Page 1



Bushfire recovery and the community that helps p8 Q fever - a public health issue p9-11 VFF key priorities p25-28 Animal welfare is normal p44

Growing farms by incubating ideas p52 SECTION





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VFF ANNUAL CONFERENCE Date to be confirmed







For more information or to register for events, visit or call member services on 1300 882 833.


Editorial Message Farming communities in southwest Victoria face a long road to recovery - helped by the immediate response from farmers, the VFF, government and many others in the community. Individual farmers like David Manifold organised his neighbours to donate fodder and transport, to take supplies to farmers who need to feed livestock. Dairy farmers from central Victoria offered to agist (for free) herds and provide milking facilities.

Contents Event calendar


Editor’s message


President’s message


Introducing Stephen Sheridan


These are the kinds of thoughtful actions that make us proud to be part of a farming community.

Farmers help out with fodder drive


It has been my privilege to edit this issue of Victorian Farmer, bringing together a range of information from VFF staff, and write stories, about the issues that matter to farmers.

Biosecurity part of everyday farming


Saving energy on farms


It has been interesting to learn about why underpass schemes and farm safety audits are important change agents for members. The State government and Worksafe Victoria have given the VFF significant funding to help members and other farmers create a safe workplace on their farms for their workers, themselves and their families. I have spoken to farmers about the benefits they have seen from taking up these funding streams. It seems ridiculous to not take up the offer.

Grains supply chain focus


Grains conference photographs


Quad bikes are on Worksafe hot list


Access to chemicals - practicalities v ideology


Milkers across the Tasman


Similarly, it has been interesting to discuss the impact of Q fever with farmers and learn about some of the research that is happening. Personally, we were impacted some years ago when a family member died from complications that arose after Q fever infection. I spoke to a couple of farmers whose stories are in this issue.

Photographs: dairy farmers in New Zealand

Labour licensing laws before parliament are significantly flawed. The VFF, more than anybody, wants exploitation of workers stopped. Our members and other rural Victorians have an economy reliant on available labour. This Bill will exacerbate the current labour crisis while leaving vulnerable workers facing continued exploitation. It is a terrible precedent to pass legislation to make something already illegal, even more illegal. The VFF wants regulators to use existing laws and undertake the necessary prosecution activities.

Sitting Pretty

The initial emergency response saw the government offer money to pay for people’s accommodation and other initial needs. Shire councils offered free accommodation for livestock at saleyards, along with other support.

Impact of Q fever is longterm



Victorian State budget


VFF election priorities

pp26-28 pp29

Kneading Bread - a local story


Going underground for safety


VFF against labour licence flaws


Let’s talk about workplace safety


Tariff shocks can impact pulse planting decisions


Murray Basin rail powers ahead


Poultry standards hold up


Livestock traceability - why?


Big or small, all farms part of biosecurity


We also pay tribute to some of our members – to Noel Campbell who received an AO on Australia Day; to the young dairy farmers who toured New Zealand in February; and to Alister Carr whose family have been members for 40 years. Lizette and Allen Snaith and Wayne and Tash Shields talk about how they have grown their agribusinesses significantly by using the incubator that is farmers’ markets.

May 8 crucial to Basin Plan


Qfever is a health priority


Animal welfare is normal


Turn water money into roads


Of course, the magazine is published with the support of the VFF sponsors and advertisers – I encourage you to read their latest advertisements about the products they offer farmers.

Growing leaders


Kangaroos damage farms


Jeanette Severs Editorial Assistant Victorian Farmer Magazine April 2018

Generations of members


Noel deserves a medal


Incubating farm growth


Empowering members to action


Victoria’s farmers are working in a regulated marketplace, producing food and fibre for a global population. Animal welfare, biosecurity, traceability, infrastructure efficiency and market supply chain are some of the factors that influence and impinge decision making – this issue we explore the issues and talk to farmers about how they are implementing best practice in their businesses.

VICTORIAN FARMERS FEDERATION Farrer House, Level 5, 24 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 Suite 2/145 View Street, Bendigo VIC 3550 P: 1300 882 833 f: 03 9207 5500 e: w: Editorial Assistant: Jeanette Severs Design:SECTION Mulqueen Creative & Print – Tamara Wardell & David Lowther Cover image: Tash and Wayne Shields. Image by AUSVEG.

Disclaimer: Victorian Farmer is the official publication of the Victorian Farmers Federation. The Victorian Farmers Federation, its partners, agents and contractors do not guarantee that this publication is without flaw and do not accept liability whatsoever for any errors, defects or omission in the information provided.

VICTORIAN All rights reserved 2018 Victorian Farmers Federation.



President’s message During my time as President of the Victorian Farmers Federation, I have overseen much change. This change has been challenging for staff and in our ability to deliver services to members. Stephen Sheridan was appointed to the CEO role in January. Stephen, the VFF Board and I are working closely together to provide certainty and stability to our organisation with the professionalism and good governance that our members expect from us. Last year as part of our change, we undertook an organisational cultural initiative to map out and embed the core values of the VFF. These values underpin our reason for being as a membership organisation and provide a platform to measure our performance. It’s vital in 2018 and beyond that members see accountability and evidence that we are doing what we have set out to do. The core values of the VFF are: Members first: Our members are our reason for being. We exist to ensure farmers in Victoria have a strong consistent voice that is recognised as the authority on farming issues in Victoria.

As farmers, right now, we are facing the visual challenge of strong opponents to how some farmers and processors treat animals. It’s hard to stomach the footage and in no way can we say these actions are ok. People who behave in this manner need to be punished through regulations and the law. We must stand together on these issues if we expect our communities and consumers to continue to trust us to grow their food and fibre. This year is an election year and we will be taking strong asks to government, the opposition and to all political influencers.

Professional: We are a professional organisation that works cohesively for the betterment of farmers in Victoria.

Our election platform is governed by three guiding principles: keeping Victorian farming safe, sustainable and globally competitive. Our big asks are:

Leadership: We lead and represent farmers in Victoria. We do this with integrity, honesty and transparency.

Modernising Infrastructure: $1.2 billion every year for five years to repair and realign state roads to fitfor-purpose conditions allowing the delivery of farm produce to markets, both locally and abroad.

Commitment: We are committed to the issues of Victorian farmers. We do not compromise our integrity in our ability to influence decision-makers to get the outcomes our members need. As President I am committed to the long term sustainability of the VFF as a high performing business entity. This year the board will set clear measurable goals and be accountable to our success and achievements. If we don’t achieve what we have promised, then I as president and your board representatives will be held accountable to you, our members. The way we interact has changed. Whilst we have 250 branches spread across Victoria, more and more of our interaction is conducted remotely through SMS and mobilebased websites. We will continue to provide support to all our branches however must adapt and resource new interactive platforms to ignite conversations with members.


interest in where and how their food is produced. In our advocacy work – the backbone of the VFF – we must be honest about farming and be judged with facts and evidence. We must call out those who do the wrong thing and stand as one who live and breathe globally recognised best practice.

Protecting Food & Fibre: $2 million that creates a roadmap for best practice in animal welfare and management to supporting our farmers in enhancing yields in line with consumer expectations. Safe & Healthy Regional Victorians: $2.8 million to enhance the focus and training for farm OH&S, farm and regional crime prevention and rural health services so our communities thrive. Stewards of the Land: $12 million to coordinate the implementation of smart planning processes to improve biosecurity and to implement pest, plant and animal programs. The Business of Government: $6 million will ensure local and state government have the information and tools to support farm growth, including embedding Right to Farm principles into the Victorian planning system.

This leads me to our next generation of farmers. Exciting opportunities through connectivity and data integration have made agriculture and farming attractive again to our sons and daughters and to new entrants to the industry. As an organisation, we need to be able to respond to this generation of agile mobile connected members.

Later this year we will host our annual conference. This is the time that you as members can come together to share your collective voice. I look forward to meeting you there.

We also need to acknowledge and respond to the community at large – like us, the community has a vested

David Jochinke President


Introducing Stephen Sheridan Having been formally appointed to the role of CEO in late January 2018, I will say that I am pleased that the Board have placed their trust in me to lead the VFF into the future and address the challenges that we face as an organisation and across all agricultural sectors. I will also say that I am proud to be appointed as CEO to lead an organisation that I believe acts in the interests of not only the farming sector but rural and regional Victoria, and all the agricultural industries that we participate in. Having been raised on a mixed cropping, livestock and irrigation property, I must say my heart and career has always followed agriculture. This included studies in Agricultural Economics and a twenty year career with one of Australia’s largest agribusinesses in the grains sector. It was later in my career I first encountered the VFF finding myself sitting across the table from some of the ‘hard men’ of the industry. The VFF reps were always, and still to this day are passionate and professional advocates for their sector and their members. It taught me the value of farmer representation, and the store that both industry and elected officials alike put in representative bodies acting on behalf of the constituents of the particular company or government in question. I think both my personal background, career in agriculture, and being a father four, all give me a degree of empathy, experience and insight. This whether it be with the broader farming and regional community, urban communities where I have found myself now living, or with a younger community as my children continually endeavour to educate me in all aspects of social media. Certainly my twenty years of commercial experience have taught me much about our agricultural supply chains from pre-farm gate all the way through the various stages of supply to domestic and export customers. This experience included working with a company moving from a statutory government agency ultimately to a listed public entity. It included experience in multiple business units from quality assurance, supply chain management, through to domestic and international trading, performance management and government relations. My experience sitting both across the table from the VFF, and within the VFF itself over recent years, has taught me much about the value of advocacy. This is critical as we move towards the State election in November this year, and a looming federal election. I hope to be able to combine my skill sets to ensure the VFF is the strongest most professional and respected entity it can be, for this strength and respect is what

gives us our influence with both industry and all levels of government. I am genuinely pleased to work in an industry that, though it may not sit front of mind for the urban population, is at the very heart of what we all enjoy – our food and fibre industries. We should be proud that Victoria produces approximately 30% of the Nation’s agricultural product providing healthy food not only for our domestic population to enjoy, but also numerous overseas countries, in turn generating over $11 billion to our Victorian economy. Part of my challenge is ensuring that we at the VFF are advocating as efficiently and effectively as possible on behalf of our members. It is to ensure that government, industry, and whole of community understand the value of our agricultural industry to the economy, and that our produce is some of the cleanest and healthiest in the world. Thus government and all of us as consumers should value both our industry, and our produce, and be prepared to invest in it accordingly. Stephen Sheridan CEO



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Farmers help out with fodder drive In mid-March, farmers and residents in the Terang, Camperdown, Garvoc and Gazette districts were impacted by four severe fire fronts. More than 15,000 acres were burnt and 17,000 households left without power for a couple of days, in the southwest Victorian dairy district. Hundreds of livestock were killed in the fires; but many more are at risk from the lack of pasture , water and power (leading to mastitis in dairy cows). The fire-affected peat swamp near Cobrico, on the perimeter of the Terang-Cobden fire, was leaking potentially poisonous gas. According to DHHS warnings, the risk included carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. It was heartening to see farmers jump into action to support their fellow agricultural producers. On social media, offers were made to move dairy cows to farms in northern Victoria for agistment and milking. Two farmers who are part of the recovery are Donald’s David Manifold and Di Bowles, Cohuna. Both were upset by the reports of the fires’ impact. Sheep, hay and cereal grain farmer, David Manifold, started a fodder drive. To date, he estimated $100,000 of good quality hay had been donated out of the Wimmera-Mallee region. “It’s all oaten and cereal hay and high quality vetch. Most people have offered up full semi loads and their own trucks,” David said. The offers came after David put out a call for fodder on his Twitter account, which coincided with the VFF’s call for assistance from farmers around the state.. He liaised with UDV’s Lauren Petersen to distribute the donated feed. Lauren said more than 130 farmers had registered to receive fodder donations. The Victorian government allocated $300,000 for the Victorian Farmers Federation to coordinate a Fire Recovery Response fodder drive through the VFF Fire Recovery Plan. “It’s important to remember this is for initial relief,” said UDV president, Adam Jenkins, who has been regularly on the ground, talking to farmers in the fire-affected communities. “Seventy-odd dairy properties were affected and that was my first call. I’ve now connected with a lot of livestock and other farmers, on behalf of the VFF. “The VFF has been helping identify the issues and what’s needed for recovery. Apart from the fodder relief, we’ve lobbied for power and water to be reinstated quickly and for food relief. We’re well set up with the ability – through our VFF councillors and staff – to lobby for things with urgency.

Photograph by David Manifold. your property. Agriculture Victoria, Dairy Australia and WestVic Dairy are providing advisers to assess individual situations,” he said. Adam said a long term response would require the government, rather than rely on ongoing donated fodder. The Lions Club ‘Need for Feed’ project also coordinated fodder relief donations and deliveries. Local shire councils, government departments and the VFF have a range of information online to assist people looking for help. By Jeanette Severs

Some personal care helps Sometimes ongoing issues out of disasters can be related to emotional and psychological welfare. This was the concern of Cohuna dairyfarmer and UDV member, Di Bowles. “I was looking at the news and social media posts and becoming very distressed,” she said. It reminded her of the 2010-11 floods in the Cohuna district. “We each received a shoebox of personal care items. It meant so much,” Di said. She reached out to dairyfarmers, her church and other networks for donated handbags of personal items. “Farmers are very good at helping farmers and passing it on,” Di said. “I thought it would just be a matter of taking a bag out of your cupboard and filling it with personal care items. But some people have gone out and bought bags, then donated the other items on top of that.” With Agriculture Victoria’s help with transport, 118 bags went to Warrnambool to be distributed by WestVic Dairy and 80 bags to Hamilton to the Centre for Farmer Health to donate. “We’ve been able to send bags for men, women and children,” Di said.

