Edition 31 - 11 October 2018
Production Advice is our monthly e-newsletter that keeps you up-to-date with seasonal conditions, climate outlooks, events and agronomy, veterinary and biosecurity advice.

In this issue:

Dealing with the dry

Update on Drought Workshops and dates for future workshops
Over 65 producers have attended Murray LLS Drought Workshops since Friday 5 October. These workshops addressed decision-making, nutrition and animal health, containment areas, stock management and opportunities for both stock and crops heading into late spring and summer.

The presentations generated a range of interesting questions. Some questions from producers that have been addressed include:
  • Does a merino lamb develop it's rumen better if it is left on its mother longer rather than weaning early?
The rumenal papillae are fully developed by 8 weeks of age. There is no benefit to the development of the rumen by keeping them on the ewe longer. Because of the loss of energy in the ewe eating the feed and then converting it into milk to feed to the lamb it is more efficient to wean the lamb early and give the good feed directly to the lamb. This is the same if the lambs were born as singles or as multiples.
  • By putting my sheep into a containment area or drought lot, can I expect to save feed?
Yes. For example, placing a medium frame single bearing ewe into a containment area will reduce her energy requirements by around 15%, with a similar saving in terms of the volume of feed you need to provide her.
  • How often do animals which don't have access to green feed need to be treated with vitamin A D and E?
The requirement for vitamins A and E are really small. Any green pick, including weeds and hay which has a bit of green (e.g lucerne) will suffice. Vitamin A and E are fat soluble and are stored in the liver, so animals will have no issues using these reserves alone for 3-4 months without any green feed. If it has been longer than this with out any trace of green feed then a single injection of vitamin A,D,E should last for at least 6 months. Sheep with even 1 day access to green feed will be able to store enough vitamin A for the next 3 months. Because vitamin A is stored in the body you can overdose them if you give them too much so repeated injections (within a 6 month period) should not be attempted without doing a blood test and checking levels first. If you are having issues please seek veterinary advice.
Murray LLS has 5 more workshops planned in the near future. The details are:
These are free events with food and refreshments provided.
Please RSVP for catering purposes to: P: 03 5881 9900 OR E: OR M: 0447 440 375

Don’t let your hay go up in smoke!

 By Adrian Smith
 Senior Land Services Officer
 Mixed Farming Systems
During the last drought, there was a significant increase in the number of hay stack fires around the place. And with hay so costly at the moment, and so hard to come by, it is the last thing you want (or can afford) to happen.
With decisions being made now about salvaging failing winter crops for grazing, hay or silage, it is timely to consider some of the issues around making hay at this (earlier than normal) time of the year.
There are two causes of hay shed fires – straight out accidents or spontaneous combustion – where moist hay produces enough heat to burn.
Spontaneous Combustion
Spontaneous combustion can occur where there are high moisture levels in hay. Natural processes such as the production of moulds and other chemical reactions lead to the production of heat. If enough oxygen is present in conjunction with enough heat, the hay can get hot enough to ignite.
As a general rule, hay with more than 16-18% moisture is at risk of going mouldy and producing heat. Over 20% moisture and the risk increases, and at moisture contents above 25%, there is a significant chance of spontaneous combustion.
What are the impacts of heating on feed quality?
If hay becomes too hot, feed quality (particularly protein levels) will be affected, with energy levels and digestibility also being negatively impacted.
The production of moulds can also have toxic impacts on livestock, cause respiratory problems for both humans and livestock and certainly reduce the palatability of the feed.

Some things to be wary of:
  • Making hay early in the season often means days are still relatively short, and as a consequence, curing times can be significantly longer. This also increases the risk of lower quality hay, or weather damage. Balancing the curing and quality constraints is vital.
  • Drought impacted crops often have higher levels of water soluble sugars, which can support greater levels of microbial growth if moisture levels are high.
  • Drought impacted crops are often more variable in their growth – perhaps meaning some areas of the crop are either too dry (impacts on quality) or too moist.
  • Drought impacted crops can often have less bulk – sometimes meaning crops are ‘cut’ using headers or windrowers to reduce costs and increase the speed of operations -  rather than mower conditioners. Mower conditions split and crush the plant stems allowing crops to dry quicker and more evenly.

