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  • 3 Dec 2020 2:42 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

    At our online meeting Dr Jason Condon chatted with farmers Jennie Curtis, Allan Spencer and Harji Dhindsa about the soil test results from the demonstration plots on their farms.  

    Soil samples were taken from each farm in September from a ‘good patch’ and ‘bare patch’ of soil in the demonstration plots. The soil from the bare patch plots was bulked. The soil was sampled at depths 0-5, 5-10, 10-15 and 15-20cm to see what was going on in the different soil layers.

    Jason discussed what the soil test results mean and the differences between the patches, soil depths and farms. We recommend you take the time to listen to Jason’s presentation. He explains how to interpret the soil test results including soil pH, aluminium, potassium, cation exchange capacity, organic carbon, exchangeable sodium percentage, soil electrical conductivity and calcium/magnesium ratio. He then goes on to suggest actions that can be taken to improve the soil health on each farm.

    This meeting was recorded on the 16 November 2020 and you can view the video here.

    Jason explained the demonstrations sites have their own unique factors that are limiting plant growth and contributing to the bare patches. It was fascinating to learn about how the “Law of the Minimum’ works in practice and how soil structure can affect plant growth.

    Key messages from the meeting:

    • Acidic soils are those with soil pH (measured in Calcium chloride, CaCl2) less than 5.5. The pH test in CaCl2 (pHCa) better mimics the soil conditions that plants are growing in compared to pH measured in pure water (pHw).
    • When the soil pHCa  is less than 5, the concentration of exchangeable aluminium (Al) in the soil increases. This aluminium can be toxic to plants and can take up valuable nutrient holding sites in the soil (called the cation exchange capacity, CEC) causing useful nutrients to be displaced from the topsoil. When the percentage of the CEC taken up by aluminium (Al%) is  over 5% some plants and soil organisms will suffer aluminium toxicity however, even aluminium tolerant plants will still suffer from toxicity at Al% over 30.
    • Legume rhizobia may not fix nitrogen if the soil pH is below 5. Two of the demonstration sites have very low pH that decreases at depth. The Al toxicity would be limiting the growth of plant roots in the surface layer, which means the plants will have less resilience to stress and die off sooner in spring as water becomes limiting.
    • Low soil pH can affect the cycling of major nutrients including potassium and phosphorus. Correcting soil pH is a key way to improve nutrient cycling in the soil. Grazing animals cycle potassium and phosphorus through their urine and manures, if products such as hay, animal meat or fibre are removed  then these nutrients are lost from the system and the fertility of the soil is reduced.
    • When phosphorus (P) is low the plants become P deficient and growth will be limited. Even native grass pastures require a source of P (around 20 Colwell P), improved pastures require more P (around 30 Colwell P).
    • Exchangeable Sodium Percentage (ESP) measures soil sodicity. If the ESP is above 6 then the soil is sodic. Soil sodicity causes soil dispersion that leads to erosion.
    • When the calcium – magnesium ratio is low (below 2) the soil structure is not stable, this makes the pores smaller, the aggregates fall apart and slaking occurs. Slaking contributes to poor water infiltration because of the smaller soil particles. At depth where the Ca:Mg ratio is low, this can cause major soil slumping and potential erosion. The slaking at depth could also affect plant growth due to lack of oxygen and space for plant roots to grow.

    This is a summary of the key differences between the project sites.


    Soil Acidity and Liming AGFACT

    Identifying dispersive sodic soils 

    Assessing soil aggregate stability

    Cycling on phosphorus in grazing systems 

    You can catch up on the latest Grassing the Bare Patches Project here.

    Dr Jason Condon is a soil scientist and educator from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, a partnership of NSW Department of Primary Industries and Charles Sturt University based in Wagga Wagga. 

    The Small Farms Network Capital Region received funding for this project from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

  • 23 Oct 2020 2:51 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

    At this event Helena Warren from Cadfor Equestrian and Murray Greys spoke at a webinar and then in afternoon led two paddock walks where she identified pasture species. In the webinar Helena discussed the critical elements of establishing and maintaining grazing pastures in a challenging and changing climate.

    You can watch the webinar recording.