“BlazeAid is providing fencing support. The VFF is now helping with long term large scale recovery.” Adam said some dairy farmers had decided to dry off their milking herd early. A lot of focus was on pasture recovery. “It entirely depends on the level of fire that went through



Photograph by Jeanette Severs

Impact of Q fever is longterm One of the startling pieces of information about Q fever is that it can infect a person who is one kilometre away from the source. One farmer still recovering from infection is Casey Birmingham, a dairy farmer at Nambrok. She was diagnosed with Q fever in early October 2017, three weeks after the infection began. “I thought I was coming down with the flu. But I was so crook with it, with extreme high temperatures and headaches, I couldn’t drink and I needed painkillers every four hours to offset the fever,” Casey said. Also a nurse, after three days of illness Casey decided to go to hospital. She asked for Q fever testing but initial blood analysis showed negative for antibodies. “Every time my temperature spiked above 40, at least four times a day, they took blood tests,” Casey said. Husband, Jason, kept pushing forward the subject of Q fever. Two days after admission, a doctor started Casey on oral antibiotics, based entirely on her symptoms. (It was four weeks before the antibodies showed up in her blood tests.) After four days, Casey was taken off intravenous fluids and, with the fever abated and on pain relief and antibiotics, she returned home. Her headaches continued until Christmas. Since February, she has been under the care of an infection specialist and has blood tests every six months. “The worst thing is the fatigue. If I have a full day or get sick,



fatigue kicks in seriously and migraine headaches return,” Casey said. Jason and Casey (photo above) have a 300-cow Friesian herd, milk twice a day, split calve and produce all their own fodder off their 220 hectare farm. Before the Q fever infection, Casey milked in the morning, was involved in calving and drenching and looked after the couple’s two girls. The illness meant she was out of action for six weeks during a hectic time on the farm – irrigating, calving tailenders, joining heifers and cows and harvesting silage. The couple relied on staff to milk while Jason could concentrate on harvest and irrigating. Casey is now the relief milker. Fortunately the couple live close by both families and their parents, also dairy farmers, have been able to help. “It’s put pressure on the system,” Jason said. “It was actually an eye opener to have to finish harvest and have to milk. So our staff stepped up and we now employ two women full time to milk.” Jason was vaccinated when he left school to begin dairy farming full time. The couple are supporting their two employees to be vaccinated. “We’ve encouraged our staff to get it done and we’ll pay for it, because it costs us more if they get sick,” Jason said. “We’ve also heard a father and son in the neighbourhood were sick with Q fever about 18 months before Casey.” By Jeanette Severs


Q Fever: what you need to know Preventing this long lasting disease is the main aim of Q fever vaccination. According to information on the Australian Q Fever Register, the disease can be spread to humans mainly from beef and dairy cattle, sheep and goats. The germ that causes infection can be spread in the urine, faeces and milk, with birth fluids, placenta and the foetus being the most dangerous sources. When infected fluids dry out, the highly infectious germ can remain alive in the dust or on hair, fleece and hides for years – people can be infected by splashed infected fluids or by breathing infected dust. The organism, dried on wool, has been shown to remain infective for up to nine months at 1520 degrees and up to 16 months at 4-6 degrees. During the slaughter and processing of infected animals, fine mists can be released into the air from the blood and when handling the udder, bladder, intestines, uterus, foetus and other products of conception. High pressure washing can spread the infection. Other infected matter can collect on the animal’s hide, hair or fleece and heavily contaminate the ground, nearby structures, machinery, hay and clothing. The organism, Coxiella burnetii, that causes Q fever in humans can exist on native and domestic animals without showing obvious signs of infection. Transmission from animal to human includes entering through a cut on the skin or into the eye. Inhalation is the most common source of human infection. Infection can occur up to a kilometre away from the source. Moving animals in stockyards, pens, holding paddocks and with livestock transport trucks can also raise infective dust. It is estimated very small numbers of C burnetii are sufficient to cause Q fever in humans. Onset of the illness may range from 14-60 days, but usual incubation period is 19-21 days.

Photograph by Jeanette Severs. People’s symptoms can range from feeling ‘off colour’ for a few days to severe fever and sweating, cough, nausea, severe headache, muscle pains, weakness, vomiting and diarrhoea. Someone with heart problems may experience infection of the heart valves and severe illness as a result. Other problems may show up months or years after the first signs of disease. Ongoing symptoms include extreme tiredness and weakness, even after minor exercise, muscle pains, headaches, fever and depression – referred to as Post Q Fever Fatigue Syndrome – affecting work and other aspects of a normal quality of life. Any organ system can become involved including the central nervous system, lungs, liver, kidney, testes and heart muscle and tissue. Endocarditis may develop two to four years after the initial infection.

Source: Australian Q Fever Register

R  esearch to help manage symptoms Barb Stewart, Kernot, was diagnosed with Q fever antibodies when she was tested prior to the vaccine injection. All people wanting the vaccination need to be tested for antibodies, a fortnight before. Barb, her late husband and two daughters, turned up at the Koonwarra saleyards where a local clinic was holding the vaccination session. “We were farming and as a family we decided to have the injection,” Barb said. Then as now, she ran a small flock of sheep alongside a breeding herd and traded cattle. The test showed Barb had had Q fever. But she cannot pinpoint when she had the illness. “You work in the stockyards such a lot and I can’t recall being awfully unwell,” she said. “You think, it’s just the latest bug going around. What I’ve found is the flu-like symptoms, lethargy, pains and aches recur when I’m rundown.” Her ongoing suppressed immunity aside, Barb would like


Barb Stewart. research to pinpoint how she can manage the symptoms. “I’d like to have so much more information,” she said. “It would be good to have an ongoing promotion about why to have the vaccine and how to manage after you’ve had Q fever. It would be nice to know the ramifications of getting the disease.”



Proactive about Q fever It was about 15 years ago, that the Victorian Livestock Exchange (VLE) board of management began hosting Q fever testing and vaccination days, at Koonwarra saleyards. Since then, they have hosted several sessions at Koonwarra and three at Pakenham saleyards. “The most recent was about 18 months ago. It’s never been easy to get hold of the vaccine,” said VLE CEO, Wayne Osborne. “We’re proactive. Every couple of years we get our (recently employed) staff and ask the livestock agents who they have to put on the list. That gives us a core. “Then we contact a local clinic to organise the days and vaccine and make it open to local farmers.” “We find the medical practitioners want to work in with us.”

Wayne Osborne - Photograph by Jeanette Severs.

In fact, the most recent vaccination round at Koonwarra was at the request of a local medical clinic.

convenient place to gather a number of farmers together for

“The doctors know if they come to the saleyards, it’s a

health checkups,” Wayne said.

Cluster activity in Q fever research A veterinarian researching Q fever believes there may be a geographic link between herd and human infection. Dr Tabita Tan’s research focussed on sheep and goats in Victoria and beef and dairy cattle in the Goulburn Valley and Gippsland regions. “Recent human outbreaks of Q fever in Victoria has raised concerns the disease is emerging and increasing,” Tabita said. “Q fever in humans can be a severe and debilitating disease that lasts for many years, affecting people’s quality of life and their ability to work. “It’s estimated the cost of Q fever to industry in lost productivity, medical expenses and potential litigation is at least $1million every year.” “The main source of human infection is livestock and knowing the amount of disease in the source is a key step to understanding the risk to human health and informing our control efforts.” Tabita’s three years of research is coming to a close and providing direction for further study. The last study published in Victoria, into the prevalence of Q fever in livestock, was in 1972.

“Our preliminary findings show Q fever can occur at high levels at some farms, even though the disease shows few obvious signs in livestock,” Tabita said.

“We didn’t know if anything had changed and we don’t really understand the risk to humans from infected livestock ,” she said.

“Livestock that contract Q fever show reproductivity loss. For sheep and goats, it leads to abortion of foetuses, preterm births and low birth weights. Cattle show infertility. You need to get a blood test to properly diagnose Q fever in livestock, because it imitates other diseases.”

“So my study, with 1500 blood tests sampled from across most of the state, was to understand data trends.”

“It is a very infectious disease and humans are at highest risk during calving, lambing and kidding.”

One of the outcomes from the survey identified a high intensity of infection can occur in herds, increasing the risk of infection for humans.

“There is an effective vaccine available for people, providing lifelong immunity.”

The survey identified that infection is not equally spread across all farms. While Q fever was not detected on many places, some herds had high infection rates and that increases the risk of infection for humans. This fits with the occurrence of occasional increases of human infections in Victoria.


Tabita Tan.


Tabita encourages doctors to automatically include Q fever in the list of possible infections when high risk patients – those who have had recent contact with livestock – present with symptoms such as unexplained fever. In May this year, a study assessing the human infection risk of Q fever will be released. By Jeanette Severs


Photograph by Jeanette Severs

Biosecurity part of everyday farming Foot and mouth disease (FMD) has been quantified by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resources and Economics to cost Australia’s livestock businesses $50 billion over 10 years. The Productivity Commission estimated the value of Australia’s dollar would drop by 2.5% in the year of an outbreak. FMD will have a significantly detrimental impact on Victoria’s exports and lead to mass culling of livestock and consequent loss of genetics – based on Australia’s commitment to export 60% of the livestock bred in this country. Effects on trade will probably have a knock-on impact to other agricultural industries. On any given day in Australia, an estimated 100,000 head of cattle, 40,000 pigs and 30,000 sheep are transported on the roads. It is estimated it will take 72 hours to totally halt movements of susceptible livestock species if an endemic disease outbreak occurs. These are some of the facts being presented to farmers at the series of workshops facilitated across Victoria by the VFF. One of the easiest actions to mitigate FMD risk, was to declare any hiking or on-farm activity overseas and hand in your shoes and boots to biosecurity officers for cleaning, as you arrive in Australia. Hunters, hikers and visitors to farms could easily spread diseases from overseas on Australian soil. Steven Harrison, Merino stud breeder, commercial wool grower and cattle trader at Giffard West, experienced FMD firsthand on a study tour to Nepal in late 2015.

around dealing with it that results in the high livestock death toll.” Steven and Lisa Harrison have instigated biosecurity practices on their farm, which incorporates four properties. “We’ve got four properties, so we have four separate biosecurity areas,” Steven said. They insist on sheep and cattle health statements to accompany all livestock bought and sold and that all signatories are included on the national vendor declaration forms. All visitors are recorded at the stud’s field day. They also record all contractors who visit the farm – shearers, woolhandlers, fertiliser spreaders and those who deliver concrete tanks and other farm goods. Steven believes the popularity of international travel and the high level of endemic FMD in Asia caused increased disease risk in Australia. “If it comes into Melbourne’s domestic airport, the first people affected will be farmers on the peri-urban border,” Steven said. “It’ll be brought in by someone on a working holiday or visiting relatives. We need to ensure money is spent on the biosecurity front line at our airports.” “As farmers, we need to share knowledge between ourselves and with our overseas neighbours.” “The Nepalese villagers we met cared about their animals and were asking us to help them improve their livestock practices.” Highly contagious, FMD could be carried in the cloven hooves of livestock, in faeces, saliva, mucous and milk.

Representing the VFF as an independent board member of WoolProducers Australia, Steven (photo above) encourages farmers to proactively learn about the disease.

The initial five days is a critical time for diagnosis – vesicles and ruptured lesions are found in mouths, on muzzles, tongues, gums and on feet and teats. After a week, the symptoms and signs of FMD mimicked other diseases.

“Before I went to Nepal, I always had the impression that animals died from FMD,” he said.

Livestock also show signs of thrift, depression, anorexia, fever, lameness and production loss.

“But they don’t – you get production losses. It’s the practice

By Jeanette Severs





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Photograph by Jeanette Severs

Saving energy on farms On-farm energy use is a significant cost to farmers and they are feeling the pressure of rising costs and international prices. In late December 2017, the Victorian government announced a $30 million project to help farmers manage on-farm energy costs, through improved efficiency and new technology. The Agricultural Energy Investment Plan (the Plan) will explore alternative energy options, helping to sustain Victoria’s adaptable and internationally competitive agriculture sector. The Plan is a direct response to Agriculture Victoria’s OnFarm Energy Survey (the Survey), which more than 200 Victorian farmers participated in. The Survey highlighted that investment costs, the speed of technological change and uncertainty about implementation were preventing Victorian farmers from improving their efficiency and pursuing alternative energy options.

skills and knowledge of energy efficiency opportunities and technology. Research – $1 million for facilitating partnerships to commercialise research for the farming sector. Agriculture Victoria places a high value on research and will partner with research organisations, universities and industry to develop and commercialise new technology with the potential to boost energy efficiency and improve the resilience of the farming sector. Under the Plan, farmers will need to complete an on-farm energy assessment before they apply for government assistance. Completing an assessment will identify what improvements could be made on-farm. This will then inform the grants process. The assessors will provide specialist knowledge on the latest technology, programs and processes to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. They will also be solutionfocused for your situation; and identify where you can find support to implement changes to processes. The types of initiatives available include purchasing new, more energy-efficient equipment such as pumps or lighting, or installing own generation capacity such as solar panels. An advisory council will be established to provide further advice on the design and roll out of this Plan. Representatives from both industry and energy experts will be on the council.