What are some measures you can take to minimise the likelihood of spontaneous combustion?
  • Bale at the correct moisture content. Check by either visual examination of plants in the windrow (will the stems ‘snap’ easily, is there moisture still in the plant stems/nodes?) or using electronic moisture meters or probes. Experienced operators can provide a very accurate assessment – if using moisture probes, make sure they are calibrated to ensure accuracy and reliability in measurements.
  • Use hay additives to reduce or prevent mould growth, and therefore reducing the risk of heating. These additive’s are typically propionic acid which acts to reduce microbial development.
  • There are also some specialist bacterial inoculants which produce their own organic acids, which further inhibit mould growth.
  • Check your hay stacks regularly by looking for signs of heating. Heating can occur anytime from the time of baling up to 2-3 months after. However, any moisture, such as from a leaking shed, which infiltrates the stack can lead to heating and fire at any time.
  • If you suspect your hay is heating up, be very careful. Walking on a stack can cause it to collapse, especially if the centre is hot and has burnt out a cavity.
  • If moving ‘hot’ bales from the stack, be very careful, as exposure to oxygen can quickly cause ignition.
What are some other things should to consider?
  • Adequate insurance – both of your hay sheds and the fodder itself. Do not assume because your hay shed is insured, that the contents are as well. Check with your insurer.
  • During the last spate of hay fires, some insurers would not cover any loss of machinery that was stored in hay sheds that burnt. Either don’t store machinery in with your hay, or ensure your policy will adequately cover any such machinery damaged in a hay fire.
Bottom line
Ensure as much as possible that your hay is cured correctly before baling. The earlier in the season, generally the more difficult (and longer) this is. Check the moisture content of your windrows. Monitor any stacks you think may be heating up – and take action before it all goes up in smoke.
Take caution when baling drought impacted crops as they may be of higher risk of combustion.


To wean or not to wean; that is the question

 By Scott Ison
 District Veterinarian
Key points
  • Early weaning can be a very useful management tool in dry years. Weaning significantly reduces the nutrient requirement of cows and ewes.
  • Calves and lambs can perform much better after weaning if they are managed correctly.
  • Early weaning requires good quality feed and close attention to animal health and husbandry.
For the modern sheep and cattle breeding operation, the question of when to wean can be one of the most critical. This year it is more important than ever, with more and more people in our area considering early weaning.

There are many benefits to early weaning. The underlying principle is that milk production has an efficiency of about 60%. That means that for every 1 unit of energy delivered to the calf or lamb, the cow or ewe has to consume about 1.6 units of energy. Unweaned mobs require a large quantity of high quality feed to allow for milk production, growth and maintenance. By weaning early, high quality feed can be directed to the weaners where it is best utilised and cheaper maintenance rations can be supplied to cows or ewes.

Early weaning doesn’t come without issues.  People that have experienced success with early weaning will tell you that it is critical to get age and body weight right, but more importantly the weaner diet, husbandry and animal health. Calves can be weaned onto good quality pasture or grain rations when they are 12 weeks old or 120 kg live weight. The rule of thumb for lambs is 8 weeks and 10 kg live weight. The diet for these animals needs to be 11 ME and 16-18% protein with unrestricted access to maintain normal growth. Common mistakes include using a low quality fibre source and not providing enough protein in the total diet.

Nutrition for young stock
Smaller or younger animals can be weaned successfully but they require higher quality feed and even greater care. It is important to remember that there will be a variation in every mob and some animals may need to be drafted off and managed separately. Speak to a nutritionist when formulating your ration. Some expert advice and a slightly more expensive ration can return dividends and prevent major disasters.

Creep feeding and imprinting are very useful techniques for introducing lambs to hand feeding. It involves exposing lambs to different types of grain and pellets while they are still with their mothers. Lambs can be fussy eaters and introducing them to the type of feed they will be weaned onto reduces shy feeders. It is less important where you can wean lambs onto green pasture. Calves don’t seem to benefit from creep feeding and imprinting and can generally be weaned straight onto supplement, as long as it is introduced slowly to prevent gut upsets.

Weaner health and husbandry
Reduce stress at weaning, including allowing plenty of time to recover after marking and mulesing. Be sure to vaccinate and consider drenching, though worms may be low depending on your situation. Control flies and dust in the yards and post weaning. Be on the lookout for important health conditions like scours and respiratory disease.