    Key points

    1.      Know the production capability of your farm and aim to keep ground cover at 70% or higher. This will reduce the likelihood of your soil becoming degraded. The land class, parent material (rock), slope, soil type and management all contribute to the suitability of your land to support livestock. 

    See more about land classes

    The MLA Pasture Soil Health Kit contains information on ground cover management and stocking rates.

    2.      Know your soil type and soil pH. Helena explained the Law of the Minimum, which states that plant growth is dictated not by total resources available, but by the scarcest resource (or limiting factor).

    Limiting soil factors can include:

    • Physical characteristics such as soil depth, soil texture, organic matter and moisture
    • Low or high soil pH that makes some minerals toxic and affects nutrient uptake by plants
    • The nutrients available for plant growth.

    A soil pH of less than 5.5 can reduce some nutrient availability and cause aluminium toxicity that will affect plant growth and legume nodulation. Over time, soils in the Southern Highlands have become more acidic due to cropping and agriculture. Some plants are more adapted to low soil pH, salinity and low rainfall. For example, Serradella is more tolerant of acid soil and Balansa Clover tolerates saline soils but generally it is easier to address the soil pH problem rather than try to find plants that will grow in increasingly acidic soils.

    See more about soil pH 

    3.     Understand the nutritional requirements of your livestock. For example, horses require lower energy pastures than sheep and cattle. Grazing horses on native pastures can help reduce the occurrence of laminitis, while young growing sheep or lactating ewes have a higher demand for protein and energy.

    4.  Pasture establishment requires water and the correct soil temperature. The type of plant you want to grow will dictate the best time for planting. C3 grasses are temperate grasses and C4 grasses are adapted to warm conditions. Having a mix of both types of grasses can help you grow more pasture throughout the year. Native pastures are generally well adapted to surviving drought conditions. 

    More information

    Grazing Management for Native Pastures

    Tactical Grazing to Maximise Animal and Pasture Productivity

    Weed removers, pasture improvers – effective weed control.

    Rejuvenating perennial pastures

    Pasture Species and Varieties 

    Grasses of the NSW Tablelands 

    Grass Habits and Habitats 

    Farming Forecaster – a tool for monitoring soil moisture and ground cover

    Agrifutures – free downloads and resources

    Weeds Poisonous to Horses - free downloadable PDF.

    C3 and C4 native grasses

    Pasture walks

    In the afternoon Helena led two paddock walks through old pastures in Bywong where we learned to identify pasture plants and looked at the pH profile in soil cores using a home pH testing kit.

    Pasture plants we looked at

    Ryegrass (Lolium perenne) is red at the base and has shiny leaves. Considered a good pasture grass, but not good for horses as it is high in sugar. See more

    Giant Brome Grass (Bromus diandrus) also know as rip gut brome is annual tufted grass to 100 cm tall with sharp seed heads. Common in disturbed areas, such as road sides and stick camps. Considered a weed and has limited feed value. May produce useful early spring feed but is only palatable when it is vegetative. Seeds can damage the eyes, mouth and guts of stock. See more

    Prairie Grass (Bromus catharticus) a tufted short lived grass to 150cm tall. The leaves are sparsely hairy and bright green. This grass has higher feed value than Giant Brome Grass. See more

    Common Wheat Grass (Anthsachne scabra), a native cool season perennial grass to 100cm tall. The leaves typically have a twist and the flag leaf sticks out at a right angle. The leaf sheaths are hairy and auricles are present.  A minor component of pastures but is drought and frost tolerant. See more

    Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) an introduced perennial pasture grass. Cocksfoot is tolerant of acidic soils (down to pH 4.0 and have high exchangeable aluminium).

    To differentiate Cocksfoot from Phalaris (Phalaris aquatica) grass, the stem of Cocksfoot rolls in your fingers like a flat tyre, while the Phalaris stem is round and rolls easily. The seedheads are also different. In the photo below, a Phalaris grass stem is shown on the left and Cocksfoot is on the right. 

    See more about Cocksfoot and Phalaris.