Infographic sourced from AgVic’s Agriculture Energy Investment Plan

The Plan comprises Assessments – $5 million for providing on-farm energy assessments to assist farmers identify where they may reduce energy consumption. Grants – $20 million supporting famers to invest in energy efficiencies or own generation capacity. The Plan’s proposed grants scheme will assess each application according to the type of investments required, with a focus on simple equipment upgrades, medium to large farm projects and projects of strategic or regional significance. Demonstrations – $1.5 million in demonstrating energy efficiency measures on-farm. Skills and Education – $2.5 million for improving farmers’


In addition, Agriculture Victoria will contact farmers who responded to the Survey, to learn from their experiences, gain further feedback and ensure the Plan is tailored to continue to meet their needs. Farmers can register their details and be kept up to date on the latest developments on the Plan, including details on when and how to apply for on-farm assessments and grants. The Plan is funded by the Agriculture Infrastructure and Jobs Fund (AIJF), which was funded through the sale of the lease of the Port of Melbourne. AIJF was set up after concerted lobbying from the VFF, in order to ensure regional Victoria received a fair share of the benefits from the lease. agriculture-energy-investment-plan By Ashlee Hammond and Kellie Quayle Acting UDV Manager & Intensives Industries Policy Adviser



Grains supply chain focus Grain growers from across the state converged on Geelong in late February for the 39th annual VFF Grains conference. The two-day event commenced with the Paddock to Port Tour, an opportunity for farmers to explore the post-farmgate supply chain. Members visited key Geelong agribusiness sites including the GrainCorp Port Terminal, Riordan Fertiliser Sheds and Barrett Burston Malting. The tour concluded at White Rabbit Brewery for the Riordan’s welcome dinner, where members were informed about and entertained with the final steps of the malting process. Farmers were up bright and early the next morning for the Monsanto breakfast workshop: ‘Mobile Phones, not just for checking the weather. Using social media to tell the story of modern Australian agriculture’. The informative presentations explained the power of social media to build community awareness of farming stories. The formal conference proceedings were opened by Jaala Pulford, Minister for Agriculture. The key topics for the day were rural roads, farm safety and Chain of Responsibility regulations. After some robust debate, the following resolutions were passed:  The VFF continue to work with VicRoads to improve the clarity of Class 1 Agricultural Vehicle Exemption notice.  The VFF Grains Group calls on the Victorian state government to increase spending on the Victorian regional road network to ensure fit-for-purpose roads.  The VFF Grains Group calls on the Federal and Victorian government to upgrade the Ararat to Portland to line the standard of Murray Basin Rail Project.  The VFF Grains Conference calls on VicRoads to amend the eligibility to get a heavy combination licence to

decrease the amount of time needed between attaining a heavy rigid license and a heavy combination license.  That all grain testing staff be trained by an independent organisation that trains staff to Grain Trade Australia Standards. Training is to be paid for by the Grain Handlers.  Wish the VFF Grains Group get an explanation from malsters why falling numbers machines were used on malting barley. We need them to explain how the number of 300 was determined as shot grain.  That the VFF Grains Council look into the issuing of Fire Permits in Victoria by the Shire Council’s and the CFA.  The VFF request funding to improve the occupational health and safety of Victorian agriculture. The conference concluded with the GRDC gala dinner, held at the Geelong Regional Library. This was an opportunity to thank retiring grains councillors, Peter Lawless, Rob McRae, Marshall Rodda and Mark Collins, for their tireless commitment and extensive contributions to the grains industry during their time on the Grains Council. Thank you to the many people who joined the 2018 VFF Grains Conference and to the sponsors for their continued support of the event. By Annabel Mactier Grains Project & Policy Officer




Grains conference, who and where:
















Photographs by Sarah Martin and Annabel Mactier

1. Garry Bibby, Berriwillock 2.  Group looking at Riordan Fertiliser loading bay 3.  Visiting Riordan Grains 4.  Jim Riordan, Managing Director Riordan Grains speaking to the group on the Paddock to Port Tour 5. Riordans Fertiliser sheds 6.  Cam Parker, Boort




7.  Ross Johns, Ballarat North 8.  Ian Hastings, Ouyen 9.  Ross Johns, Ballarat North 10.  Russell Coad, Shelford, Tony Russell, GIMAF, Andrew Weidemann, Rupanyup 11.  Group heading off on Paddock to Port tour 12. Monsanto workshop panellists Cam Parker, Boort, Adam Jenkins, South Purrumbete,

Chantel McAlister, Photographer, David Jochinke, Murra Warra. 13.  Eddy Nagorka, Horsham Hydraulics 14. Peter Thompson, Manangatang, Prue Cook, Dimboola, Marshall Rodda, Tarranyurk, Anthony Mulcahy, Streatham 15. Group on tour at White Rabbit Brewery 16. Melissa Ludemon, Raywood



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Don’t take risks. Before excavation work always Dial Before You Dig.

Remember to Always Dial Before You Dig Dial Before You Dig is a free service that puts farmers in contact with owners of underground pipes and cables that may run through and around rural properties. It is essential to lodge an enquiry with Dial Before You Dig before any excavation work as the presence or location of underground assets may not be known to landowners. Minor excavation activities can cause major damages to these underground networks. Farmers can lodge an enquiry online at or by calling 1100 during business hours. You will receive plans providing details about underground assets including information on how to work safely around them. Dial Before You Dig is a proud supporter of the Victorian Farmers Federation.

The Essential First Step. 19


Quad bikes are on WorkSafe hot list At the 2016 VFF conference, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a $6million subsidy scheme for farmers to ensure their quad bikes are safe.

More information is online at farmsafety or telephone 1800 136 089.

Administered through the VFF, the funding from WorkSafe is to enable farmers to purchase a safer vehicle – for example, a side-by-side – or an operator protection device (OPD) for an existing, modifiable, quad bike.

Farm safety audit creates change

Victoria has 29,661 agricultural businesses employing 91,000 people. To the end of February this year, more than 3000 agricultural businesses have received the rebate for 3059 applications – for 1824 OPDs and 1235 safer vehicles – to the tune of $2,740,005. This is clearly not enough. With the funding due to expire at the end of October this year, WorkSafe Victoria farm safety inspectors have added quad bikes to the farm safety checklist. The enforcement program began in March. WorkSafe inspectors want to see if farmers have controlled the risk. This means if the inspector believes the vehicle is not fit for its purpose or the terrain it is used on, an improvement notice will be issued on the spot; requiring the employer to fit an OPD or remove the quad bike from the risky environment. WorkSafe believes farmers have had ample time to heed the safety messaging about quad bikes and should have taken advantage of the current rebate scheme. WorkSafe has published a document on assessing risks in relation to quad bikes. This tool will help identify the level of rollover risk.

By Patricia Murdock Workplace Relations and HR Executive Manager

Jenny and Graeme Cope, Fish Creek, introduced a number of changes after conducting a farm safety audit. With five fulltime and other part-time workers, safety on the busy, 750cow dairyfarm is important. “I had noticed things like workers speeding on quad bikes and safety equipment not being used at times with bikes; and that got us started,” Jenny said. The couple attended a Women in Dairy discussion group session on farm safety, where they could learn more about their employer obligations in the workplace. After a farm safety review, changes implemented included: – • Q  uad bike induction process outlining speed limits and no-go zones. • Signs reinforcing speed limits. • Operator Protective Devices on all quad bikes. • New helmets for quad bike users. • More communication among farm staff. • Paint and tape on pipes and other low-hanging items.

Quad Bike Safety Tips: Think about whether a quad bike is really the best vehicle for the task and the terrain you will encounter along the way. Go through a pre-start checklist and check tyre pressure and brakes before you begin driving. Tell someone where you are going and try to take a phone or other communication device, in case you are injured or the vehicle breaks down. Take your time and make sure you know where the ‘No Go’ zones are on your farm when riding a quad bike. Always wear a helmet – one in every five quad bike incidents results in a head injury. Do not carry passengers and do not overload the vehicle as it can impact the balance of the vehicle, increasing your risk of injury. Do not let children ride adult-sized quad bikes. Children under the age of 16 account for 20% of all quad bike deaths.

Jenny and Graeme Cope. Photograph by GippsDairy.




Access to chemicals – farming practicalities must trump ideology Access to agricultural chemicals is a vital part of running an horticultural business. Whether it is pest, weed or disease control, sometimes the only control option is a chemical one. Australia is fortunate to have a strong science-based regulatory framework determining the label and use conditions for products. The downside can be the cost of having a new product registered, which, combined with Australia’s proportionally small market, can create a disincentive for companies who develop and are responsible for registering crop protection products. In Victoria we are fortunate to currently operate under control-of-use regulations, allowing us to utilise products off-label. This access is crucial to horticulture and has been important for other smaller or niche commodities. In early years of the pulse industry, off-label use in Victoria was key to availability of viable disease control options. Despite detractors from more ideologically driven perspectives, it is not a free-for-all. Farmers are not allowed to apply a product off-label where the use has been specifically prohibited. Farmers must also take into consideration safety measures and recommended label rates for similar crops. To support Victoria’s seeming regulatory freedom in this space, we must also acknowledge the Victorian Produce Monitoring Program which provides rigour and confidence to the system. The VFF has consistently supported the Victorian off-label provisions and been thankful for a State-based regulator who work with the agriculture industry. We believe part of their willingness to work in a pro-active and productive way with agriculture has been the fact that, as a regulatory team, they have remained aligned to primary industries no matter who is in government or what the department is called. Farmers in others States face dealing with the health or environment department if they need to address an issue related to agricultural chemical use regulation. This is not an ideal situation, given how complex the issues can be and the need for the bureaucrats in charge to have an in-depth understanding of real-world agricultural challenges. The VFF has put in a submission to the National Harmonisation of Use process. The aim of the process is to determine a way to bring more consistency Australia-wide regarding the regulations controlling the use of agricultural chemicals off-label. Currently most Australian States completely ban off-label use, while others provide some small amounts of flexibility. The Victorian system is currently the most flexible and most supportive of niche market, small scale or emerging product producers.



Photograph by Jeanette Severs. The VFF will advocate to keep the Victorian system in place. The VFF is concerned the current proposal to harmonise chemical use regulations across Australia is too narrow in scope to actually lead to positive change for farmers. In order to have a harmonised approach to use of chemicals, there needs to be a balanced and consistent monitoring, education, investigation and enforcement process across Australia. This is not possible while some States house their chemical use regulators within departments that do not focus on agriculture; nor is there any incentive for them or their Minister to consider farmers as key stakeholders. Support for true harmonisation is also hampered by the current restrictions that limit the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s ability to work on proactive permit solutions with industries. The VFF would support greater consistency between States when it comes to chemical use, regulation and monitoring but not at the expense of access to chemicals for Victoria’s horticulture industry. By Emma Germano Horticulture President


Milkers across the Tasman In late February this year, seven young dairy farmers travelled through the South Island of New Zealand to learn all they could about dairying across the Tasman. An initiative of the Gardiner Dairy Foundation and organised and led by the UDV, the tour connected the group with New Zealand farmers, industry bodies and service providers. The aim: to identify why Kiwi dairying is different to Australia; compare it to dairy farming in Victoria; and how these young farmers can become leaders for their industry. We asked the group – Ashlee Bloxidge, Elsi Neave, Craig Emmett, Rhiannon Parry, Sharnie Johnson, Ellie Field and Katherine Byrne – about their impressions on the tour. What are your favourite things you have done on this tour? Ashlee: I loved seeing Rakaia Island dairy, which is on its own island, as well as the dinner discussion groups. I really enjoyed visiting Rabobank as well – as an employee, you don’t really get to see the financial side of things so it was great to see farming from a bank’s perspective. Ellie: I loved speaking to the industry ‘helpers’ such as Dairy NZ & Federated Farmers of New Zealand. It was great to get a structured overview on issues in the NZ dairy industry from them. I also gained a lot from talking with LIC about ways we can improve our breeding in Australia to produce more pasture-based cows. Katherine: The individual farm visits each had something different to offer and really got my brain going. The group activities were good also, to get to know the others and chat and learn from our own experiences. What are the most important things you have learned? Elsi: I’ve learned about pasture management, winter crop rotations including different feed types like fodder beet & kale; and about succession and progression within the New Zealand industry. I’ve also learned more about farming for profit and how best to manage production. Sharnie: How to put structures in place for workers, like making them feel important, days’ off, etc. Also, that it can be difficult to tell how much money it costs to rear calves. I also learned about different timing for milking cows and how it shouldn’t affect cell count if done correctly; grass grows better in the New Zealand climate; and heaps about cropping.

On the road to Queenstown: (top) UDV’s Chris Paynter, Rhiannon Parry, Katherine Byrne, Craig Emmett, Elsi Neave, (bottom) Ashlee Bloxidge, Sharnie Johnson, Ellie Field. Do you think it is better to learn about dairy in a group? Craig: It definitely had its benefits in that you have lots of different perspectives so the questions asked are quite different. Rhiannon: Yes, we are able to talk as a group about pros and cons that suit our country’s environment. Because we are from different ‘ways’ of farming, too, that was another way to learn. Would you recommend the tour to other young farmers? Ashlee: Yes! It has been an amazing opportunity to network, learn how different systems work overseas, and as how other farmers in Victoria operate. Elsi: I would definitely recommend the tour to similar people as it is a great way to network and learn more about the dairy industry, as well as checking out some sights along the way. Rhiannon: Absolutely – it’s an eye opener to what our country could be heading into in the not-so-distant future. It’s definitely a great way to learn about other ways to dairy farm, but also bounce ideas off other young farmers. Do you have any other thoughts you want to share? Craig: Attention to detail is key. Listen, Learn, Adapt. Ellie: It’s great to find out how other young industry leaders ‘do their thing’ from the discussion during and after the farm visits. It’s so interesting how everyone is so diverse.

How will what you have learned on the tour change what you do at home?

The activities of the trip are detailed in the group’s journal at

Katherine: I’ll research more and push myself and others around me to take on change or new ideas. Try and do something to help educate people outside dairy, school children, my peers, etc.

