and undisturbed into the future.

The Glenelg Hopkins CMA is looking at holding more Yarns on Farm in our area, and I would highly recommend them. It was a great way to learn about the stone artefacts that are, sometimes quite literally, right at our feet.

Slugging Slugs and Conical Snails

Nick Moll, Landcare Facilitator 

The Slug and Snail IPM Event was held on Thurs Aug 31st. It was a cloudy and misty day, perfect weather for slugs!

Michael Nash very thoroughly covered the topic of both slug and conical snail integrated pest management strategies.

Discussions covered a number of possible strategies like baiting (how, when and at what rate), biological controls, breeding monitoring, opportunistic reproduction, ways to handle stubble, slug ID and why it’s important to know what type of slug you’re looking at, how to use soil nutrition to support your crops and much more. 

We had a great crowd attend, with a lot of knowledge held within the audience which included farmers, agronomists and product suppliers.

Weaknesses in current slug management plans and threats to commonly used management strategies in the region were also considered, along with potential solutions.

Overall, I think everyone came away from the morning with something to think about. 

The day finished up with a delicious lunch, an opportunity to mingle and ask questions of all the experts in the room and compare experiences. 

Perennial Pasture Systems 13th Annual Study Tour 4th-6th June 2023

Since the group’s inception in 2007; PPS has recognised the value of members visiting leading farms in other regions as well as being informed of regional research projects. In 2009, PPS implemented an annual study tour as part of the group’s extension activities and since then has held single and multiple day tours within Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania and New Zealand.

In 2023, the study tour made up part of the Ag Tech Project supported by AgriFutures with assistance from Agriculture Victoria. 26 members left Stawell on Sunday June 4th for S.A., although the first farm visit was in Victoria.

Pankina Farm is between Edenhope & Apsley and is operated by PPS members Clint, Tim & Rosie Rokebrand. The 600 Ha property is situated in magnificent red gum country and carries a 12/14 DSE/Ha in the 550mm annual rainfall region.

Since the group’s inception in 2007; PPS has recognised the value of members visiting leading farms in other regions as well as being informed of regional research projects. In 2009, PPS implemented an annual study tour as part of the group’s extension activities and since then has held single and multiple day tours within Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania and New Zealand.

In 2023, the study tour made up part of the Ag Tech Project supported by AgriFutures with assistance from Agriculture Victoria. 26 members left Stawell on Sunday June 4th for S.A., although the first farm visit was in Victoria.

Pankina Farm is between Edenhope & Apsley and is operated by PPS members Clint, Tim & Rosie Rokebrand. The 600 Ha property is situated in magnificent red gum country and carries a 12/14 DSE/Ha in the 550mm annual rainfall region.

Interestingly, despite the moderate rainfall, wet winters are a limiting factor in the farm’s productivity. Sheep genetics are a major focus with selection for non mulsing and good muscle traits to compliment the quality 18-micron wool flock. Clint and Tim are great believers in off farm study and the use of consultants to continually improve, an example is the use of variable rate fertilser testing and application.

The Rokebrand’s are great supporters of the local area and organised the lunch provided by the Apsley Hotel; the pub had an unfortunate period as an errant car opened a drive through six months ago and it is currently closed for repairs. Judging from the smoked ham and turkey lunch; PPS recommends a visit when it reopens later this year.

 It was then on to Farley Farms at Kybybolite, a massive operation which will produce over 22,000 lambs from the 18,500 ewes joined this year. David & Michelle Farley and their four staff also crop 25% of their 3,000 Ha (owned & leased) farm in their spare time. The operation is at the forefront of innovative genetics as part of the LambPro cooperative which is supplying feedlot finished lambs for the high-end market. Lambpro is operated by Tom Bull at Holbrook NSW & some of his ram clients join a portion of their composite ewe flock with Hampshire Downs rams to produce heavy weight lambs with “Waygu” like marbling in their meat; this is marketed to high end restaurants in Sydney, Asia and the US. The farm is divided into 200 paddocks to allow ewes to lamb in mobs of 100 – 200.

Lambs are weaned onto a rotation of high-quality pastures @ 80—150 DSE/Ha and a selection finish in the fully automated feed lot before sale. Lambs are auto weighed during the feedlot process in the covered sheep complex with includes auto handlers and a sheep lifter for husbandry operations. The Farleys are great advocates of accreditation schemes aiming to promote their quality product to the market.