    Subterranean Clover (Trifolium subterraneum) has small white pea like flowers on stems that bury the seed into the soil (like a bur). The leaf of the subterranean clover is heart shaped and hairy with equal leaf storks. See more

    White Clover (Trifolium repens) is a perennial, aerial seeding clover with white flowers and often a pale green stripe across the leaves. See more

    Balansa Clover (Trifolium michalelianum) Introduced cool season annual, the seed heads consist if many white pea like flowers held on stems above the ground. The flowers are white to pink. It is a hard seeded annual clover that tolerates waterlogging. See more

    Meadow Fescue (Festuca pratensis) an erect, short-lived, tussock forming perennial grass with leaves 3-5mm wide. Rough to touch on the top and shiny below. The auricles are stem clasping and hairless. See more

    Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) grass is common in stock camp and low lying areas. It has furry leaves that many stock do not like to eat. Erect tufted greyish grass, covered in velvety hairs. The flower heads are purplish to white. Regarded as a weed. See more

    Wallaby Grass (Danthonia species) is shown in the photo below, a native grass that survives drought. The leaf has a hairy ligule where it joins the stem. This feature is present in the many species of Wallaby Grass. See more

    Spear Grass (Austrostipa spp) a native grass, good for biodiversity. Can grow year round but most productive in spring. Leaves are fine, inrolled, usually rough to touch. See more

    This project is supported by the NSW Government Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Increasing Resilience to Climate Change community grants program. More information about the program can be found here.

  • 15 Sep 2020 12:15 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

    Climate change is a big thing. How do we tackle it and prepare for it? The Small Farms and Climate Change Forum on 5 September 2020 was an opportunity to examine these issues and identify the topics that small farmers want to learn about in relation to climate change.

    You can view the recording of the Forum presentations here

    Our guest speakers were Melinda Hillery, Senior Project Officer, Climate Resilience and Net Zero Emissions Branch, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, and farmers Harry Watson from Millpost Merino and Helena Warren from Cadfor Agistment and Murray Greys.

    Below is a summary of the key points discussed at the Forum and links to more resources on climate change.

    Mel Hillery provided a snapshot of the projected changes to weather patterns in the near future (around 2030) and the far future (around 2070) as a result of climate change. She suggested the best way to prepare for climate change is to know (inform yourself about climate change), assess how climate change might impact us and respond by taking positive actions to prepare for climate change.

    KNOW: What we know from climate research and historical observation

    Climate change is happening now. We are already seeing impacts of increasing global temperatures such as changing snow seasons, bushfire, floods and droughts. There are flow-on effects to native ecosystems and impacts on farming and aquaculture. Examples include bushfire smoke taint to grapes and increasing ocean temperatures that have led to tropical species moving further south.

    The areas that have warmed the most since 1970 are in Eastern Australia and the observed increase has been 0.3-0.4 degrees/decade. Further information on historical climate change in our region is available at the Bureau of Meteorology website.

    Modelling for the South East and Tablelands region of NSW suggests that by 2030 the number of hot days will increase with 5-10 extra hot days above 35 degrees Celsius per year compared to 1960-1990.

    Rainfall projections under climate change are more complicated. It is expected that there will be more rainfall extremes and it is projected that spring rainfall will be reduced.  These changes are indicated in all of the climate models from the NSW Government.

    ASSESS: What climate change means for you and your community

    Mel suggests a vulnerability assessment is better for small farmers than a risk assessment.

    These are the key features of a vulnerability assessment:

    • Climate hazards:  what are they (eg. increasing temperature, heat waves, floods, fire)?
    • How sensitive are my activities and my property to these hazards?
    • What is my capacity/capability to manage that?
    • Where am I the most vulnerable (combine hazards, sensitivity and capacity)?

    Use this to plan ahead. This is where we move from ‘business as usual' to how can we adapt to climate change.

    RESPOND: Adaptation and transition to a low carbon future

    The NSW Government has a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

    Good news includes work being done by the Cobargo Community post fires and the Yass Area Network Climate Ready Revegetation Project. You can find out more about these projects here. 

    Harry Watson and Helena Warren provided us with case studies about how they are managing and adapting to climate change.