You can also hear from the participants at the Young Farmers Breakfast, 2018 UDV Annual Conference on Friday 4 May. Go to to register. Stay tuned in the second half of 2018 for news about next year’s tour.

Sharnie: We will attempt to change our way of employing staff – sit down and work out a formal structure. Continue to manage our pasture allocation as best we can.

By Chris Paynter UDV Project & Policy Officer




Milkers across the Tasman Several young Victorian dairy farmers toured dairy farms and service providers on New Zealand’s South Island, in late February.





Images 1. Rhiannon samples Simon Topham’s swede crop, which sweetens after a frost. 2.  Dairy NZ officer, Willis Ritchie, points out the mod-cons at the new Southern Dairy Hub research facility.

facility, at Southern Dairy Hub. 9.  Ellie, Ashlee, Katherine and Sharnie take a break after a farm walk. 10.  Rhiannon gets up close with Michael Farmer’s herd at feeding time.

3.  Tom Heneghan discusses sharemilking in the NZ system and the challenges of moving to ownership.

11. Elsi gets to taste the local flavour with Southern Dairy Hub’s fodderbeet.

4.  Elsi points out the center of operations for the family-owned 2,275ha Rakaia Island Dairy.

12.  The group discuss low cost systems with Glenn Johnson as they walk his farm.

5.  Biosecurity is serious business on the tour: Ashlee follows the proper protocols by washing her boots.

13.  Rhiannon in Leighton Pye’s imported British fodderbeet harvester.

6. Craig and Ellie examine the herd test space in the centre of the Southern Dairy Hub’s rotary shed.

14. A fresh early start to the day in Dunedin (L-R: UDV Tour Leader Matt Gleeson, Ellie Field, Sharnie Johnson, Ashlee Bloxidge, Katherine Byrne, Elsi Neave, Craig Emmett, Rhiannon Parry (front)).

7.  Esli and Craig talk downsizing and the importance of community with Richard and Mandy Jones. 8.  The group discuss the process of upgrading existing farmland into a premier research

















VFF key priorities Victorian State budget 1.  $1.2billion pa for five years to repair regional Statedeclared roads to ensure they are fit-for-purpose.

2. $20million for the Victorian government to construct 20 mobile towers, to be leased to multiple carriers.

3.  Ongoing funding for the VFF Occupational Health and Safety officer.

10. Dedicated funding in every Crown land managers’ budget to ensure the manager fulfils Catchment and Land Protection (CALP) Act responsibilities for weed and pest control.

11. Funding for a gap analysis of regional health services,

4.  $150,000 pa for four years for the VFF to run workshops

particularly chronic care facilities, mental health and GP services.

for new farmers about the basic responsibilities of a farmer.

12. Ongoing dedicated funding of Victorian government

5. Increase the limit of the Young Farmer Stamp Duty Exemption to $1million and halve stamp duty on all primary production properties.

biosecurity responsibilities.

13. $150,000 pa for four years for a VFF Food and Fibre Education Officer.

6. Funding for a gap analysis into road maintenance

14. $500,000 for the ‘Bored to Board’ shearing apprentice

funding across VicRoads and local government managed roads.

15. $500million to fully fund current regional water

7. $23.4million to fund the Maroona-Portland rail link


9. $650,000 to upskill electricians working on farms.

program. infrastructure projects.

upgrade, in line with the specifications for the Murray Basin Rail project.

16. $250million towards the Agriculture Energy Investment

8.  $1.2million for community Q fever clinic grants and

17. Funding for DELWP to embed the Right to Farm

$100,000 to continue the VFF Q fever awareness program.

principles in the Victorian Planning Provision planning scheme, its administration and amendment.




VFF election priorities Farming faces many challenges that are outside our control. However when these challenges are as a result of government action (or inaction) an election gives us a chance to show how our concerns impact on more than just the farm sector – the availability and price of the food and fibre we all need to survive. With state and federal elections in the next year or so we have tailored an election platform responding to the issues and challenges you raised with us last year at the 16 Farmer Forums or via member surveys and commodity events. Hearing from you has been critical in identifying what actions are required to keep Victorian agriculture globally competitive and safe and sustainable. The top issues that members highlighted across all our interactions relate to: Right to farm Telecommunications Roads Energy Rates and councils Water The VFF Policy Council and its committees have identified six key themes to advocate for policy and funding changes. The themes are: 1. Modernising Infrastructure (energy; roads & rail; technology (internet, mobile coverage – voice & data; water) 2.  Protecting your Food and Fibre (biosecurity, food safety,


animal welfare, land access) 3.  Safe and Healthy Regional Victorians (OH&S, health services & education and emergency services) 4. Stewards of the Land (pest plant & animal management, Landcare & native vegetation, soil & catchment health, land access) 5.  Supporting the Best Farmers in the World (acknowledgement of the quality and economic importance of Victorian agriculture; supporting new entrants; recognising the professionalism of farmers and supporting skills attainment) 6. Getting Government Back to Core Business (local & state government funding and behaviours/attitude; Right to Farm issues in regulations – planning; EPA; animal welfare)

1 Modernising Infrastructure At the Farmer Forums roads, energy, telecommunications and water were key issues impacting on your competitiveness. To ensure Victorian agriculture remains competitive globally input costs, such as electricity, diesel, gas and water, need to remain affordable. Currently we are seeing all costs rising, along with the regulation required to be complied with, adding additional compliance costs. As price takers it is difficult to pass these costs on to consumers. We expect the government to provide essential infrastructure that is not just adequate but is improved over time. We have seen gold plating of some non-vital infrastructure while vital infrastructure is been neglected, non-existent, or left to “market forces” in a monopolised system where efficient or useful solutions are often missing.



Roads Roads have reached the stage of requiring extremely large funds to restore the network to a safe and fit-for-purpose standard. Our road networks need to be able to efficiently transport our goods to market and feed Victorians good quality fresh food. We need our roads to be returned to a minimum design standard and then implement ‘stitch in time’ maintenance funding as ongoing to ensure these assets exceed their design life. Our challenge is to make not only urban populations understand that rural roads are vital to their daily lives (provide food and fibre) but to make sure every member of parliament understands that failure to invest in road infrastructure undermines the Victorian economy. Energy Energy and water are essential services and inputs into farm businesses; we need to work with government to ensure universal access to adequate energy infrastructure and reliable energy at a reasonable cost. We need government to support for fit-for-purpose on-farm generation, including support for diesel backup and easy integration off-and-on-grid. We want to see farm businesses implement best practices and to uphold our safe and sustainable reputation, so it is in reducing input cost through investing in energy and water infrastructure that we ask the government to assist keeping farming competitive. As Victorian consumers are the main beneficiaries of our produce we are asking for government to contribute to the public benefit of agriculture. Telecommunications Government has been encouraging farmers to adopt technology and moving to online only services. We need governments to understand that your need for access to telecommunications and data is not just in your office but in the paddock. We will be calling on both State and Federal governments to stop the politics and ensure all Victorians have access to reliable and affordable technology (voice and data) whether they are in the office or on the tractor.

2 Government Services – back to core business Government expects a lot from farmers. As well as being experts in growing food and fibre, increasingly farmers must take on the roles of park rangers, field naturalist and emergency service provider; and in the time left over run their farming business in such a way that no “lifestyler” or passing tourist could take offence. Victoria has very high environmental, amenity and animal welfare standards, so farmers who demonstrate good practice should be given a social license to farm. We want fair regulatory systems that understand farmers need to apply for a permit to remove native vegetation to facilitate safer and more sustainable machinery and technology usage. Regulatory systems need to understand the importance of agriculture and be designed to give



certainty in process and likely outcomes. To achieve a fairer regulatory system we will: Continue to seek fairer and simpler regulations for farmers Seek changes to clearly delineate councils ‘core business’ and link expenditure to these key roles Fight for fairer treatment in the planning system Lobby for greater government investment in local infrastructure in the regions  Fight for community funding of on farm environmental programs Request that agencies consider the impact of regulation and projects on agriculture Seek all agency reporting on compliance with pest plant and animal management responsibilities Advocate for changes to the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act that are fairer to landholders such as commercial land access arrangements. While government might expect a lot from us it is only fair that we should expect them to lead by example.

3 Protecting Food and Fibre Biosecurity and Food safety Farmers take great pride in providing a good product to feed our society. Food safety and biosecurity regulations are a cornerstone of providing that assurance to consumers their food is safe. While the cost of these regulations is borne by producers, customers can only have confidence in the food they consume when this system is appropriately enforced and funded. Farmers ensure that food safety and biosecurity standards are met on their own farm. The government has a role to ensure that all producers are meeting the minimum standards. Animal Welfare Farmers care for their livestock and have invested large sums to research best practices that exceed minimum standards. Government needs to focus on minimum standards for each industry that are based on expert opinion not emotive or ideological views. As a sector we need to be clear that we expect government to work with industry and to take on board industry knowledge to ensure Victorian agriculture remains safe and sustainable.

4 Safe and Healthy Rural Victorians We cannot walk away from workplace injuries and deaths which continue to occur on farms. Agriculture is now the leading industry in the WorkSafe statistics. Farmers need to own this issue and drive change, which is why we are asking the government to provide funding for farm safety officers to work with farmers to find sensible and safe solutions on farm.


Farmers aren’t the best at putting themselves, and their health first. Being fit for work is the starting point of ensuring a safe workplace not just for ourselves but any workers or contractors on the farm.

We need your help. We need to hear from you with real life examples of the challenges you face and the great work you are achieving. This might be as an individual, a branch or a community.

Access to a range of health care professionals and services makes keeping fit and healthy easier. We seek an audit of service gaps to feed into a medical blackspot program to ensure basic coverage of multiple services, not just a GP.

Soon we will be launching the VFF election campaign to our members with fact sheets and key talking points. We are keen to see communities take action locally as lobbyists to ensure all political parties and candidates learn, support and act on what is important for Victoria farmers.

5 Supporting the Best Farmers in the World Farming is becoming increasingly regulated and farmers’ expertise is often not recognised by government or the wider community.

Stay informed. Read the VFF member e-news

We seek a clear statement from government that Victorian agriculture is highly regulated and that the public can have confidence in Victorian agriculture in terms of animal welfare, food safety, environment and biosecurity.

Email any feedback on policy directions or potential case studies

This statement should be followed by a campaign promoting and supporting Victorian agricultural produce and producers.

Engage local candidates on key issues

Government can further support the significant role agriculture plays in the economy. We are asking for stamp duty exemptions on: young farmers purchasing (their first) property in a farm zone up to $600,000; purchasing land for farm expansion; and trusts.

Discuss the election platform and your key issues at the VFF branch meetings or community groups

Lisa Gervasoni Acting Policy Manager

We are also seeking upskilling opportunities to grow the profession of farming. New entrants workshops Financial management workshops Risk management workshops Career advice – opportunities in agriculture

6 Stewards of the Land In an increasingly urbanised society we need to demonstrate that farmers are the original conservationists. For generations farmers have worked to improve their farms. It was this practical understanding of “good for the farm and the environment” that gave birth to the “Landcare” movement. Increasingly governments have increased their expectations on private landholders to achieve “net gain” and protect biodiversity, while decreasing expenditure on pest plant and animal management, crown land management (and acquisition) and sustainable agriculture grants. We need to demonstrate our land management credentials challenge the government to do its part and lead by example in managing the crown estate – especially that of managing pest plants and animals. We seek a dedicated agency budget for pest plant and animal management and agency reporting on how they have met their statutory responsibilities under the Catchment and Land Protection Act. We will seek structural changes to Catchment Management Authorities so their focus again includes sustainable agriculture and improving soil health – not just a focus on river health.




Sitting Pretty A wedding is the one occasion where one has the opportunity to unleash your inner floral fantasy – and that’s exactly what Flowers Victoria did by providing an opportunity for 17 boutique wedding stylists and florists to create their dreamiest wedding table settings at this year’s Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show in March. An impressive, 18m long timber-topped table and elegant cross-backed chairs were set up in the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building. Each participant was allocated a section of the communal wedding table; a blank canvas on which the competition entrants could present their most beautiful wedding place settings and floral creations.



And what emerged was a delightful array of varied and colourful displays – from classic green and white through to dark burgundy and peach tones, and even black roses! Visitors to the show were invited to vote for their favourite bridal setting after viewing the table and prizes were awarded to the three most popular displays. As her prize, the winner – Sophie Ye of Flowers Greetings – will be styling the annual “Heart of Victoria” event to be held in June which is a great opportunity to showcase her talent on a much larger scale. Second place winner, Moss Industry of Ocean Grove, won two sessions with Soda Communications, a boutique PR consultancy based in Melbourne, to promote the business further. The colourful entry from Dane Tyler Floriart was the third place winner and won an editorial in the next issue of Melbourne Wedding and Bride Magazine. By Anthea Browne Flowers Victoria Marketing & Events Coordinator


Kneading Bread – a local story This is a story that brings together locally grown product, a rural community and a desire to be noticed. It uses all the best provenance ingredients and yet reaches outwards to find the innovation to take it beyond the natural markets of fresh bread. There is also the strong entrepreneurial spirit so often found among farmers and businesses in regional Australia. It began on the flatlands around Ouyen with locally sourced grain in 1936 and travelled a path across Victoria that loosely followed the contours of the Murray River to land in Benalla’s main street. Skipping ahead 60 years to a new generation of bakers saw the challenge and the opportunities of the bread industry deregulation in 1992. Like all deregulation, competition was intensified. In this case, it was the white bread market. The change of industry structure opened up opportunities for second generation pastry chef and baker Andrew Bertalli. Taking over the reins of Alpine Breads from his father Dick, armed with qualifications from the Bread Research Institute of Australia, Andrew realised he needed to specialise in new bread offerings to ensure growth in which the next generation would flourish. The timing was right as the food market was seeing more consumers seeking gluten free options. “I looked at consumer research about gluten free and saw the growing demand for gluten free products. People with coeliac disease account for about one percent of Australia’s population, yet the gluten free market is around eight percent of Australian consumers”, said Andrew.

the CSIRO developed BARLEYmax™ (a high fibre wholegrain with a low glycemic index and positive biomarkers in bowel health) along with collaborations with leading dietitians through Australian research which included the Monash University developed FODMAP diet*. The result of these collaborations is a series of unique breads that incorporate Australian grains, pulses and seeds along with local talent and a supply chain that puts Benalla at the centre. With two son’s – Thomas and Sam – now working in the family business in Benalla, Alpine Breads employs over 30 locals and delivers bread (the current range includes eight breads themed heart, protein and FODMAP) into all major supermarkets in Victoria plus 100 independents, and a growing network in NSW and the food service sector. Given the distribution network and online sales centred on Benalla, Alpine Breads needed to extend the shelf-life of its products to ensure integrity into the market. A global review of fresh product packaging by Andrew and a new team of Melbourne creatives led to the zip and tuck European packaging design which increases the shelf-life of Alpine Breads from two days to seven days in-store. “Our new packaging has allowed us to expand and tell our story as a maker of Australia’s number one functional bread”. However Alpine Breads still has Benalla at its core with a retail store at the bakery and Andrew still “on the tools”.