The day finished with dinner in Naracoorte and a presentation from local consultant, Jen Lillecrapp who provided information on the unique landscape in SE S.A., with its lowlands formerly under the sea with large drainage schemes to allow for agriculture. Jen also spoke about her work on the hugely successful GRDC Hyper Yields cropping project.

Monday’s first visit was to Dolling Produce at Keppoch who produce canola, oaten & lucerne hay, Persian Clover and Lucerne seed as well as wine grapes; they also have 5,000 breeding ewe and 200 breeding cows. But their main operation is onions; lots of onions. PPS were unable to visit the onion growing operation which is 16km to the north of the packing operation, but Jarrod Dolling and his mum Leanne told the story of the onions which are grown on a four-year rotation under centre pivots. 200 Ha are grown annually and yield 80 – 100 tonnes/Ha, harvesting takes place in December with 450 tonnes arriving daily at the storage facility where they live happily in dry, open sheds until processing. They can return $700 – $1,200 per tonne after sorting but costs are very high so only large-scale operations like Dolling Produce can survive. Onions need 30/40 tractor passes during the growing season to control weeds, apply N and combat powdery mildew. The onion became the focus of the farm after Brett Dolling had tried sunflowers and corn under irrigation. Red and brown onions are grown and end up under various brands in Australian supermarkets as well as Japan, Taiwan and Thailand. PPS members were given a tour of the highly automated packing shed where crates of onions were sorted, inspected and ended up in various sized parcels for distribution. 

Wine grapes along with some history was the next focus at Padthaway Estate at Padthaway. David & Caroline Brown have built up a substantial farming operation; 360 Ha of vineyards, as well as a self-replacing Merino flock. First X ewes and 2nd X lambs. 200 EU accredited Poll Herford cows are also part of the Landaire business, 2,000 Ha of cropping is also undertaken.

In 2017, the farm business added 70 Ha of rundown vineyards, with them came the dilapidated Padthaway Estate Homestead. It was not a business decision but a personal one to preserve an important part of Padthaway’s history. Both the vineyards and the house are now back in working order. David organised a gourmet lunch with local chef, Alan Perry who gave a talk on where he sources his regional produce.

What do farm succession and chooks have to do with each other? At Greenvale, Woolumbool; it is a lot! Graham and Karen Clothier were operating a successful prime lamb operation at Woolumbool using Graham’s knowledge from a Nuffield Scholarship. The need to expand arose when all the offspring became involved in the farm. Sam said chooks were the answer and a free-range caravan system was added to the business. Ollie Clothier has engineering experience and is now constructing new caravans as well as taking in off farm repairs. The farm has areas of top lucerne and clover pastures which are well utilised by sheep and chooks with a team of Maremma dogs looking out for them. The farm is fenced to soil types and is planted to suitable varieties for each, chicory and kikuyu play a role.

Some of the paddocks are left over beaches from their time under the sea and clay delving has improved production on the sandy soils. 

A social dinner in Naracoorte with farm hosts and other guests joining in for an enjoyable evening ending day two.

 The final day consisted of a half day at the Straun Best Practice Demonstration Farm, a joint venture between SARI and

Elders. The 1,100 Ha farm is situated south of Naracoorte and contains the historic Straun House. PPS had tour through the farm looking at farm tech equipment in use, some like automatic sensing and weather stations were familiar but others were new to the group and created a lot of interest. Robin, Sophie and Megan gave a great insight into the ag tech as well as the limestone extraction and crushing trials, there isn’t much a D11 dozer can’t dig up but it is a fairly slow process. The visit finished in Straun House with a presentation from Megan Willis on virtual fencing and a variable nutrient mapping from Geoff Ross from Precision Agriculture.

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

Fiery Creek Sites

Hopkins River Sites

Dusting off two decades of data: EC monitoring in an agricultural landscape

Ayesha Burdett, Senior Wetland Ecologist

EC monitoring has been conducted at about 70 sites for over 20 years in the Upper Hopkins, thanks to my predecessor (Una Allender) and a handful of volunteers. I always enjoyed the quarterly EC surveys of rivers, creeks, and lakes when I was the Landcare Facilitator. It was a great way to tour around the region and see how things changed (or stayed the same) across the seasons and over the years. Our new Landcare Facilitator, Nick Moll, has continued the monitoring.