    Key points from Harry:

    • Have a good farm plan.
    • Plant lots of trees and shrubs that can be used for multiple purposes. Tree planting has been extensive on Millpost farm, including planting oaks and deciduous trees to the north western fire sector. The trees are used for shade, stock fodder and cooling the homestead and stock yards. They also provide windbreaks from the prevailing weather systems from the north west.
    • Think about how you farm. Millpost Farm have changed their sheep genetics. This means that they no longer have to mules their sheep and there is less pressure from fly strike. They are moving to shearing twice/year.
    • Practice rotational grazing. Millpost Farm grazes their sheep all in one mob and allows the pasture long recovery periods. Moveable troughs allow flexibility in grazing.
    • In times of drought Harry suggests you destock and/or hand feed your stock in feed lots.
    • The farm has a high proportion of native grasses in some of the grazing paddocks, Harry thinks that these grasses can cope better with climate extremes.
    • Kangaroos are causing grazing pressure on Millpost Farm. To look at this problem they are involved in a study with the University of Tasmania trialling the use of Maremma dogs as apex predators to see if they deter the kangaroos from the grazing paddocks.

    Some useful texts:

    Permaculture - Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability 

    Holistic Management Handbook 

    Water for Every Farm - Yeoman's Keyline Plan

    Key points from Helena:

    • Helena suggests you maintain rain-ready pastures by providing adequate nutrition for your pasture and checking your soil acidity. Keep your soil at pH 5.5 because the bacteria involved in creating soil organic carbon don’t like acid conditions. Adequate potassium reduces cold stress for plants. Ensure there is adequate soil nutrition at the end of the winter so the plants are ready to grow when the soil warms up.
    • Establish tropical pastures (C4 grasses) to take advantage of summer rainfall.
    • Helena is trialling planting fodder trees – Tagasaste (tree lucerne) for drought feeding. 
    • Helena chooses to breed cattle with light coloured coats that deal with the heat better.
    • Disease burdens in the Capital Region for Blue Tongue, Akabane, Ephemeral Fever and Queensland itch are changing. How? Generally, these diseases are moving south east as the climate warms and summer has more rainfall.  

    Resources and further information

    Further information on climate change and adaptation can be found in the links below:

    NSW Government Adapting to Climate Change

    Impact of climate change on biodiversity

    Specific snap shots for soil erosion and biodiversity have been developed and can be viewed on the Adaptation Research Hub website.

    Information on climate ready trees and revegetation 

    Which Plant Where?

    Information on the importance of soil organic matter

    More information on C3 and C4 grasses.

    More information on Blue Tongue disease and its movement south.

    This event was made possible with funding from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Increasing Resilience to Climate Change Community Grants Program. 

  • 17 Aug 2020 3:43 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    Allan, a small farmer in Bywong, tells us about his truffle farm.

    Watch the video

  • 1 Aug 2020 10:14 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    Dr Lou Baskind, the District Veterinarian from South East Local Land Services in Braidwood, discussed weeds, livestock and how pasture plants can be poisonous to ruminant livestock in some conditions. Temperature, rainfall and the plant’s lifecycle can influence the amount of poisonous compounds in a plant. Other plants have inherent physical and chemical properties that are poisonous.

    Download a copy of the slides from the presentation

    The three common problems that weeds can cause in livestock are:

    • Physical impediments such as wool contamination and physical damage to the animal
    • Malnutrition
    • Poisoning.

    Key points

    1. Animal species are affected by different weeds, for example, alpacas can tolerate some weeds that sheep and cattle can’t.
    2. Sharp weed seeds can cause damage to the face, eyes and hide of animals. The affected animal is then predisposed to other health problems including secondary infections such as pink eye in cattle and scabby mouth in sheep.
    3. Weeds often out compete other more nutritious pasture species and this can affect the animal’s ability to consume enough feed to meet its nutritional requirements. The fibrous nature of some grass weeds with low digestibility creates gut fill, limiting the intake of nutritious feed. Most weed species are too low in nutrition to maintain body condition. Serrated tussock has the same digestibility as cardboard.
    4. Over 200 plant species are potentially poisonous to ruminants. The three main factors that contribute to plant poisonings are:
      • Plant factors such as toxic chemicals in the plant that are there as a defense mechanism, the stage of growth and the part of the plant
      • Environmental factors – temperature, water stress and drought
      • Animal factors – age, species, prior learning, hunger, malnutrition and confinement.
    5. Fodder oats can cause nitrate toxicity in cattle. When grazing new paddocks be careful with monocultures of the same grass type. Where possible avoid sudden changes of diet because the microbes in the rumen don’t have time to adjust to the new feed which can cause poisoning. Feeding roughage (such as oaten hay) is protective against nitrate poisoning.
    6. If you have multiple deaths in your flock or herd, call your local vet or the district veterinarian. Don’t dispose of the animal carcasses because they can be used for autopsy and blood testing.
    7. First aid if you suspect plant poisoning: remove the animals quietly from the pasture they are grazing, don’t stress or overwork the animals. Provide clean (not green) oaten hay, shade and access to water.
    8. Plant poisonings can be chronic (sudden onset) and cumulative.