“This market is growing as more is understood about irritable bowel syndrome and the food triggers”.

“It’s important to keep the bread at the heart of the business. I work alongside my son’s in the bakery at least once a week”.

“Walking the aisles of supermarket, I looked at the growing ranges of cereals created by the big commercial brands. I realised the new gluten free and heart smart cereals would make great breads”.

* FOOTNOTE: Put simply, FODMAPs are a collection of short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that are not absorbed properly in the gut, which can trigger symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). FODMAPs are found naturally in many foods and food additives. A FODMAP diet is a diet that is low in FODMAPs thereby reducing the irritants that cause IBS. About one in seven Australian adults are affected by IBS.

“Making bread from gluten free grains and seeds is not as simple as tipping a box of cereal into the oven”. This on-the-go research allowed Andrew to experiment with ingredients whilst working with new grains such as


Jessica Purbrick-Herbst Head of Engagement & Communication



Community Assembly Members: Environmentalist Frank Pierce talks with Ann Fraser who’s farm Congelton is on the Yarra River.




Going underground for safety Nearly $6 million dollars has been spent to ensure the safety of farmers, their workers and 70,000 cattle and sheep after 21 underpasses have been constructed in Victoria.

grazing, particularly in winter,” Brad said.

The Cattle Underpass Scheme (CUPS) is making rural roads safer for livestock, farm workers and motorists.

Farmers pay two-thirds of the cost of underpass construction.

School children will also be safer – 32 underpasses have been or will soon be constructed under roads that are gazetted school bus routes.

The VFF has identified Moyne, Corangamite and Wellington Shires as the top three municipalities where underpasses have been constructed. Farmers have estimated road crossing time has reduced, on average, by 10 hours weekly — and other production efficiencies include reduced labour requirement.

To apply or find out more visit

In the current funding round, 21 cattle underpasses have been constructed and 29 are either under construction or going through the approval process. Brad Plozza, a dairyfarmer at Scott’s Creek, with a 350-cow Friesian-cross milking herd, recently had a cattle underpass installed. He found it a straightforward process. Safety was his motivation to apply for the funds to install the underpass. “Particularly in winter time, it gets wet here and the gravel road was churned up with the cows crossing every day. Vehicle speed was down to 40km/h and we were getting some issues about the condition of the road. “The council wanted us to maintain the road.” Brad said the main influence on his decision was the school bus. “We had a school bus going down the road twice a day – we didn’t even have to think about it,” he said. The paddocks are across the road from the dairy, so the milking herd crossed the road at least twice a day. Brad said the list of preferred underpass constructors helped. “It meant we could speak to people who knew what they were doing and the contractor took care of all the local government approvals,” he said. “They turned up on the Monday and they were finished on Friday.” Construction was scheduled for summer time and the contractors installed the widest underpass available – 4.2 metres. Milking continued during construction, as the cows could still cross the road. “It’s a pretty straight forward process and the underpass has made our work quicker, easer and faster,” Brad said.

Photographs by Brad Plozza.

50 applications received 21 completed 29 under construction or pending approval

70,000 cattle and sheep safer Reduced road crossing time by an average of more than 10 hours per week

32 underpasses under school bus routes

“Safety has improved, because we’re not crossing the road ourselves – we drive motorbikes and 4WDs at least half a dozen times a day through the underpass.

32 underpasses under roads with

“Only the tractors won’t fit under.”

21 farmers identified vehicle

Other production efficiencies are about utilising pasture. “We expect the big benefit will be in the winter time. It will give us options to use the day paddocks for nighttime


visibility issues and livestock accidents prior to underpass construction



Photograph by Jeanette Severs

VFF against labour licence flaws In the final sitting week of 2017, the Victorian government introduced the Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017 (the Bill) into Parliament. Currently, the Bill is sitting in the Upper House. Labor claims the objective of the Bill, as expressed in the explanatory memorandum, is to protect vulnerable labour hire workers from exploitation by the providers of labour hire services and hosts. The VFF strongly refutes this claim and is lobbying against the Bill for the following reasons. The VFF considers the Bill, has many flaws and this stems from a lack of understanding about agriculture and what it takes to run a business. Already there are government departments and agencies with the jurisdiction and coverage to clean up illegal activity and to action any exploitation against workers. A major flaw is the lack of practical application this Bill will have on the agricultural industry. Agriculture needs to have a ‘work ready’ harvest labour force that can work at relatively short notice to harvest a crop. Due to large numbers of workers required at one time, labour hire has been used in the horticultural industry. With the introduction of this Bill, labour hire providers need to apply to be registered. There is ‘a fit and proper’ test with requirements on business to provide position descriptions and details retrospectively for 12 months before the application date, concerning workers compensation claims made and visas. Many of the labour hire businesses will simply find the process too overwhelming and costly. This will lead to a shortage of bone fide labour hire businesses. The farmer (host) wants a labour hire business to pick their crop. First of all, the farmer must check the planned Register (if established by this Bill) to see if the labour hire firm is registered. If the labour hire firm is not registered and the farmer engages them, there are severe penalties for the farmer. The maximum fine for a body corporation is more than $500,000 and for an individual is more than $100,000.



Unless the farmer has a reasonable excuse, they will be fined. The Bill or explanatory memorandum does not explain what a reasonable excuse is. Many farmers in regional areas will not have the luxury of accessing a registered labour hire business, due to the amount of red tape the application process demands. The recent backpacker tax debate has had a negative effect on the number of backpackers coming to Australia. Members have informed the VFF that the labour hire firms they use cannot find enough labour. This Bill has been rushed through parliament without proper consideration on the practicable implications to industry. This Bill also applies to all industries, not just to agriculture. This legislation will impose a huge regulatory burden on farmers when there is already legislation in place to tackle this problem. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Fair Work Ombudsman have ways to deal with illegal workers and breaches of award conditions. The VFF want to see additional resources put into taking action. Recently, an amendment to protect vulnerable workers was passed federally, which increased penalties for serious contraventions of workplace laws, recordkeeping and payslip obligations. There has also been an enquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia. The problem is, the agencies have not addressed this problem until relatively recently. So, over a period of years, because of inaction in this area, some questionable labour hire companies have developed and flourished. They have taken root and gained a large niche in certain industries, including horticulture. Recently, the Fair Work Ombudsman gained further powers in order to strengthen its ability to collect evidence in investigations; so why is Victoria trying to create another level of bureaucracy? By Patricia Murdock & Emma Germano Workplace Relations & HR Executive Manager and Horticulture President *This article was written while a final decision by parliament was pending.


Let’s talk about workplace safety You may have seen the Farm Safety awareness campaign material, ‘Farm Safety Makes Good Business Sense’. The VFF Farm Safety Extension Officer role has been established to raise awareness and provide advice to the community on safe farm practices that incorporate current OH&S legislation, and practical experience in delivery of workable solutions and advice. The role will also facilitate events and activities to drive safety messaging to people involved in agriculture from a diverse range of backgrounds; and address the role adults play in providing a safe environment in an on-farm workplace for children, who are also in their home environment.

Photograph by Jeanette Severs.

Farms are not typical workplaces — they are also a home. This makes keeping family and friends safe all the more important. There are many potential dangers on farms – tractors, quad bikes, livestock, farm chemicals, dams, physical work over long hours, or, sometimes, just the stress of running a business and keeping it afloat.

makes a real difference in keeping our people on farms safe, healthy and productive. We can all play a role in reducing on-farm risks. There are simple things we can do in our everyday farm activities, to protect our families, our farm workers and our farm visitors. Ensure farm safety is part of your conversation — today and every day.

This is why we need to talk about farm safety, not only because work health and safety laws say so, but because it

It seems hard at first, but it becomes a natural mindset after a while. Farm safety is too important not to do!

Health and safety resources There are many organisations that can offer valuable advice on improving health and safety on your farm, such as: WorkSafe Victoria has farm safety advisers and a comprehensive collection of publications covering health, safety and compensation issues. Farmsafe Australia offers the ‘Managing Farm Safety training program – MFS™’, delivered by accredited instructors. Farmsafe Australia and the Department of Environment and Primary Industries offer information on safe operation of tractors and other farm machinery. Safe Work Australia, an Australian government statutory body established in 2008 to develop national policy relating to work health and safety and workers’ compensation. The Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (AG Health) Agriculture Victoria National Centre for Farmer Health


We understand that many farmers are sole proprietors and you may feel you have neither the time nor the resources to commit to improving work health and safety. Yet you cannot afford not to invest – a serious injury or death on your property is likely to have a much bigger impact on you, your family and the community. We are seeking volunteers to host their farm for a safety walk and talk to raise Occupational Health and Safety awareness on farms. We would like to conduct the Farm Safety Tours with all of our partners who play important roles in promoting and preserving the health and safety of farming communities. Your involvement in this process provides an opportunity to discuss and respond to a series of questions about the status of our Occupational Health & Safety responsibilities. Contact me if you would like to discuss safety on-farm at your branch meeting or host a farm safety walk and talk. Check out the iauditor free phone app https://app. (VFF cattleyard checklist created and many other agricultural checklists available) By Warren Michaelis Farm Safety Extension Officer 03 9207 5619 0499 772 472



Photograph by Jeanette Severs

Tariff shocks can impact pulse planting decisions Victorian pulse growers are used to carefully managing the vagaries of a sometimes tricky commodity. Now, in addition to managing the in-paddock challenges, growers will need to carefully consider the ramifications of tariffs on the potential prices they may receive next harvest. The Indian market will now be smaller and consequently the overall market will have less capacity to absorb oversupply. In December, the Indian Government imposed a 30% tariff on chickpeas. In February, additional tariffs on all pulses, as well as a grains import duty, were added – bringing the tariff on chickpeas to 44%. The impact of these tariffs has already been felt, with an estimated $20million lost from the market and ultimately growers’ pockets. The VFF Grains Group was vocal in expressing its disappointment with the decision and the lack of strong action from the Australian government.


for the Semi-Arid Tropics) and attended the 2018 Pulses Conclave in New Delhi, a biennial event hosted by the India Pulses and Grains Association. India is one of our key trading partners, so its decision to increase tariffs was a very disappointing one. Under the guise of supporting the development of the local industry, the Indian government has, with very little notice, increased risk to Australian growers and potentially damaged their own chickpea supply. Australian growers will now be encouraged to grow alternative break crops or focus their pulse growing on less volatile crops. GPA and GIMAF will be focussing on developing the relationship with India. The VFF Grains Group role will be to ensure our members have access to information to help them make the best cropping decisions for their businesses.

The VFF Grains Group, as part of our peak industry body Grain Producers Australia, kept a close watch on the issue and supported the GPA decision to send board member, Andrew Earle, to India.

Market volatility, combined with an expensive crop to produce, may not be a situation Victorian growers want to face after a challenging 2017 harvest. Making sure market information and impact analysis is freely available to growers is a key platform of the VFF Grains Group and one we take very seriously given the impact market changes can have on member profitability.

Accompanied by Tony Russell from the Grains Industry Market Access Forum (GIMAF), they participated in meetings, visited ICRISAT (the International Crops Research Institute

By Tanya Pittard Horticulture and Grains



Murray Basin rail powers ahead Work on the Murray Basin Rail Project took a highly visible leap forward on 29 January with the reopening of the newly upgraded Ararat–Maryborough section of line. Details of the $440million Murray Basin project – which is being funded in part by the Victorian Government’s 2014 privatisation of the Rural Finance Corporation – were announced in February 2015 by state Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, in an address to the VFF’s annual conference at Lorne. At the time, Minister Pulford said the project would be completed within her Labor government’s first term of office. With an election scheduled to take place on 24 November, the clock is now ticking down on that commitment. Under the plan, track replacement or upgrading is being carried out between Mildura and Geelong, with the aim of eliminating century-old gauge incompatibilities and weight restrictions from a 1055km rail corridor linking the Mallee with the state’s three major sea ports: Melbourne, Geelong and Portland. The state government’s contribution of $199.8m was paired with a further $240.2m in federal funds. Former VFF Grains Group president, Ian Hastings, said any alleviation of post-harvest expenses currently borne by farmers would be welcomed. “It can cost $90 a tonne in storage and transport fees just to get the crop to market at port, which can equate to around a third of the price of a tonne of wheat,” Ian said. “A more efficient rail network is essential, for farmers in the north-west to get fair returns.” In addition to standardising the track gauge, the project is raising the maximum axle loading from 15–19 tonnes to 21t along the route’s entirety; and 382 rural or regional level crossings are being improved.


