Small Talk Autumn 2020

In this issue

Managing livestock after fire – Helping Adelaide Hills landholders 

Beefing up skills – Fleurieu Beef Group

Our landscapes are in your hands – Nominate now to be a member of a new Landscape Board

Expanded drought relief support – $21 million program

Fleurieu farmers can you help? – Agist livestock from KI

Be a responsible pig owner – Know your biosecurity responsibilities

Events – Find out what landholder events are planned for this autumn

Handy hint – Fire and soil pH 

Things to do in autumn – Get your property ready for the season

Helping Adelaide Hills landholders manage livestock and pastures after fire

Helping Adelaide Hills landholders manage livestock and pastures after fire

Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges staff have been out helping the fire-affected community with advice and assistance on land management issues such as pasture regeneration, watercourse management, soil rehabilitation, revegetation, weed management and habitat restoration.

Stock containment and feeding areas is a priority, and might be needed for some time as the landscape recovers from the Cudlee Creek fires.

Fragile fire-affected land, soil and water resources will need to be managed by many landholders, with containment feeding the best option for many properties, and staff intend to be there for the long term to help landholders with this.

Regional NRM Manager Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Kim Krebs said summer rainfall was welcome but was not a trigger to bring livestock back onto fire-affected pastures.

“Stock containment areas can be used to keep stock off burnt ground, or else stock can be sold or agisted elsewhere until pastures adequately recover,” she said.

With thousands of livestock lost and more than 23,000 hectares burnt in the Cudlee Creek fires, an early information session was held for landholders, at the Woodside Institute, to discuss how they can help protect their precious soil and better manage their livestock in these conditions.

Run by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges and SA Murray-Darling Basin NRM boards, in partnership with Livestock SA and with the support of Primary Industries and Regions SA, close to 50 people heard about containment area feeding, which is not yet common on Adelaide Hills properties.

The highly engaged group of farmers, who each own up to 200 livestock, learnt how ash ingestion can cause health problems for livestock, so keeping them off burnt ground is important. They were shown how to set up and use containment areas.

A stock containment area is a carefully selected, small, fenced section of the property set up to temporarily and intensively hold, feed and water livestock. It’s often used for managing stock in dry times but is also a useful way to handle stock when paddocks have been burnt. Keeping stock off burnt ground also allows pastures and ground cover to establish properly and helps protect fragile soil from erosion.

“We know many people don’t have an unaffected paddock to contain their stock. And if that’s the only option it’s important to raise fodder off the ground using a trough or something similar,” Ms Krebs said.

Keeping stock off burnt ground also minimises the potential of ash, organic matter and soil washing into dams and waterways and causing water quality problems.

Recovery is a long-term commitment and speakers from the NRM boards, Livestock SA, Primary Industries and Regions SA and Nutrient Ag Solutions explained how they, too, are in it for the long haul. 

Understanding how to monitor the condition of livestock and assess when to stop hand feeding and let the animals back on the paddocks was also discussed.

A demonstration, calculating how much supplementary feed stock might need, was given by livestock specialist Dan Schuppan. It also helped people understand what type of feed might be best, the cost and labour involved, and that supplementary feeding may need to continue into the middle of the year.

For more information and to hear about future events:

  • contact your local Natural Resources office (Black Hill 8336 0901 or Mount Barker 8391 7500)
  • speak to an officer at the Natural Resources stand at the Lobethal Recovery Centre
  • visit the links below for information on setting up confinement feeding and livestock requirements.

Related links

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Beefing up skills - Fleurieu Beef Group

Beefing up skills - Fleurieu Beef Group

Fleurieu Beef Group secretary Melissa Rebbeck and former group Chair Geoff Bowles, inspect pasture cages during a farm walk sharing information on soil and pasture health and networking with fellow members.

When it comes to living and working in the region, Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Sustainable Agricultural Officer Jeff Edwards says he has the pick of the bunch.  

"With its rolling hills and spectacular coastline, the Fleurieu Peninsula is renowned as not only a great place to visit, but a beautiful place to call home," Jeff said. 