    More resources

    Phalaris staggers
    St John’s Wort
    Patterson’s curse

    Bracken fern poiso
    Australia’s poisonous plants, McKenzie, R 2012

    NSW DPI Weeds Wise App

  • 8 Jul 2020 7:29 AM | Alex James (Administrator)

    Vaccinations can help prevent common sheep diseases when used correctly. They have the potential to improve sheep health across the region for all farms, small and large. A key element in deciding which vaccines are useful on your farm is to find out the risk of particular diseases in the local district and the past history of your property.

    Many vaccines require two doses for the vaccination to be effective followed up with annual boosters. Specific recommendations for effective vaccination can be found in the manufacturer’s instructions for each vaccine along with information about storage conditions and the length of time that the vaccine can be used after opening.

    Correct injection technique and sterile, clean needles are required both to deliver an effective vaccination and to protect sheep and people from adverse side effects. Used syringes and needles need to be disposed of safely. For more information about injection techniques in Making More From Sheep: Sheep Husbandry Practices.

    Vaccines can help prevent the following diseases of sheep in Australia. The information provided below is general in nature. It is strongly recommended that you consult your vet or animal health advisor before carrying out a vaccination program.

    Commentary marked with * was provided by Alex Stephens, District Veterinarian, South East Local Land Services in July 2020.

    Tetnus, Black Leg, Black Disease, Malignant Oedema and Pulpy Kidney (Clostridial diseases)
    5-in-1 vaccination – typically given as a primer dose at lamb marking followed by a booster dose four to six weeks later and then an annual booster dose. Various brands available.

    This vaccine is widely used throughout Australia and is usually the one being referred to when people say that their sheep are vaccinated.

    * Booster vaccinations are recommended to be given more often, every three months in high risk situations, particularly to younger stock. Boosters are also recommended to be given at other high risk times such as grazing high risk pastures and crops and at the start of a flush of green grass after a long dry spell.

    MLA Clostridial Diseases information

    Agriculture Victoria Clostridial Diseases

    Cheesy Gland
    6-in-1 vaccination – covers same diseases as 5-in1 as well as Cheesy Gland and has similar vaccination regime. Various brands available.

    * Cheesy gland is an endemic disease in the Capital Region so Alex Stephens advised use of 6-in-1 rather than 5-in-1 for the initial vaccinations and annual booster. Use 5-in-1 if you are giving the extra boosters in high risk situations mentioned above to manage a higher clostridial risk.

    MLA Cheesy Gland information

    NSW DPI Fact Sheet Cheesy Gland

    Johnes Disease
    Gudair vaccination – single dose lifetime vaccination given to lambs.

    * The Capital Region is one of the highest endemic areas for Ovine Johne’s Disease. Alex Stephens advised that this vaccination is given to any sheep that are going to be kept to be greater than 2 years of age (ie. breeding stock or wethers).

    MLA Australia Gudair information

    DPI Johnes Disease Fact Sheet

    Erysipelas arthritis
    Eryvac and Eryguard are brands of vaccine – primer and booster dose for lambs then annual vaccination.

    * This vaccine is given in response to a diagnosis of this bacterial cause of arthritis on a property. This disease has been diagnosed and vaccinated against in the Capital Region.  Where properties are getting higher rates of arthritis an investigation and diagnosis is advised.

    Scabby Mouth
    Scabigard is a vaccine option – single dose given to lambs.