Train driver training is under way on the reopened Ararat– Maryborough section. Renovation of the Dunolly–Yelta and Ouyen–Murrayville stretches of track is now in progress. A phased return of commercial freight services is being carried out from south to north, between Geelong and Mildura. Portland is seeking government support for the rejuvenation of an ‘orphan’ line between Maroona and the port, arguing that this should have been provided for in the original Murray Basin Rail Plan. More than 40 businesses from central Victoria have been engaged to supply inputs to the project. The steel rail is being manufactured by the Liberty OneSteel plant at Whyalla, South Australia. Generally, lower temperatures this summer allowed Victorian grain to be moved to export without the need for a reprisal of the protracted speed restrictions imposed 12 months earlier. Those restrictions, triggered automatically on safety grounds when daytime temperatures exceeded 33°C, disrupted grain movements at the height of Victoria’s record harvest in December–January 2016–17. Once completed, the Murray Basin Rail Project will provide increased flexibility for rail freight operators, enabling trains to run uninterrupted in conditions of up to 36°C. In related news, the Victorian government has established a Rail Freight Advisory Council to facilitate information sharing and consultation between stakeholders including farmers, operators, port managers and V/Line and offer recommendations based on expert advice on operational and project delivery matters. By Rosalea Ryan* *Rosalea Ryan is publisher of Australasia’s rail industry business magazine, Track+Signal







workplace relations Stay up to date with the latest workplace relations and industrial advice and information. If you employ labour, you need the management tools to make the right decisions, for you and your employees. No matter your business size, large or small - the VFF has a package that's right for you.

VFF WORKPLACE PACKAGES EMPLOYMENT HANDBOOK PACKAGE $137 INC GST PER ANNUM (Fully tax deductible) 12 month subscription to the VFF Employment Handbook Package ONE HOUR telephone or written advice (total per annum) VFF workplace relations e-newsletter Discounted service rates Access to the 'Your Business Package' and 'Tailor Made' upgrade options for ongoing workplace support.

your business package $475 INC GST PER ANNUM (Fully tax deductible) VFF Employment Handbook Package THREE HOURS tailored advice (total per annum)

tailor made package $795 INC GST PER ANNUM (Fully tax deductible) VFF Employment Handbook Package UNLIMITED telephone advice FOUR HOURS representation and advice (total per annum)

VFF WORKPLACE PRODUCTS induction kit $77 PLUS GST General Farming Induction Kit Quadbike kit Telehandler kit

for more information: p: 1300 442 481 e: SECTION

engaging a contractor kit $39 PLUS GST Letters to referral agent Independant contractor agreement templates

general farming induction $69 PLUS GST Includes induction checklist

quadbike induction $9 PLUS GST

telehandler induction PLUS GST $9VICTORIAN FARMER | APRIL 2018


Photopraph by Jeanette Severs.

Poultry standards hold up The proposed draft Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry have been out for public comment and closed at the end of February. The draft proposes new welfare standards to replace the current 15 year old standard.

general public. The VFF strongly opposes any suggestion of phasing out caged eggs. Caged systems balance best practice animal welfare with the ability to produce an affordable egg for consumers. Caged eggs provide a choice for retailers and consumers, with market forces indicating the demand is there for an economically competitive option. A phase out of cages would be extremely costly to industry, jeopardise the livelihood of many caged egg farmers and remove an economical protein option for many consumers.

The VFF provided a submission accepting the proposed standard in its current draft, especially with regard to supporting all egg farming systems - caged, free range and barn laid. 22/03/2018 9:16 Animal activist groups have been vocal in1 calling for a ban on cages and it has been gathering momentum among the

VFF0004 Quad Bike Protection_PFO2_A5_crops.pdf


By Kellie Quayle Intensives Industries Policy Advisor

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Safeguard your farm’s future with quad protection devices.




Livestock traceability – why? Australia’s livestock traceability system has the ability to track an animal from paddock to plate, recording the animal’s movements throughout its entire life. This is made possible through the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS), established in 1996. However, Australia has been working towards effective traceability since the 1960’s. What is the value of effective livestock traceability? The many benefits of effective traceability can be seen in individual business and industry as a whole – livestock can be easily linked to a property and an owner and it allows for the effective surveillance of endemic and exotic diseases. The first cattle tracing system was introduced in the 1960’s to help eradicate bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis. This traceability system applied a unique eight-digit code for each parcel of land, known as the property identification code (PIC). Australia was declared free of bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis in 1989, with the ability to trace back testpositive cattle playing an integral role in the successful eradication of the disease. Today, a PIC number, along with visual identification tags, are mandatory for livestock trade under Australian state and territory legislation. These elements are integrated into the NLIS, which forms Australia’s livestock traceability system. The traceability system has continued to evolve – electronic NLIS tags have been mandatory for cattle in Australia for more than a decade and in 2017 became mandatory for sheep and goats in Victoria. Making the shift from a visual tag system to an electronic system has continued to enhance the ability to trace animals


in the case of a disease outbreak. An example of this was seen in 2016, when a consignment of dairy heifers tested positive to Bovine Johne’s Disease (JD) upon their arrival in Japan from Australia. These animals returned negative results when tested in Australia and the blood test used upon arrival in Japan is known to produce false positive results. Japan’s strict JD requirements saw the animals quarantined and trade with Australia suspended, not only for dairy imports but all cattle imports. This included the well-established Wagyu beef market, with Australia importing an estimated 22,000 cattle annually. The potential economic impact was great. Thanks to Australia’s well established livestock traceability system, a rapid response was able to remove the risk of losing the international trade relationship. Within 24 hours, 321 cattle could be traced back to 163 farming businesses in Australia and their disease status could be verified. This provided sufficient evidence to the Japanese authorities that there was no risk of JD entering Japan. As a result, the live export market was re-opened and trading resumed as normal. Traceability allows us to detect and manage disease as well as maintain our international trade markets, with many countries’ holding individual requirements for specific diseases. With farmer cooperation, the livestock industry can continue to grow this world class system and expand its markets for a sustainable trading future. For more information contact Livestock Health & Biosecurity Victoria on 1300 020 163 or email By Kimberley Henman Livestock Project Officer



Big or small, all farms part of biosecurity Rural Victoria has experienced a demographic shift in the last 40 years. From a landscape dominated by big commercial family farms, we now see large farms interspersed with rural residential properties. Small landholders are distinctly different to the mainstream commercial farmers. They bring with them a diversity to enrich and strengthen rural communities. Many are new to farming with little in the way of farming background or the networks of traditional commercial producers. With different aims, goals and background knowledge, some of these small landholders may not see themselves as part of the broader agricultural community but want to be recognised and treated as farmers. They will often be information seekers but there is little, if any, material targeted directly to them. They have for many years been considered a high biosecurity risk for introducing and spreading exotic and endemic diseases, weeds and pests. The reality is that all sectors of rural industry have a role to play in the biosecurity system of Victoria, including the small landholder, to reduce the risk of an exotic disease outbreak or weed infestation to Victoria’s $6.2billion meat, milk and fibre industries. It is everyone’s responsibility to strengthen livestock traceability, disease surveillance and farm biosecurity and improve animal welfare outcomes. The main concern in some of the peri-urban areas is the amount of informal trading of sheep, cattle and pigs that occurs. Informal trading through social networks, with neighbours and within families, results in a compromised traceability system – and this will slow or hinder control efforts in the event of an emergency animal disease (EAD) outbreak or tracing of residue. The pig-owning small landholder is a particularly high risk for the introduction and establishment of Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) and other pig-specific exotic diseases, like African and classical swine fever. Swill feeding caused the United Kingdom FMD outbreak in 2001 and is a very real risk in Australia, with free ranging pigs becoming a common feature of many small farms. Through Livestock Health & Biosecurity Victoria (LHBV), engagement activities will be delivered across a range of communication platforms to encourage participation, adoption and, importantly, ownership. These activities will be complemented by fostering a community of peri-urban producers, using existing and new networks. Targeted



delivery will use a peri-urban welcome pack, webinars, face-to-face events, webpage, an online community and attending field days and relevant expos. This project fills a significant gap in the sector and will build a strong initiative working with Agriculture Victoria, Landcare, Peri-Urban Group of Rural Councils, the CSIRO, Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association, Victorian agricultural shows and other industry stakeholders. For more information about the project, contact Livestock Health & Biosecurity Victoria on 1300 020 163 or email By Patrick Kluver Senior Livestock Project Specialist


May is crucial to Basin Plan Water has dominated the national stage since the beginning of the year. While there has been a lot of debate, the VFF is still waiting to see the on-ground effect of actions taken by State and Federal governments. Threats have been exchanged between South Australia and New South Wales, in particular – creating a tense environment within which to continue to implement the Basin Plan. Whether these states can and will deliver on these threats remains to be seen. Currently all governments involved in the debate remain optimistic that current disputes can be resolved and the Plan can move forward. Next significant date For Victoria, the focus is Tuesday 8 May, when a vote will be held about adjusting the Sustainable Diversion Limits lower, by 605GL. Vote blocked If the vote is blocked by the Senate, the Victorian government will evaluate whether Victoria will remain committed to the plan. If this happens, the VFF will work closely with the State government to ensure the action they choose to take on the Basin Plan will consider the impact on farming in northern Victoria; and ultimately will provide certainty for farmers in that region. Vote passed If the vote is passed, the adjustment will mean a lower rate of water will need to be recovered in northern Victoria to meet the State’s commitments under the plan. The 605GL ‘water-saving’ will be delivered through projects producing equivalent environmental outcomes with infrastructure and policies, rather than water volume.

What the VFF is doing about the vote The VFF is working to ensure all Senators understand the value in a win for both the environment and consumptive users. Significant infrastructure investment will support environmental flows for wildlife and flora, while irrigators and diverters can continue to use water to grow food and fibre. How much more? Victoria has already had a lot of water shifted from the consumptive pool to the environment accounts. The overall Sustainable Diversion Limit of 2,750GL comprises local targets for each catchment region in the basin and shared targets between States. Victoria is on target to meet all of its commitments. How much water is left, to be recovered, before Victoria has met its Sustainable Diversion Limits? Shared targets – 251.8GL – are planned to be fulfilled through the environmental projects being voted on in May. Of each catchment’s local target, 0.5GL remains, most of which (0.4GL) needs to be delivered in the Wimmera Mallee region. (Source: Murray Darling Basin Authority.) 450GL When the Basin Plan was originally negotiated, South Australia asked for an additional 450GL, taking the overall Sustainable Diversion Limits to 3,200GL. This was agreed to, as long as delivering that water did not negatively impact the social fabric or economic output of the regions across the four States. The 450GL was intended to be delivered through on-farm efficiency projects. This may still occur, however the Federal and Victorian governments are looking at potential off-farm and urban projects to fulfil the 450GL. Nothing has been decided regarding this additional recovery. As much as South Australia wants the water delivered, they will have to wait until that decision is made, which will not be until after the vote on Tuesday 8 May, at the earliest. Stay up to date We will continue to update members regularly via email as events unfold. By Caitlin Hirst Senior Policy Advisor

Graphic source:




Qfever is a health priority Animal agricultural industries in Victoria need a response to the ongoing Q fever problem. The Australian health department classifies people who work with animals as one of the groups of people that pose a greater risk of getting and/or transmitting some diseases; diseases that can be prevented by vaccination. Q fever is one of those diseases, it is highly infectious, zoonotic and there is an effective vaccine. The infectious agent is Coxiella burnetii bacteria. Q fever transmission occurs most commonly through airborne dissemination of Coxiella in dust or aerosols from premises contaminated by placental tissues, birth fluids and excreta of infected animals. Transmission also occurs through direct contact with contaminated materials, such as wool, straw and clothing, for example, in the laundry process. People working with livestock are those most at risk in the agricultural industry – beef, sheep, dairy and goat farmers, wool growers, abattoir and meat processor workers, on-farm butchers, veterinarians and their staff. One of the highest risk factors is assistance during the birth of calves and lambs, but also during the butchering process. The farming groups in several Australian states, including Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, have been lobbying for a national subsidised testing and vaccination program. This builds on a 2006 program, when the Federal government funded States and Territories to provide the

vaccine to groups at risk. Q fever notification rates declined by more than 50%. However, since that success, a new generation of workers has come into the agricultural industry who have no immunity to the disease and less awareness of the dangers. In Western Australia, it is a notifiable infectious disease – so far, three cases have been reported in WA this year and an average nine cases annually between 2013 and 2017. Q fever is also a notifiable disease in Victoria – in 2017 there were 23 cases reported to health authorities; averaging 47 cases each year between 2014-2016. The costs to the agriculture industry are estimated at 1700 weeks’ of lost productivity annually, leading to millions of dollars in lost revenue across the supply chain. While infection barely registers for some people, others can be bedridden and need medical assistance – symptoms include headaches, fatigue, muscle pains, nausea, fever and chills; and, for some people, a debilitating post-Q fever fatigue which can last for years. But the vaccine for Q fever is recognised as highly effective at protecting people from infection. When used within the incubation period, the Q-Vax vaccine is 96% to 98% effective and it is 100% effective if used prior to infection. Immunity lasts a lifetime. Vaccination should be a workplace safety priority, but in some workplaces, at approximately $400 for the vaccination process, costs quickly become prohibitive, particularly in businesses with many staff. The VFF is calling on the government to help ease the burden. In 2017, the VFF ran a 12 month awareness program and noticed an increase in calls about vaccination opportunities, but awareness is only part of the solution. At the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria’s (UDV) 2017 annual meeting, our members passed a resolution to ask State and Federal governments to provide funding for a state-wide program of pre-screening and vaccination clinics for dairy farming families and their employees; and list the Q-Vax vaccine on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The Federal government has so far resisted industry calls to reinstate a National Q fever Vaccination Program, but the UDV is determined to push for a greater level of protection for workers in our industry and for other workers at risk. Our health is not open to compromise. By Adam Jenkins, UDV President




Photograph by Phil Downs.