Jeff’s role has him working closely with agricultural industry bodies on the peninsula.

“I have been lucky to work closely with beef producers on the peninsula, including an ongoing partnership with the Fleurieu Beef Group.

"As we’ve heard over the years, from many beef farmers on the Fleurieu, they would not want to be anywhere else either.

"The Fleurieu Peninsula produces some of the best pasture fed beef in the country," says Jeff. "Without question, local farmers are leading the way in regenerative practices to ensure the soil, pasture and the biodiversity of the region, along with its people, stay healthy and vibrant long into the future."

And this proactive beef group helps producers to learn and improve their cattle business with its strong membership and links with important industry bodies.

Some of this learning comes from a long working history with Natural Resources AMLR which supported a number of events and trials, helping local farmers sustain that balance between the environment and the practice of farming on the Fleurieu. 

More recent events have focused on animal husbandry, looking after the land in dry times, and managing dung beetles for soil health. 

Beefing up skills

Livestock and Pasture Consultant Tim Prance presents on the finer points of conducting a condition scoring assessment on cattle during dry times.

Looking after cattle during dry times

One event had Livestock and Pasture Consultant Tim Prance (pictured) present to the beef group’s members and their families at Waitpinga, on the finer points of how to conduct a condition scoring assessment on cattle during dry times.  

Group members learnt key points such as: assessing fat cover is an important guide for feeding strategies and sale decisions; and that target fat scores are critical for matching feed rations and carrying animals through dry times.

Talking to members after the event, with over 20 farming families represented, Jeff said they all agreed that looking after the land and the health of the stock is critical for beef growers in our region.

No bull

Helping farmers understand the ins and outs of managing bulls, was another event supported by Natural Resources AMLR. Willunga Vet Dr Simon Edwards gave a hands-on presentation at a property in Hindmarsh Valley, reinforcing his key message that bulls should be tested or checked every year for physical soundness, testicle tone, and serving capacity or ability.

Funds for dung

The Fleurieu Beef Group also received a grant through Natural Resources AMLR’s Supporting Sustainable Primary Production Grants program, looking at introducing three new dung beetle varieties, to help fill seasonal gaps and build soil health. 

The grant allowed dung beetle and native vegetation consultant Greg Dalton, from Creation Care, to work with them to get dung beetles onto properties across the Fleurieu.  

The aim is to improve beef farm grazing capacity and resilience, build soil carbon, and reduce the impact of cattle dung nutrients entering into water bodies said Greg. 

The project is establishing nine pilot farms with three new, spring-active dung beetle species, developing beef producers’ knowledge of rearing and managing dung beetles, and providing them with a stock of new species for breeding and using on their farms

The trial is already seeing promising results, with beetles establishing on many properties, and local farmers gaining a wonderful amount of experience understanding the life cycle of each beetle type, said Jeff.

Greg explains, "by defining optimal environmental conditions for all three new species, we can target future beetle release sites that match the beetles’ environmental requirements".

Dung beetle field day

A field day at Mount Compass, on 17 March, will present the results of the dung beetle program to date, and share experiences on other trials in the region. 

If you're interested in joining the Fleurieu Beef Group or getting along to the field day, email Chair, Mark Higgins.

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Our landscapes are in your hands – Nominate now to be a member of a new Landscape Board

Our landscapes are in your hands

The South Australian Government is launching new regional landscape boards to put communities back at the heart of managing their landscapes.

As part of the changes, new board members are being sought to work hand-in-hand with the community and government to ensure the state’s landscapes and farming industries are climate resilient, productive and sustainable.

Primary producers are encouraged to consider nominating to become a board member, with expressions of interest open until 6 March 2020 (except for specialist board Green Adelaide and the Alinytjara Wilurara board, which is already represented by select regional leaders).

The government is looking for people wanting to make a difference in their regions by applying their strategic thinking, connections with the community and ability to build partnerships.