    *Scabby Mouth is a common viral disease seen in the Capital Region.  It is present in some flocks and not in others. It is only advisable to vaccinate against this disease as a disease control measure if it is present on your property, as vaccination (with the live vaccine) will introduce the disease to your property.  It is a nasty disease and vaccination is an effective control measure.

    DPI Scabby Mouth Fact Sheet

    Barbers Pole Worm
    BarberVax – a vaccine option where Barbers Pole worms are prevalent and resistant to drenches.

    * Fortunately in the Capital Region we can still use strategic drenching with effective drenches to control Barbers Pole Worm. This is a very effective vaccine and should be considered where producers want or need to drench less or they have significant resistance issues. This vaccine has not had a high uptake in this area so you may need to order it in in advance and courier fees may apply.

    WormBoss Barbers Pole Worm

    Ovilis Campyvax – where abortions and still born lambs have been caused by Campylobacter infection. Initial primer and booster dose followed by annual booster given to ewes before joining.

    * Campylobacter is a prevalent disease is the Capital Region. The vaccine is reasonably new. Uptake of this vaccine has been higher in recent years, reflecting higher sheep prices and research showing the disease to be quite prevalent in the area. Abortions are more likely to be seen when sheep are being held more closely together and eating from the ground, such as during drought feeding times. See the link for a local case study.

    Campylobacter case study

    Anthrax vaccine – annual vaccination which requires authorisation in NSW by Local Land Services.

    Anthrax is a serious and usually fatal. It is a notifiable disease in NSW. It typically occurs in an area through the centre of NSW and into Victoria.

    * The Capital Region is not within the Anthrax belt/zone and so vaccination against Anthrax would not be advised. Vaccination is usually done in response to control of an outbreak, which would most usually occur within the Anthrax zone

    More information on anthrax

    To contact your local District Veterinarian  in NSW, visit NSW Local Land Service Contact us

    This post was reviewed by Alex Stephens, the District Veterinarian from South East Local Land Services (SELLS). Alex works at the Yass SELLS office.

  • 8 Jul 2020 6:58 AM | Alex James (Administrator)

    In this webinar Alastair Rayner from Rayner Ag discussed sheep nutrition, how to use the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Drought and Supplementary Feed Calculator app, biosecurity and the National Vendor Declaration Scheme. The webinar was recorded on 10 June 2020.

    You can watch the webinar recording on the Small Farms Network Capital Region YouTube Channel.

    Key points from the webinar:

    • Poor production and ill thrift can usually be attributed to a lack of energy or protein in the sheep’s diet. Sufficient energy and protein are essential for growth and health. Fibre in feed enables the rumen to function correctly. More about rumen function.
    • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are not the first factor that impedes the growth and health of sheep. A lack of energy or protein to meet the animals' basic demand for nutrients is most likely the cause of ill thrift.
    • The moisture in grass and supplements will affect calculations for the ‘as fed’ amount in rations. The ‘as fed amount’ is the amount of feed minus the moisture content. You can find out more about dry matter and pasture assessment on the Lifetime wool website
    • Care need to be taken when introducing new feeds to sheep. Grains and pellets need to be introduced slowly (over at least two weeks) to reduce the risk of acidosis. Feeding out plenty of fibre rich hay or grass can buffer the effects of grain poisoning.
    • The NSW Drench plan from WormBoss summarises a plan for managing intestinal worms in sheep in NSW. The WormBoss website provides extensive information and tools for managing worms. The Capital Region is in the WormBoss NSW Non-Seasonal Rainfall area.
    • The NSW DPI Drought and Supplementary Feed Calculator app can be used to calculate how much supplementary feed (if any) to give your sheep and to choose types of feed suited to the circumstances of your sheep and pastures. It includes an easy-to-use pasture digestibility and availability assessment tool. This helps you to decide whether you have enough pasture for your sheep to meet their nutritional requirements. Ewes in late pregnancy, lactating ewes and weaners have a higher demand for energy and protein. The weight of the sheep also affects the amount of feed needed (a smaller sheep eats less).
    • Targeted mineral supplements in late pregnancy can improve lambing outcomes. The most common mineral deficiencies in ewes are magnesium and calcium. This article from Australian Wool Innovation covers the metabolic syndromes of ewes and how to manage them.