Opinion Piece Animal welfare is normal Farmers care for their animals and are, themselves, strong advocates for good animal health and welfare outcomes. Farm animal welfare excellence is consistent with good farming, underpinning the production of high quality agricultural products. Such high standards in animal welfare are vital to the livelihood of Victorian farmers. Farm animal welfare is an evolving subject and the VFF continues to develop policy, according to scientific evidence and feedback, on practical implications of imposed measures on-farm. To this end, we are deeply concerned about the effects of proposed changes to legislation under the Labor government’s Animal Welfare Action Plan. Introducing sentience into legislation opens a door to drastic changes, beyond what our system can handle; and the VFF has called for the recognition of animal sentience to be omitted from Victorian legislation. Animal welfare law is about addressing human behaviour towards animals, not addressing animals. The VFF believes recognising animal sentience in law will only provide a platform for arguments against the existence of farm animal production systems. The interpretation of sentience in EU legislation is recognition that animals feel pain and suffering and should be treated appropriately. However, animal activists are taking this further by describing sentience, not in terms of an animal’s ability to feel pain, but rather that the animal has feelings that must be respected. This quickly strays into anthropomorphism and so the way in which animals are kept for food and fibre production is directly equated to the way in which we treat


our fellow human beings. This is not isolated to the EU, but is evidenced by the current #befairbevegan campaign in Melbourne. The VFF are not opposed to animal welfare legislative reform and we look forward to the transformation of legislation to improve the efficiency of enforcing cruelty to animals cases, as these offenders have no place in our industry. Further, the VFF has requested the separation of animal industries under animal welfare legislation. Farm production animals need to be interpreted differently from zoo, companion, wildlife and sport and entertainment animals. The specific characteristics and requirements of each species must be taken into consideration and not considered in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. The differences among these sectors are vast and should be recognised as separate industries. There is toxic politics surrounding animal welfare. The Northcote by-election, in Melbourne’s inner north, played out in late 2017. The Animal Justice Party campaigned on a platform that included “calling on the Victorian government for the establishment of an Independent Office of Animal Welfare” or Animal Welfare Victoria. The Labor government committed to this and lost the by-election, displaying they have lost their compass when it comes to priorities for agriculture. The VFF is opposed to the introduction of the public body, Animal Welfare Victoria. We see this as another layer of bureaucracy adding cost to food production and posing risks of further unnecessary legislative intrusion. It is disappointing to see the important issue of animal welfare morph into a political tool. The VFF has encouraged the Labor government to concentrate on ensuring, in this election year, that their priorities are aligned to supporting farmers to achieve excellence in food and fibre production for the benefit of all Victorians. By Leonard Vallance, Livestock Group President



Maximise your coverage with Cel-Fi Go Like any mobile network, coverage on the Telstra Mobile Network depends on where you are, the mobile handset, tablet or mobile broadband device you’re using, and whether there’s an external antenna attached.

It’s important to understand that different devices have different capabilities. How each device performs depends on network coverage and device type, make and settings. There are some important factors to consider when choosing a mobile device and any accessories: •

Where you’ll be using your device- metropolitan areas, regional areas, rural areas, out at sea or indoors;

Whether you’ll be using it: °

in handheld mode


with a directly coupled car kit and an external antenna; or


with a patch lead and an external antenna

Things to know about network coverage Obstructions – such as buildings, vehicles, trees, hills and building materials – can reduce the signal level available for your mobile handset, tablet or mobile broadband device. Indoor mobile coverage is susceptible to interference from the building you are in, and just as TV sets sometimes need external antennas to improve reception, there are cases where the use of an external antennas can make a significant difference to the performance of a mobile device indoors.

Blue Tick handsets for rural areas When you choose a ‘Blue Tick’ mobile phone, you can be sure that you’re experiencing the best possible coverage in regional and rural locations. See our latest range of mobile handsets or visit your local Telstra store for assistance in choosing the best solution for your coverage needs. Please note: Blue Tick qualification test is currently performed on mobile handsets only.

Cel-Fi Go and Yagi Antennas A range of external antennas are available that can provide improved coverage for certain mobile devices in areas where coverage is marginal. Even when you’re in an area where handheld coverage is possible, an external antenna solution may also improve the performance of your handset or broadband device. Yagi or external antennas are most effective when mounted in the ‘line of sight’ of a mobile phone base station, or where the best signal is received. Depending on location and type of antenna used, this can be near a window, building rooftop, pole or other elevated structure. As with all antennas, the general rule when mounting is ‘the higher the better.’ After the antenna has been fitted, it is connected directly to a mobile device, such as a broadband modem.

External antennas like Cel-Fi Go units, can also be used for vehicles when travelling or doing business in rural and remote areas, or along stretches of highways where coverage can be marginal.

Antenna accessories are only available for selected handset and broadband models. Please refer to the device manufacturer for specifications or visit a Telstra shop for assistance.

Vehicle external antennas are commonly attached to the handset via a car-kit or a patch-lead where a car-kit is not available.

The Yagi antenna typically costs around $290.00 (GST exclusive), or together with professional installation to most locations, $610.00 (ex GST). There may be additional charges if you live in remote locations, or the installation work required for your roof is non-standard.

See your local Telstra store for assistance with picking the best antenna option for you as well as help with installation. Please note: Depending on device capability and available coverage, external antennas can improve 3G and 4G coverage on the Telstra Mobile Network. Not all external antennas allow direct connection to the handset or broadband device.

For more information contact

Use our search tool to check what coverage and data speeds are available in your area Go to




Turn water money into roads The State government recently made the decision to sell Victoria’s share – 29% – of the Snowy Hydro Limited scheme to the Federal government, for $2.077billion. The NSW government agreed to sell its 58% share, for $4.154billion. The total sale was based on an asset valuation of $7.8billion and raises the Federal government’s ownership from 13% to 100%. The VFF is encouraged that the agreement reached between the Victorian, NSW and Federal governments includes protection of the current water arrangements. With the sale now certain, the VFF is working to ensure all of the funds are re-invested in rural and regional Victoria for the benefit of primary producers. We want the Victorian government to ensure all the revenue from the sale of the Snowy Hydro scheme is put in trust for re-investment in productive infrastructure for regional and rural Victoria. The NSW government has already committed to spend the entire $4.154billion on rural and regional infrastructure projects, as a portion of its $24.4billion investment over the next four years. The Federal government declared the 100% owned Snowy Hydro 2.0 as critical for the energy security and reliability needs of NSW; with an estimated additional 2000 megawatts of renewable power available. In particular, the VFF is calling for 25% of the funds – or just over $500million – to invest in water infrastructure projects, many of which have already been fully scoped and partially funded. In addition, $250million of the funds should be used to boost on-farm energy and energy efficiency projects through the Agriculture Energy Infrastructure Plan. Now is the time for the government to invest in water and energy infrastructure to ensure these assets do not decline like our regional roads have. The remaining funds should be directed to rehabilitate our regional State and local roads. We have told Premier Andrews that the roads in rural Victoria are no longer fit-for-purpose.

Photograph by Kate Dorahy. investment in Victoria’s future economy and vital in continuing the growth of the farming sector along with growth in rural and regional jobs. By Caitlin Hirst Senior Policy Advisor VFF livestock councillor, Kate Dorahy, Nareen, has brought the condition of the Wando Vale and Nareen roads (in photograph), in the southern Grampians and Glenelg Shire, to the attention of her local parliamentarian. “You can see the atrocious state of our local roads,” Kate said.

We need a commitment from the government that these roads – which all provide access to Victoria’s food and fibre markets – will be upgraded.

“The bus driver requested I follow him, on the day I took this photo, as he was concerned he wouldn’t get through – and you can see why.”

The roads we particularly want targeted are those in a distressed condition. It is a safety issue, one the government cannot quantify, as road condition information is not collected when accidents occur.

Kate and Chris Dorahy are concerned for the safety of their three children and others who travel on the bus daily.

The road funding the VFF is requesting will begin the road renewal process. However, significant further investment is required.

“Where is the money coming from to repair Satimer road, Nareen road, Hayden’s road and the Casterton Edenhope road?” Kate said.

Once in Federal hands, the Snowy Hydro scheme will be upgraded. With this upgrading comes further access to water. The VFF strongly supports a review of the Snowy water licence, once Snowy Hydro 2.0 has been completed.

“Infrastructure needs are not going away. We need to work out a plan moving forward so fundamental infrastructure enables us to run businesses and live in this great agricultural area.”

“The road is not fit for vehicles and has log trucks, livestock trucks and kangaroos regularly on it.

Improving infrastructure in Victoria’s core assets is an




Growing leaders Leadership comes in many forms and styles. For some people, leadership is a natural skill. However, many of us need a framework to help realise how we can be the best leader within our own communities, businesses or workplaces. This usually means being the person who willingly steps forward to guide and help a group of people, cause or industry. Within agriculture, we need inspiring, courageous and contemporary leadership to navigate a fast-changing environment. We need to demonstrate robust governance, strategic thinking and the ability to take a big picture approach and make it real. To grow these skills and fill the leadership void in the flower industry, the Australian Flower Council has accessed federal government funds through the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. The Building Leadership Project will focus on developing governance skills and improving business skills for flower growers and florists, to ensure we have the leadership to grow the sector into the future.

Six regions across Australia will benefit from these workshops, with one in Melbourne, during the winter, hosted by Flowers Victoria. The workshop will focus on governance, financial management, strategy development and risk management. A highlight of the program will be a national networking event, in Melbourne, in March 2019 as part of MIFGS, to bring young growers and florists together for robust discussion and interactive presentations; supporting their development as businesspeople and future industry leaders. Tours of a farm, Melbourne markets and florists are also on the agenda. The project will also produce practical information and online tools through the Flowers Victoria website. Funding for this project is through the Leadership in Agricultural Industries program and will be hosted by the Australian Flower Council, led by the Flower Association in collaboration with Flowers Victoria, the Flower Growers Group of New South Wales and WildFlowers Australia. If you are interested in attending these workshops, please email with your name and contact details. We will contact you with activity dates and locations. By Jessica Purbrick-Herbst Head of Engagement and Communications

EM_VFF Magazine Ad_Oct17_OutPrint.indd 1




7:44 pm

Kangaroos damage farms Recently, VFF members were asked to show their support for the commercialisation of the Kangaroo Meat Pet Food trial - with images of their damaged farmland and property. The VFF Livestock Group has called for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change to commercialise the Kangaroo Meat Pet Food trial, as a way to a sustainable means of controlling an artificial population increase brought about from improved soil conditions, development and land use change which is essential for the State of Victoria to prosper. The kangaroo population has risen exponentially in recent years, as the animals have enjoyed favourable environmental conditions. The Federal Department of Environment estimates there are more than 48 million kangaroos in Australia – up from 25 million in 2011. In 2014, the Victorian government initiated a two-year trial of authorised wildlife control activities, initially in 12 local government areas but extended to 16 LGAs over a four-yearperiod. The meat resulting from the trial was processed as kangaroo meat pet food. That trial concluded in March 2018.* A Gibson and Young study surveyed 906 farmers in five pastoral zones across Australia; and found that individual landholder’s perceptions of their losses to kangaroos, totalled, came to $113million – this is three per cent of the gross agricultural production in the areas under the national kangaroo management program. This estimate was broken down into comparative values of 51% being the cost of fodder eaten by kangaroos, 27% lost crop production, 14% fence repairs and eight per cent through the cost of consumed water. One VFF member who answered the call for images was Matt Kindred from Stawell, in northwest Victoria. Matt runs a 1,000 hectare Merino, prime lamb and cereal cropping property,

Photograph by Perennial Pasture Systems. bordering bushland and Lake Lonsdale. Over the years, like many other farmers, Matt has seen a huge increase in kangaroo population on his property. Matt is part of the Perennial Pasture Systems Group (PPS) and trialled Cocksfoot pasture, comparing three different varieties for sowing, germination and growth. In this trial, pasture cages were used to protect and measure the pasture growth; no livestock were allowed to graze in this paddock for six months, including the summer period. When it was time to measure the pasture under the cages, Matt noted a distinct difference in grass height in the summer-active Porto pasture (see photograph). The only animals in this paddock have been kangaroos. Not only are the kangaroos destroying the pastures, they are also mauling in his cropping fields, requiring the business to spend money on changing their style of boundary fencing. Matt said changing the boundary fences will not solve the growing population of kangaroos but may help reduce the damage they are currently doing to his farming land. By Kate Phillips Livestock Administration Officer * The trial has been extended for a further 12 months.