Early weaning can be the perfect opportunity to maintain ewe and cow condition and get some ever important body weight onto lambs and calves before summer. It reduces the costs of feed and gives you much greater control over intake. It also improves management flexibility and selling options. There are many traps for new players so be sure to keep a close eye on things and seek expert advice where necessary.

If weaning early in a dry season, remember that good quality feed and a close attention to animal health and husbandry is essential.


Be aware of the new label requirements on all 2,4-D products

 By John Fowler
 Extension Agronomist
Due to label changes that came into effect on 3 October 2018, all 2,4-D products now have stricter use requirements. These changes apply to all 2,4-D herbicides, including old stocks in farm storage sheds. All landholders using any 2,4-D herbicides need to comply with the new requirements from now onwards. 

In brief, these new requirements include:
•    The  condition to use nozzles producing droplets no smaller than Very Coarse 
•    2,4-D herbicides must not be sprayed when inversion conditions exist
•    An updated requirement for mandatory record keeping 
•    Compulsory downwind ‘no spray’ zones

The first thing most landholders who use 2,4-D herbicides will need to do is to update the nozzles on their booms.  The majority of nozzles, including low pressure air induction nozzles, will not produce the required droplet size minimum of Very Coarse.  For example, all 02 (yellow) low pressure air inducted nozzles operating at or above 3 bar pressure, will produce medium or coarse droplets (according to the ASAE S572.1), not the ‘very coarse’ droplets that are required. 

Several of the high pressure air induction nozzles will produce the required droplet size, though not all have this ability.  However, while the legislation requires ‘Very Coarse’ droplets, it also recommends a minimum of ‘Extremely Coarse’ (XC) between 1 October and 15 April.  The preferred nozzle is the TTI which produces either ‘Extremely Coarse’ or ‘Ultra Coarse’ droplets, depending on the nozzle size and operating pressure. (See the GRDC ‘Nozzle Selection Guide – July 2017’)

I spoke with one landholder last season who ordered TTI nozzles for his boom.  He informed me that his was the first order that his supplier had ever received for these nozzles, which is a little concerning.

Avoid spraying in an inversion
The new label requirements state that 2,4-D must not be applied if there is a surface temperature inversion. It also indicates that these conditions exist most evenings, one or two hours before sunset, and persist until one or two hours after sunrise.

Some indications that a surface temperature inversion may exist include:
•    smoke or dust hangs in the air and moves sideways, just above the ground surface
•    wind speed is constantly less than 11 km/hr in the evening and overnight
•    cumulus clouds that have built up during the day collapse towards evening
•    distant sounds become clearer and easier to hear
•    aromas become more distinct during the evening than during the day

This means that most spraying needs to be conducted during the daytime when vertical mixing of the air can prevent inversions from developing.  

Record keeping requirements
Users of 2,4-D products must make an accurate written record of the details of each spray application within 24 hours of the application and keep this record for a minimum of two years. 

Details that need to be recorded include:
•    Date of spraying, including start & finish times
•    Specific location (property & paddocks sprayed)
•    Full trade name of product(s) used
•    Rate of application (hectares sprayed and rate/ha)
•    Crop sprayed (i.e. crop type, pasture, fallow etc.)
•    Wind speed and direction when spraying
•    Temperature and relative humidity when spraying
•    Nozzle brand, model, size, type and application pressure
•    Height of boom above ground
•    Name and contact details of person applying the herbicide

Downwind ‘No Spray’ zones
The minimum distance for downwind ‘no spray’ zones varies depending on:
•    The 2,4-D formulation being use (e.g. IPA salt, DMA salt, monomethylamine, DEA salt, sodium salt, EHE etc.)
•    The application rate
•    The type of crop or pasture being sprayed
•    Whether the downwind sensitive area is aquatic or terrestrial

For most crops and pastures, they are in the range of 10 - 50 m, but there are some that extend to 160 m.  Applicators need to see the relevant tables to determine the required minimum downwind ‘no spray’ zone.