    Other useful websites

    Agriculture Victoria - Trace minerals in sheep

    Sheep Connect - Pasture assessment skills and feed management

    WormBoss control program for non-seasonal rainfall areas in NSW

  • 7 Jul 2020 1:24 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

    This webinar covered the information for people thinking of keeping production poultry on a small scale for eggs, meat or live chicken sales. The webinar was recorded on Saturday 27 June 2020 and features Dr Lou Baskind, District Veterinarian from South East Local Land Services, and Wendy Hutton, a chicken farmer from just outside Canberra.

    Watch the webinar recording

    Key messages:

    • Check with your local council about what planning permissions are required for the size of your enterprise. You may require a permit for some agricultural enterprises depending on your zone and the type of business. Roadside stalls have specific requirements. Requirements vary between Councils. 
    • There are rules in NSW that govern the production of eggs on a small scale. You will need an egg stamp if selling from somewhere other than your own farm gate. Check out the NSW Food Authority Guidelines.
    • The best way to keep your eggs clean is to provide clean nesting boxes and collect the eggs regularly. Providing appropriate perches will stop birds sleeping in and dirtying the nesting boxes. It is illegal to sell eggs that are cracked or covered in faeces.
    • It is preferable to not wash eggs. People can become infected with Salmonella and other diseases after eating foods that are directly or indirectly contaminated with animal faeces.
    • If you want to sell chicken meat you need to use a registered abattoir. For home consumption, there are humane slaughter guidelines available that include stunning the animal as best practice. The handling of animals for slaughter should not be rushed. Read the guidelines. 
    • If you have 100 or more poultry you need to apply for a property identification code (PIC).
    • Biosecurity management of your flock is important. Diseases are costly to production. Any new birds should be kept in quarantine away from your existing flock for three weeks and monitored for signs of ill health.
    • Two common diseases of chickens that are challenging to manage with biosecurity alone are Marek’s disease and Fowl Pox. Vaccination is an important part of their management. Vaccinating chickens for Mareks disease requires skill and good timing because the chicken needs to be vaccinated when it is one day-old. More about Marek's Disease.
    • Off-label use of veterinary chemicals is not allowed without a veterinary authority. You need to know and follow the required withholding period for each product administered to your birds.

    Other resources

    Biosecurity Checklist for Poultry Keeping (a simple guide from DPI Tasmania)

    NSW DPI Guidelines for Poultry Biosecurity

  • 7 Jul 2020 12:58 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

    Despite good rainfall in many areas since autumn, some patches of soil are still bare. Dr Jason Condon from Charles Sturt University explained how soil acidity can be a factor driving poor ground cover in pastures. Jennie Curtis, a small farmer from the Capital Region, showed us some of the bare patches at her place.

    The webinar recorded on Saturday 4 July 2020 will help you to develop an understanding of soil acidity including the causes and influence of soil acidity on plants and the landscape. Simple methods to diagnose soil acidity are explained. Addressing soil acidity may be a useful step in filling the bare patches on your land.

    Watch the webinar recording

    Key messages:

    1. Soil pH is a measure of hydrogen ions in the soil. The most commonly used pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. As the number goes down from 7 (ie. 6, 5, 4...) the soil acidity increases while values above 7 are alkaline. In the Capital Region many soils are acidic. Soil pH can be measured in the field using a test kit or by sending a sample to a laboratory for more accurate results. The pH (CaCl2) test is the more accurate of the two pH tests, as it reflects what the plant experiences in the soil. The values of pH (CaCl2) are normally lower than pH(w) by 0.5 to 0.9. A simple pH soil testing kit from the rural shop measures pH in water.

    NSW DPI Understanding Soil pH  

    NSW DPI Soil Acidity and Liming

    2. Agriculture involves removing plant material either by harvesting plants or grazing plants and this process acidifies soils. To counteract this you need to get to know what the problems are for your soils.

    3. If your soil is pH 5 or lower, the percentage of available Aluminum is more likely to be at levels that are toxic to plants. High Aluminium reduces root growth and stops cellular growth at the root tip - the roots will be short and stumpy. Where  % Aluminium is high, Magnesium and Calcium are leeched away from the root zone.