Nominations are sought for the following boards:

  • Eyre Peninsula
  • Hills and Fleurieu
  • Kangaroo Island
  • Limestone Coast
  • Murraylands and Riverland
  • Northern and Yorke
  • SA Arid Lands

To apply visit or download the information pack

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Expanded drought relief support – $21 million program

Expanded drought relief support program

The Premier and Minister Whetstone have announced an expanded Drought Support Program to help South Australia’s drought affected primary producers and communities. 

The $21 million program is designed to provide some immediate financial relief for those who are doing it tough and assist our farmers get through this drought and others, with additional measures aimed at preparedness and long-term resilience.

The South Australian Drought Support Program includes the following initiatives:

  • Immediate financial relief by offering a 50 per cent rebate for council rates or pastoral lease rent in 2019-20 and 2020-21 for primary producers receiving the Farm Household Allowance.
  • Increased funding to Rural Business Support for a number of support activities which includes assisting small rural and regional businesses and increasing the Rural Financial Counselling Services to meet growing demand.
  • Increasing the Commonwealth Government’s On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme, from 25 to 50 per cent (or up to $50,000) which will provide a greater incentive for eligible primary producers to purchase and install new water infrastructure and improve drought resilience.
  • Funding for the Family and Business support mentor program, increasing wellbeing and business advice to farmers, families and small businesses in drought-affected regions.

The new and expanded program builds on the support measures already in place and the government will continue to work constructively with industry, Federal and local governments to ensure assistance is targeted and effective. The measures have been developed based on advice and feedback from the Dry Conditions Working Group, which includes key industry sector representatives. 

All of the information, including guidelines and application forms are available on the Drought Hub. Applicants can also submit their forms or seek advice from their local PIRSA Regional Office or via the new Drought hotline: 1800 931 314.

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Fleurieu farmers can you help? – Agist livestock from KI

Help sought from Fleurieu farmers to agist livestock from KI

Expression of interest are being sought from producers on the Fleurieu to agist livestock for Kangaroo Island producers while they re-build fencing. 

Do you have:

  • adequate fencing
  • watering points
  • ability to unload cattle or sheep from a semi trailer
  • land available until winter?

If you have any land to support our KI farmers, please send an expression of interest to Marty Kay via email or phone 0457746379.

Fodder will be provided. Details including biosecurity will be worked through on a case by case basis.

Please let Marty know:

  • how much land you have available
  • what type of livestock you can hold (sheep, cattle or other)
  • how long the land will be available 
  • your contact details.

You will then be contacted to discuss the details.

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Be a responsible pig owner – Know your biosecurity responsibilities

Be a responsible pig owner

With African swine fever edging closer to the Australian border, Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) is reminding all pig owners of their biosecurity responsibilities.

The deadly fever can spread through pork products. It is highly contagious to domestic and feral pigs, and Australia is currently free from it.

African swine fever does not affect humans.

The disease has spread through South East Asia, including China, Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea and most recently Timor-Leste.

If you keep pigs, make sure they’re registered under the National Livestock Identification Scheme, Australia’s system to identify and trace pigs for biosecurity, food safety, product integrity and market access.

All properties with pigs require a property identification code (PIC) and an associated pig brand.

To obtain a PIC, contact PIRSA on 1800 653 688 or download the form.

People food is not pig food

Swill feeding is illegal in Australia because of the risk of exotic diseases like African swine fever being introduced through illegally imported product.

Examples of prohibited pig feed (swill) include: pies, sausage rolls, bacon and cheese rolls, pizza, deli meats, table scraps, household, commercial or industrial waste including restaurant food and discarded cooking oils.

It is also illegal to supply any food that has been in contact with prohibited pig feed via collection, storage or transport in contaminated containers such as meat trays and take-away food containers.

You must also not feed your pigs imported dairy products.

It is against the law in Australia to feed pigs swill and anyone caught feeding or supplying prohibited feed to pigs can face a $10,000 fine under the Livestock Regulations 2013.

If you notice sick pigs, immediately contact your veterinarian, PIRSA animal health staff or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

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Landholder events are supported by funding from the NRM levy.