Hopkins River at the Wickliffe gauge. Notice the changing water levels in different seasons and different years. Images: Ayesha Burdett

The EC dataset is a great resource that deserves a little more recognition, so I had a close look at data from six sites on the Hopkins River and Fiery Creek, from the upper reaches to the lower end of the sampling range (Figure 1). The lower sites were chosen to coincide with official gauging stations from the Bureau of Meteorology at Streatham and Wickliffe, which measure river discharge downstream from the Glenelg Highway bridges.

There are a few things worth noticing on these plots.

First, EC levels are always slightly higher in the Hopkins River than in the Fiery Creek. The land use around each of these rivers is similar and rainfall is similar, so it seems unlikely that these would be the cause of the differences. Rather, the higher EC levels at the Hopkins sites is probably due to underlying differences in geology that influence salinity of soils and groundwater. Hopkins River headwaters arise in low-relief hills of non-granitic Palaeozoic rocks and minor tributaries are often saline or connected to saline wetland systems. By comparison, the Fiery Creek headwaters are in the Mt Cole uplands and tributaries flow across volcanic plains.

Secondly, there is an effect of seasonality on EC levels. This is particularly clear in the upper and lower sites of the Hopkins River, where winter and spring levels tend to fall below the line while summer and autumn levels are generally above the line. The EC levels indicate the concentration of dissolved salts in the water: when water levels are low due to evaporation and low rainfall, then the concentrations increase, and EC levels are higher (summer, autumn). Once it starts raining again, EC levels decline (winter, spring).

Figure 1. EC levels at six survey sites on the Hopkins River and Fiery Creek. (Hopkins: Warrack Road, Langi Logan Road, Glenelg Highway; Fiery: Lucardies Road, Mt William Road, Glenelg Highway). Image: Ayesha Burdett CC BY-NC-ND

Finally, there is a slight decline in EC levels from the beginning of the survey period until now. Initially, I thought this may be due to changing land management and reduction in soil salinity. However, this effect is compounded by larger climatic variation. Data collection began at about the same time as the Australian Millennium Drought (2001-2009). EC is negatively correlated with rainfall and discharge; during the early dry period, stream flow was reduced and there were no flooding events to refresh water levels and “flush out” the build-up of salts and other minerals.

Astute readers may also notice a decline in EC levels around January 2011, September 2016, and October 2022 (particularly at the Hopkins River sites). This coincides with major flooding events in the region.

Valuing community science data

Data collected by trained volunteers (including Landcare Facilitators) is often considered to be less accurate than that collected by professional organisations.

To check if this is true, I was able to compare EC data from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) with the data collected by UHLMG at the Wickliffe gauge (BOM Station Number 236202; http://www.bom.gov.au/waterdata/). The two data sets were similar, but the data recorded by UHLMG was slightly lower than that reported by BOM (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Relationship between EC data reported by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM station 236202) and Upper Hopkins Land Management Group at the Hopkins lower site. If the data were identical, they points would fall on the dashed 1:1 line. Data from UHLMG were slightly lower than data from BOM (Pearson’s correlation: r(72) = 0.909, p < 0.001). Image: Ayesha Burdett CC BY-NC-ND

Other studies have found that data collected by communities about EC is close to that collected by “experts”. Any differences between the two datasets may be due to the accuracy of the sampling probe or small variations in EC levels when collecting the water samples.

There is little other water quality data available for the catchment, other than monthly spot measurements collected at the lower Hopkins site from 1975 to 1998. This emphasises how valuable the UHLMG long-term dataset is for long-term monitoring across the catchment. Consistently conducting monitoring and collecting quality data while working with community volunteers and limited funding can be a challenge. However, the results from this ongoing project

show that community-collected data can be used to track long-term trends across the catchment and this data can be used by a diversity of land managers.


This survey work was conducted by Landcare Facilitators for the Upper Hopkins Land Management Group (Una, me and now Nick) in cooperation with volunteers and partners from neighbouring Landcare groups. I began considering data analysis during my participation in the Waterway Twinning Program in 2020. Data were presented at the Freshwater Sciences 2023 conference, with support from Nature Glenelg Trust, where I am now working on wetland restoration projects.

Happy Landcaring!