    4. Soil acidity is not uniform down through a soil profile so the pH results from a 0-10cm soil test won't give you the full story. Often the pH at the surface where plants are growing is higher and then the soil is more acidic further down. A dig stick can be used with pH indicator powder from a pH test kit to show the range of acidity in your soil profile (see photo below where the pH in water is being tested).

    5. When you get a soil test done, only pay for what you need. A simple soil test should include soil pH, electrical conductivity, available phosphorus, cation exchange capacity, % Aluminium and organic carbon.

    6. Lime is akaline and can be used to adjust soil pH. It is not an annual fertiliser. Soil tests should be used to identify the need for lime and the effects of applying lime can take a long time to be seen. In acidic soils, research suggests that lime moves down through the soil profile best when a target pH of 5.5 is used. This often requires a high initial application rate followed by small top ups every few years for maintenance of a target pH of 5.5. This approach allows lime to be applied on the surface or in relatively shallow seed furrows and to move down through the soil profile without cultivation of the soil. Monitoring your soil is essential for finding our what works on your farm.

    7. Plain lime is best for surface application. Prilled lime can have a good effect when applied in seed rows or riplines but generally is not as effective as regular lime when applied on the surface.

    This project is supported by South East Local Land Services, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

  • 30 Jun 2020 11:46 AM | Alex James (Administrator)

    Dr Lou Baskind, District Veterinarian Form South East Local Land Services, joined the small farms network for a webinar about keeping backyard chickens.

    Key messages:

    • All animals under human control have the right to minimum animal health standards. This is called the five freedoms model.  
    • To thrive, laying hens need access to clean, cool water - don’t forget that water will freeze in winter in cooler climates and should be checked daily.
    • A ration composed of energy, protein, Calcium and micronutrients is essential. Inadequate protein can lead to nutritional stress, which can cause feather pecking, reduced egg laying and poor immunity. Check the protein content of your feed is adequate. 16% protein is needed for adult layers.
    • Provide a range of Calcium sources for your chickens. It takes 15 hours for a chicken to produce an egg and egg formation usually occurs overnight. If there is insufficient Calcium in the blood it can be mobilised from the bones causing stress for the bird. Calcium should be provided in lots of different sizes. Some examples are clean and dry crushed egg shells, crushed oyster shells and limestone.
    • Only use registered chemicals for treating worms, lice and red mite. Always observe the withholding periods on the packet. Off-label use of other vermicides can be dangerous for your chickens and human health because there are no recommended dose rates or with holding periods. A veterinarian is best placed to advise on the use of chemicals for parasite management in your flock. They can give an off-label authority if you need to use chemicals that are not registered for chickens. Lice from chickens will not affect humans.
    • Chickens need the right size and shape of perch (flat) for the size of their feet. Do not use round perches such as dowels. The chook needs to be able to fit their whole foot onto the perch so they can rest properly. 
    • Daylight hours affect the natural laying behaviour of chickens. If your chicken is not laying in winter that is most likely because of their natural breeding rhythm.

    UPDATE: Pestene Insect Powder is a registered chemical for lice in chickens and can be safely used.  Pestene is best used as a preventative and can be added to the dust bathing area or directly applied to the chickens.

    Registered chemicals for poultry

    Product Name

    Registered for laying poultry

    Pestene (sulphur and rotenone dusting powder)


    Avitrol Bird Mite and Lice Spray


    (Caged birds)

    Avian Insect Liquidator


    (ornamental and caged birds)

    Avimec (Ivermectin)

    NO (budgerigars)

    Fido's Fre-Itch Rinse Concentrate for Dogs and Cats




    Fipronil (Frontline Spray Flea and Tick Control for Cats and Dogs)


    Further information

    Essentials for Backyard Chicken Keeping and Health by Dr Lou Baskind

    DIY rodent free chicken feeder from Gardening Australia

    NSW Department of Primary Industries Poultry Fact Sheets 

    The Queeensland Department of Industry has published a series of articles relating to poultry diseases and health. Follow the links below to find out more information.

    Moulting and the laying hen

    Feather loss not related to moulting


Small Farms Network Capital Region Inc
PO Box 313
NSW 2621

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