Horses and toxic weeds: ID and control paddock weeds
05 March 2020
Join Andy Cole, Land Management Advisor in this free interactive talk to find out more about different pasture weeds and which ones could be toxic for horses.

Learn how to manage soil erosion and water quality post fire
05 March 2020
Learn about options to reduce post-fire sediment (ash, organic matter and soil) entry into dams and waterways – as well as water quality issues caused by sediment entering water bodies.

After the fire: why it’s a great time to control woody weeds NOW
16 March 2020
Woody weeds field day and practical demonstration to help you learn about woody weed control after bushfire in watercourses, pasture paddocks and bushland areas

Fire recovery: Pasture renewal for small horse properties
17 March 2020
Woodside - Join us for a free evening of information, networking and lots of opportunity to ask questions.

Free webinar: Birds, bees and bugs around your stables & yards - wildlife friendly management
19 March 2020
Your stables, shelters, yards and green spaces around these areas can contribute to natural functions and processes, such as regulating water drainage, buffering the damaging effects of strong winds, or providing food and shelter for native wildlife including birds and bugs.

Gardening after fire with Sophie Thomson
21 March 2020
Come and hear Sophie Thomson talk about gardening after fire, gardening in drought and preparing for the coming season.

What’s in your horse’s pantry? Free walk and talk session - Goolwa
25 March 2020
Join Andy Cole, Land Management Advisor in this free interactive walk to practice identification of common native and introduced grasses and introduced weeds.

Fire recovery: (Re)constructing native grasslands and management post-fire
30 March 2020
Head to this Horse SA event to learn more about native grasses after fire, revegetation and shelterbelts.

Free webinar: Horse nutrition - choosing roughage for your horses
16 April 2020
Managing your pastures to provide enough forage for your horses would be ideal; however, in reality not many horse owners have the capacity to maintain horses on pasture as well as harvesting roughage to preserve for lesser times in the year.

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Handy hint – fire and soil pH

Handy hint

What effect does a bushfire have on the pH of soil?

It depends on how much ash or charcoal is left on the surface. Ash is alkaline, and may have a small liming effect for a short time. The amount left will depend on how much material was available to be burnt – a dry pasture normally has low amounts of fuel, and so the effect of the ash is very small. The ash may also be blown or washed away, leaving no effect. If the ash collects in a small area, that area may become neutral or alkaline.

In an area with high amounts of fuel such as trees or scrub, the effect may be higher if more ash is left behind.

If in doubt, pH test your soil, collecting a sample down to the full 10 cm depth, not just the surface. 

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Things to do – autumn

Things to do - Autumn 2020


  • If you’ve been affected by bushfires, its critical to protect your watercourses. Check out this fact sheet and video on sediment fencing from Agriculture Victoria.
  • It’s prime time for rabbit control. Did you know that the grazing pressure of nine rabbits can be the same as one sheep? Aim to carry out coordinated rabbit control programs with your neighbours for best results. For assistance in planning your rabbit control program, contact your local Natural Resources Office to speak to a district officer.
  • If you’ve been bushfire affected, it could be a good opportunity to control woody weeds. Click here to attend a practical demonstration to help you learn about woody weed control after bushfire in watercourses, pasture paddocks and bushland areas.
  • Plant native vegetation when the rains have started. Your local Natural Resources Office will provide information on the best species for your area.
  • Monitor stock to ensure they maintain condition, particularly lactating animals who need at least double the food. Consider your supplementary feeding strategy.
  • Graze to reduce dry residues while maintaining groundcover above 70%. Oversow if necessary to bring up the percentage of perennial grasses and clovers.
  • In ongoing dry conditions, consider using a stock confinement area to protect paddocks. Check out our fact sheet for more information.
  • If your soil test results recommend it, arrange with your contractors now to implement your lime and fertilising plan.
  • If you are lambing in winter be ready to activate your fox control plan. Contact your local Natural Resources Office for advice.
  • Look for early signs of common pasture pests, such as red-legged earth mite, cockchafer and lucerne flea. 

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Related links