Impact of kangaroos on farm: 906 farmers were surveyed in 5 pastoral zones

$113 million or 3% of gross agricultural production

51% 27% 14% 8% fodder consumed

crop production

fence repairs

consumed water

Photograph by







Generations of members Karee Farm, at Goornong, was established as a mixed farming property in 1878 and each successive family principal has learned to diversify according to market and climate conditions. It is currently owned by the fifth generation of the Carr family and is used to breed a self-replacing Merino flock, harvest cereal and hay crops for their own livestock and to market, contract-grow red wine grapes and an olive grove produces oil for the retail market. A succession plan last year saw the latest generation, Alister Carr, step up to ownership and management, alongside wife, Jane. Alister’s children, Annabelle and Charlotte, are the sixth generation of his family on Karee Farm. He is the second generation of his family to be a VFF member, following in the footsteps of his parents, Joan and the late Ian. “My great-great grandparents named the farm when they settled here,” Alister said. “Dad was a member of Young Farmers in the mid-1960s when he won a scholarship to spend six weeks on farms on the Yorke Peninsula. “He often spoke about the value of it.” Ian was active on local VFF, and the previous VFGA, committees, with a focus on protecting the local groundwater and environment from industrial development. “Dad attended the local VFF branch meetings regularly. Dad and mum also enjoyed visiting farms in other regions and the social connections they built at VFF conferences in Melbourne,” Alister said.

Alister Carr (left) has diversified his wool business to improve farm returns. Photograph by Glenn Punton.

It is a 50-plus year membership that Alister is pleased to continue.

“My passion is farming and continuing our generational connection,” Alister said.

In a short time he has put his own stamp on the property – and he continues to diversify.

“And I wanted to continue my involvement in wool, as a grower and as a trader – in three years we’ve grown to a client base of more than 150.

Although part of the business’ focus was on the first-cross lamb market, that more recently changed to be solely about breeding Merino sheep to grow wool. Alister has also brought home to the farm his expertise in wool trading, to offer an international wool textile knowledge base to local farmers.

“Our focus is achieving premium prices while reducing selling costs to farm businesses along the supply chain. We also provide insights to farmers about what wool customers want from Australian growers.

“Karee Wool was established in 2014, when I was looking to return to Goornong and the farm,” Alister said.

“I am privileged to have visited a large number of wool textile processors and discuss the range of applications for our various qualities of wool fibre production.”

After studying at Melbourne College of Textiles, he spent 14 years working with the Michell family.

Alister is keen to continue his family’s active involvement in the VFF.

“They taught me so many things. I had great exposure to the wool industry through them; and built links for them in China,” Alister said.

“Like my parents, I believe you’ve got to be part of the VFF – it’s our go-to lobby group and an extensive network and you never know when you’ll need VFF assistance to support your agribusiness,” he said.

He also worked with Viterra, trading wool in the Asian and European markets, before establishing Karee Wool.


By Jeanette Severs



Noel deserves a medal Yannathan dairy farmer, Noel Campbell, received one of this country’s highest accolades in January, with an Order of Australia medal in the Governor General’s list. Now retired into fulltime farming, Noel credits good teams with helping him to achieve his goals advocating for the dairy industry. Noel and Ann Campbell began dairy farming in 1984, with 90 cows, after they bought a beef farm in 1983 and he spent a year of weekends building a dairy. They milked the herd on their own for a few years, before employing their first apprentice in 1988. “That’s when I started getting involved with post farm gate stuff,” Noel said. In a career representing farmers, he started on the local Gippsland area Bonlac board, known as farmer representative groups, in dairy extension work. In 1993, he joined the board of the Victorian Artificial Breeders, which became Genetics Australia. But family has always been his first priority. “After Bonlac took over Drouin in 1997, I was on the board in 1998 – I remember the first meeting because it was my brother’s wedding day and I was best man. I had to leave the meeting halfway through to get to his wedding,” Noel said. He was chairman of Bonlac Foods in 2002 when the New Zealand Dairy Board purchased their first 25% share of the organisation. As chairman, Noel oversaw the eventual sale of all of Bonlac Foods to Fonterra. “It gave me an understanding of how the industry marketing chain worked post farm gate,” he said. He continued on as chairman of Bonlac Supply Co – a separate entity – for another three years, until 2008; and

“What I’ve always tried to do is get the dairy industry to act as one. My involvement in agripolitics has taught me to invest in ongoing relationships,” Noel said. “Ann and a lot of other people have contributed a lot of help over time. You need a good team to achieve anything.”

Ann and Noel Campbell: He credits her support as integral to his achievements in the dairy industry, for which he received an AO this year. oversaw the Fonterra supplier forum in 2007-8. They were roles where he relished the opportunity to exercise fiscal and governance responsibility while representing the interest of dairy farmers as suppliers and shareholders. In the meantime, the dairy farm was growing – in territory, herd size and infrastructure. By 2006, Noel and Ann had bought the neighbouring dairy, the herd expanded to 400 cows and another apprentice was by now ready to step up to the farm manager’s role. In 2009, Noel stepped onto the board of Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF), representing United Dairyfarmers of Victoria – elevating to the role of president in 2012. He was also elected chair of the Australian Dairy Industry Council. Reconfiguring the farm business saw Noel and Ann take on a sharefarmer. This enabled Noel to devote increased time to industry roles. On farm, Ann and Noel were responsible for raising heifer calves to point-of-calving. As ADF president, Noel often spent four days a week off farm, including travelling overseas and spending time in Canberra advocating for his industry, until he retired on November 27, 2015. Now retired from dairy agripolitics, Noel cites the China free trade agreement as one of the accomplishments he is most proud of. He was also involved in the initial negotiation of the Trans Pacific Partnership. Teamwork on and off farm underpins his success. By Jeanette Severs




Incubating farm growth One VFF member turned their hobby farm into a full time meat business for both partners while another has grown their organic vegetable farm to a turnover of $3.5million and employs 35 people. Both businesses grew when the farmers stepped into the incubator environment of their local farmers’ market – providing them with opportunities to build a direct relationship with customers, chefs and wholesalers. Lizette (photo right) and Allen Snaith were turning off six animals annually and working off farm. They now grow out Belted Galloways to three-years-old and 620kg and turn off three beasts weekly, using their local abattoir and butcher to prepare their product lines. It all started in 2005 when Lizette and Allen attended a local farmers’ market at Lancefield. This grew to a second farmers’ market and Collingwood Children’s Farm in 2006. “We also deliver to restaurants and cafes weekly,” Lizette said. “Farmers’ markets have given us a direct link to our customers and are a very cheap shopfront to sell your meat. Customers give you immediate feedback for taste, look and use of the meat. “Farmers’ markets also introduced us to quite a few chefs looking for new product and suppliers.” The couple sell at seven farmers’ markets monthly. From their original 24 hectares, they also lease land and tap into an extended herd of their bulls’ bloodline. They sell meat, smallgoods and value-add the hides into further product. Wayne and Tash Shields (below) started selling their Australian organic-certified vegetables to grow their business. They have certainly achieved that aim, with three farms – Baxter, Barham and Bullarto – to spread their seasonal growing risk. They grow year-round lettuce, spring onions, leeks, kale and silverbeet, seasonal broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, spaghetti squash and coloured carrots. Wayne is the president of the Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association

(VFMA) commodity group, housed with the VFF. He has been a lead voice on accreditation for farmers’ markets. “Farmers’ markets grounded me and we got a lot of feedback about taste, texture, utility and are able to educate people about seasonal availability,” Wayne said. “Our business is still based on farmers’ markets but off the back of them we got into the Melbourne Wholesale Market, which meant we could work solely for ourselves. We have now added supermarkets to our customer base.” He was working four days a week for another vegetable grower, then trying to build his own farm. “Nine years ago we went to our first farmers’ market, on a very rainy day. We made more money on that day, than I received working four days for someone else,” Wayne said. Wayne and Tash now employ 35 people, depending on the season. Their annual turnover is $3.5million. They still go to farmers’ markets every week. “We couldn’t afford to not do them. They’re a really good incentive for getting off the farm and for product exposure,” Wayne said. The VFMA is a network of authentic farmers’ markets and producers across Victoria. By raising community awareness of the local food system and making it easy for regional communities to buy locally grown fresh and seasonal food, VFMA-accredited markets have become important places for product development for farmers. “VFMA members report that direct customer feedback allows them to develop product lines – for example, new crop varieties or meat cuts – at a scale that minimises risk and cost,” said Kate Archdeacon, VFMA executive officer. “The markets also provide opportunities for new businesses and young farmers to start small and at low cost.” There are 48 VFMA-accredited farmers’ markets across Victoria, with opportunities for new producers. For further information, contact Kate Archdeacon on 03 9207 5545. By Jeanette Severs




Empowering members to action Calling the VFF to find out more about a policy or topic that affects you? Follow these simple steps to fast track your answer.

C  heck the VFF website to see what the current policy is covering your issue or topic.

C  ontact the VFF Policy Team

1300 882 833

Is there a FAQ sheet relating to your issue or topic on the VFF website?

Have on hand: • Your membership number • Contact details • Location/address of property that your issue or topic relates to

Y  our issue • What is the issue or topic that you concerned about? • Who are the other stakeholders/people involved?

• D  o you have any maps, letters, emails or other information that you could share with us so we can understand the issue?

• How long has it been going on?

W  hat actions have you already taken to resolve the issue? • H  ave you spoken to your local VFF branch? • H  ave you spoken to your local council? • H  ave you received any legal advice?

• H  ave you spoken to anyone else at the VFF about this issue? • If you have taken previous actions or had formal communication with other organisations or government bodies, do you have a record of this information?

H  ave you done any background research? Examples include: • If you have a problem with weeds or native vegetation, have you identified the species of vegetation?

How would you like the VFF to help you? • Are you looking for advice on how to proceed with your issue? • A  re you looking for the VFF to discuss the issue with another group or government agency?



• If you have a problem with shared land with your neighbour, have you checked your land title to see the legal status of the land?

• A  re you interested in what the VFF policy is on the issue? • A  re you looking to inform us that this may be a new or developing issue that we should be aware of?


VFF member advantage


Albury / Wodonga




Jenny Nagle a Level 2B, 111-113 Hume Street Wodonga 3690 m 0428 350 196 e jenny.nagle@wfi.

Graeme Bates a 161 Barkly Street Ararat 3377 m 0428 501 342 e graeme.bates@wfi.

James Gilmore a 77b MacLeod Street Bairnsdale 3875 m 0418 587 688 e james.gilmore@wfi.

Brett McKinnis a 137 Gillies Street South Ballarat 3350 m 0409 331 749 e brett.mckinnis@wfi.



Brent Hargreaves a 91 Williamson Street

John Trainor a 91 Williamson Street

Stuart Powney a 91 Williamson Street

Adam Wray a 526 Princes Highway

m 0427 698 623 e brent.hargreaves@wfi.

m 0437 356 197 e john.trainor@wfi.

m 0409 512 786 e stuart.powney@wfi.

m 0412 117 458 e adam.wray@wfi.

Bendigo 3550

Bendigo 3550

Geelong Wes Costin a 37/41 Ryrie Street

Geelong 3220

Bendigo 3550

Colac 3250

Mulgrave Adam Wray a 37/41 Ryrie Street

Geelong 3220

Simon Ryland a 1 Nexus Court

Jessica Roberts a 1 Nexus Court

m 0448 337 996 e jessica.roberts@wfi.

Mulgrave 3170

Mulgrave 3170

m 0408 174 411 e wes.costin@wfi.

m 0412 117 458 e adam.wray@wfi.

m 0467 764 152 e simon.ryland@wfi.




Phil Brewer a 236 Coleraine Road

Lucretia Moroney a 7 Golf Course Road

Simon Ryland a 15 Roughead Street

Brad Hosking a 15 Roughead Street

m 0407 426 414 e phil.brewer@wfi.

m 0417 578 526 e lucretia.moroney@wfi.

m 0467 764 152 e simon.ryland@wfi.

m 0429 062 258 e brad.hosking@wfi.

Paula O’Hare a Level 14, 181 William Street

Sammi Thomas a Level 14, 181 William Street

Mary Livori a Level 14, 181 William Street

Brett Johnston a Level 14, 181 William Street

m 0417 099 576 e paula.ohare@wfi.

m 0418 940 538 e sammi.thomas@wfi.

m 0409 856 056 e mary.livori@wfi.

m 0437 562 579 e brett.johnston@wfi.



Swan Hill

Daniel Cawood a 234 Deakin Avenue

Ben Drummond a Shop 4, 164 Welsford Street

Graeme Coe a 359 -361 Campbell Street

Ian Downes a 359 -361 Campbell Street

m 0439 960 298 e daniel.cawood@wfi.

m 0418 597 814 e ben.drummond@wfi.

m 0419 747 089 e graeme.coe@wfi.

m 0407 346 207 e ian.downes@wfi.



Hamilton 3300

Horsham 3400

Leongatha 3953

Leongatha 3953

Melbourne Melbourne 3000

Mildura 3500

Melbourne 3000

Shepparton 3630


Melbourne 3000

Swan Hill 3585

Melbourne 3000

Swan Hill 3585

Jason De Ligt a 2/41 Breed Street

Barbra Hayes a 2/41 Breed Street

Paul McCully a 4 Mason Street

Danny Answerth a 2/24 Mason Street

m 0438 932 590 e jason.deligt@wfi.

m 0437 110 435 e barbra.hayes@wfi.

m 0417 183 587 e paul.mccully@wfi.

m 0408 757 385 e danny.answerth@wfi.



Brad Hosking a 2/24 Mason Street

Lance Lloyd a 164 Liebig Street,

Andrew Heffernan a 164 Liebig Street,

m 0429 062 258 e brad.hosking@wfi.

m 0418 125 132 e lance.lloyd@wfi.

m 0417 948 267 e andrew.heffernan@wfi.

Traralgon 3844

Warragul 3820

Traralgon 3844

Warrnambool 3280

Wangaratta 3677

Warragul 3820

Warrnambool 3280

Why not call us for a quote? If you would like to arrange an appointment for an insurance review or to request a quote, simply contact your local Area Manager.


P 1300 934 934 F 1300 797 544






Victorian Farmer Magazine - April 2018  
Victorian Farmer Magazine - April 2018