Consequence of failing to apply with the new requirements
The new guidelines are mandatory for all users of 2,4-D products.  The pecuniary penalty for each contravention of a condition of the new permit is:
•    up to $189,000 for an individual
•    up to $315,000 for a body corporate

I trust that no landholders will actually contravene the new requirements, so the size of the penalties is of general interest only.
A cotton crop damaged by 2,4-D spray drift. This can be significantly reduced through following the new label requirements.

Climate and rainfall

Spring climate and weather outlook

 By Adrian Smith
 Senior Land Services Officer
 Mixed Farming Systems
Key points
  • Spring rainfall likely to be below average.
  • Daytime temperatures likely to be above average.
  • Overnight temperatures likely to be above average
  • Most climate indicators still in the ‘neutral’ phase.
  • A number of climate models now on El Niño watch.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) released its latest monthly update on 27 September, 2018. The full update can be accessed here at the BoM Climate outlook overview.
Sounds like a repeating record, but nonetheless, for our part of the world, over the October through December 2018 period, the BoM is indicating:
  • Below average rainfall is likely, with over a 60% chance of drier than normal conditions
  • Daytime temperatures likely to be above average.
  • Overnight temperatures likely to be above average.

A couple of points to note:
  • ENSO (El Niño–Southern Oscillation) conditions remain neutral. The Bureau's ENSO Outlook is currently at El Niño WATCH, which means the likelihood of an El Niño forming in 2018 is approximately 50% (double the normal chance).
  • The Indian Ocean Diploe (IOD) currently sits in ‘neutral’ territory. However, there are a number of climate models indicating the possible development of a positive IOD -  typically a +IOD results in below average rainfall in winter-spring in southern and central Australia.
  • Sea surface temperatures have increased off Africa. There is an area of cooler water off Indonesia, which has led to a +IOD like lack of cloud in that region. Indeed, it would appear that threshold levels for a +IOD event (+0.5) have been reached.
  • Pressure over the tropical Indian Ocean is generally higher, which isn’t helping moisture transfer from the North-West.
  • The Bureau's climate model indicates that higher than average pressure is likely to the south of Australia, resulting in weaker westerlies and fewer cold fronts extending into southeast Australia.
  • The Sub Tropical Ridge (STR) is at a higher than normal position - centred around the SA/NT border. At this position, fronts and lows are able to move into south-east Australia – in fact, there have been more fronts than normal crossing southern Australia recently. However, it may be limiting any moisture feed from the north-west.
  • The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) 30 day rolling average fell to around -10.7 (above El Niño threshold values of -7) in early October, but is yet to show a consistent or well developed pattern (see Figure 1). Currently, the 30 day moving SOI is -6.7.
October itself seems likely to see below average rainfall for us in Southern NSW. Figures 2 and 3 outline the BoM’s current analysis of chances of exceeding median rainfall for the September-November 2018 period.
Figure 1.         30-day rolling SOI values

Source: BoM, 2018. Click here for larger image.
Figure 2. Chance of exceeding median rainfall (%) for October-December 2018 across Australia. Source: BoM, 2018. Click here for larger image.
Figure 4 provides more specific forecast rainfall information for NSW for the month of October, indicating there is around a 30% chance of exceeding median October rainfall for us in the Murray. The majority of NSW sees a similar scenario.

Figure 4. Chance of exceeding median rainfall (%) for October, 2018, across NSW.
Source: BoM, 2018. Click here for larger image.
Figure 3. Chance of exceeding median rainfall (%) for October-December 2018, across NSW. Source: BoM, 2018. Click here for larger image.

The BoM predicts higher than normal day and night time temperatures throughout the rest of spring.  Figures 5 and 6 show the predictions with regard chances of exceeding median maximum and minimum temperatures for NSW over the October-December period.

Figure 5. Chance of exceeding median maximum temperatures – NSW, October-December 2018. Source: BoM, 2018. Click here for larger image.
Figure 6. Chance of exceeding median minimum temperatures – NSW, October-December 2018. Source: BoM, 2018. Click here for larger image.
Management Considerations

Given the BoM forecasts, a few key things growers should be considering include:
  • Continue to monitor farm (livestock and household) water supplies – the best made feeding livestock plans can be turned on their head if water supplies become limiting.
  • For those with livestock, continue to monitor your feed and do some budgeting – keep on top of the situation.
  • Manage your soil to maintain good groundcover levels (above 50%) to minimise potential losses from wind and (above 70%) water borne erosion.
  • There are two ‘must do’s’ as we head into what might be some challenging times
    • Firstly, monitor and evaluate what is happening on your own farm
    • Secondly, have a plan of what you can and can’t do, identify various options and establish some critical ‘trigger points’ for your operation.
  • Keep an eye on your workers, partners, family members, friends and other farmers – lend an ear (and a hand!), and talk through your own concerns with trusted friends and advisors.

Water resource update

 By Adrian Smith
 Senior Land Services Officer
 Mixed Farming Systems
As at 1 September, 2018, the major storages impacting on our region were:
Water in Storage
Storage Current Last Month
Volume (GL) % of full supply Volume (GL) % of full supply
Dartmouth 3,285 85% 3,425 89%
Hume 1,545 51% 1,566 52%
Lake Victoria 360 53% 355 49%
Menindee Lakes 150 9% 173 10%
Total Active Storage 5,340 58% 5,499 59%
Source: MDBA, 2018.
For irrigators in the NSW Murray Valley, NSW Crown Lands and Water made an allocation announcement on 2 October – with NSW general security water entitlement holders’ allocation remaining at 0%.
Key Points
  • Across the Murray Valley, approximately 30% was carried over from last irrigation season.
  • Allocation plus carryover cannot exceed 110% for the current water year.
  • the Barmah-Millewa Forest Environmental Water Allowance has been borrowed in full to assist consumptive water users. It will be repaid once general security allocations reach 30 per cent of entitlement.
  • High security water entitlement holders have access up to 97% of their water entitlements.
Figure 7 below highlights how MDBA storage is tracking this year compared to last year, and the long term average. This information has been reproduced courtesy of the Murray Darling Basin Authority. It shows MDBA active storage decreased by 79 GL this week to 4,996 GL (59% capacity). This is around 1,641 GL less than for the same time last year and 1,803 GL less than the long-term average for this time of year.
Figure 7. MDBA active storage – June 2000 - present. Source: MDBA, 2018

Ongoing transfers from Dartmouth Reservoir to Hume Reservoir decreased the Dartmouth storage volume by 45 GL to 3,285 GL (85% capacity). Water stored in Dartmouth Reservoir is generally maintained as the system’s drought reserve and is called upon in dry seasons when the downstream storages have insufficient water to meet demands. Given the continuing dry conditions and low stream flows, substantial calls on water from Dartmouth are expected this year.

Indicative allocations for the 2018/19 season
On 17 September, the NSW Department of Industry (Water) provided an update on its indicative advice on how the 2018/19 water year is shaping up.

Key points were:
  • Full allocations for towns and domestic and stock access licences.
  • NSW Murray high security access licences will receive an allocation of 97%.
  • Full access to carryover on 1 July 2018.
  • Conveyance water will be allocated in accordance with the water sharing plan – currently forecasting 50 per cent of entitlement based on zero general security allocation.
The following table identifies the chances of improved general security allocation in the NSW Murray for the 2018/19 season, based on varying inflow conditions.
Forecast general security allocations (%)#
Potential inflow conditions# Percentile 1 November 2018 1 February 2019
Extremely dry 99 chances in 100 0 0
Very dry 9 chances in 10 0 5
Dry 3 chances in 4 0 14*
Average 1 chance in 2 8 29**
Wet 1 chance in 4 29** 47**
# Multi-history modelling using all years on record. Assumes dry (75%) inflows for the remainder of the current 2017/18 water year and general security carryover into 2018/19 of 31%.
* Commence payback of Barmah-Millewa account.
** Borrow from Barmah-Millewa account is fully repaid.
Irrigators should note these assumptions are based on ‘very dry’ (95th percentile) inflow conditions for the rest of this water year. You should continue to monitor the situation and make decisions based on the best possible advice.
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Copyright © 2018 Murray Local Land Services, All rights reserved.
The information contained in this publication is based on knowledge and understanding at the time of writing October 2018. However, because of advances in knowledge, users are reminded of the need to ensure that the information upon which they rely is up to date and to check the currency of the information with the appropriate officer of Local Land Services or the users independent adviser. For updates go to

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