Category Archives: 2019

August, 2019

Osteoporosis!  This was the topic of a well attended information session WOFWG organized for its members.  As many such members have experience with animal nutrition, they also know the importance of their own dietary health.

Two endocrinology specialists, Drs Alicia Jones and Frances Milat, doing research out of Monash Medical Centre, gave a valuable and eye opening talk about this disorder. Osteoporosis essentially means fragile bones.  This condition can lead to ready fractures, to more falls and to avoidable trauma for sufferers and their families.

The causes, diagnosis, prevention, treatment and incidence of osteoporosis were all covered in factual detail.

A disturbing research finding was that Gippsland has the highest incidence of hip fractures per capita in Victoria.  This fact had WOF members speculating on why this is so. Is it diet, lifestyle, genes, bad luck or a combination?  Alicia and Frances added that their work to find an explanation is under way.  They also emphasized that a key aspect of their work is to improve the availability of bone health services to country dwellers, not just those in urban Australia.

Adequate intake of calcium rich foods, augmented by a supplement, access to sunshine for vitamin D or supplementation with tablets, plus weight bearing exercise are all part of healthy management routines. Bone density scans are recommended and are covered at no cost for those over 70 years old.

While osteoporosis might be seen more in older folk, it can occur in much younger ones too, especially in response to excessive intake of cortisone medication and caffeine drinks.  Good news is that dairy products and a farming, outdoorsy lifestyle, both features of Gippsland living, are recommended.  Alicia and Francis indicated that they were pleased to have a chance to present to a group of local women and that they would be happy to be invited to further such information sessions held by any group in the area. 

July, 2019

Kentsie Murray Grey Stud, Labertouche

Women on Farms members visited Melinda Kent at her Labertouche farm to hear about the business of breeding Murray Greys, and breaking animals in for the show ring and bull sales. Melinda and her family had a number of cows and calves standing quietly tied up in the stock yards. These animals were very calm with all the visitors.

Melinda has been showing stud animals and breaking in bulls for many years. In 2016 her home breed heifer at the Royal Melbourne Show was top of the breed. Melinda described her as a …”maternal, volume heifer with good feet”… typical of what she producing at home.

Although the day was cold the sun shone for the farm walk with all the animals calmly welcoming visitors into their paddocks, including the impressive bulls. Thank you for a wonderful and interesting day.

June, 2019

Hopefully few of us will ever have to deal with the problem of burned paddocks, but as we know, it does happen and a few of our member farms were badly damaged by fire in early March this year. A recent talk by David Shambrook of the Department of Agriculture, Leongatha addressed this topic at a Women on Farms meeting at Ellinbank.  Your newsletter editor was given special privilege by WOF to attend this normally “women only” meeting, and we thank WOF for this.

The main points made were:

  • It takes a long time to restore pasture and infrastructure after a fire.
  • The degree of pasture damage varies with fire intensity, fuel load, pasture species, fertility, soil type and timing of follow-up rains.
  • Of particular note, fertility will not be altered long term by fire, but there will be increased potassium initially from the ash deposits. Clover loves potassium and may get an initial boost as the ash is absorbed into the soil. Planting sub-clovers may be indicated to take advantage of this factor.
  • Lighter soils will be more adversely affected than heavy soils.
  • Annuals are more susceptible to fire although some perennials will tend to die, while newly sown pastures will probably be badly hit.
  • Weeds will be the first to recover and there will usually be a flush of broadleaf weeds like Capeweed. Capeweed is a source of cattle feed, but it must not be fed as the only feed to hungry stock because of the acute risk of nitrate poisoning. Hay or other nutrients must be available if stock are put on a Capeweed dominant paddock.
  • Soil temperatures at the surface can reach 600 degrees C and typically around 50 to 150 Degrees C in a cool to moderate burn Soil below 15 mm deep is not changed by more than 10 degrees however, – a key reason to consider planting deep rooted grass species in fire prone areas.
  • Perennial grass survival has been measured at around 40% in a hot fire, and 80 to 98% in a cool fire. Annuals are much worse hit. Sub clover can fair a little better but its seedbank still reduces by 60% in a moderate fire. White and Strawberry clovers survive moderate temperatures, while lucerne survives even hot burns.
  • Since Dock, Sorrel, Onion grass and Capeweed all survive very well, there may be a need to oversow with grass seeds to provide competition to the weeds. Weed control with herbicide may be needed also, or instead of over-sowing.
  • Immediately after a fire and after a drought, it may be useful to conduct a trial in a one metre square section of dry pasture by irrigating it and seeing what regrows. This can assist early decisions concerning the need or otherwise for resowing.
  • If weeds have gained purchase, heavy harrowing, or spray grazing may be worthwhile with or without resowing, depending on the survival rate of desirable grass seeds.
  • Keep stock off burnt pastures for 6 weeks or more to maximize growth of surviving plants.
  • If spray grazing is indicated (eg a heavy crop of Capeweed has taken over) BUT cattle cannot be introduced at the desired time a few weeks after herbicide treatment (eg due to a lack of fences), then slashing or mowing should be considered in place of the desired heavy stocking.
  • Don’t fertilise unless soil tests indicate this is necessary and then don’t fertilise until there is enough grass visibly growing to use the applied nutrients.
  • While early June is still not too late to plant perennial ryegrass (soil temps of 5 to 10 degrees C are acceptable, enabling 75% germination in 10 to 15 days), sub clover may be a better bet if sowing in June. Perennials are needed to ensure ground cover.
  • Whilst pasture assessment immediately after a fire is optimal, by June, it is still worthwhile to look between the weed plants and weed areas of burnt paddocks, to assess whether a Spring sowing of a perennial, or a Spring millet crop followed by resowing perennials next autumn. It may be preferable to wait until the following autumn when better assessments will have been possible and a more complete pasture renovation can be undertaken in those parts of the farm needing it.
  • Speeding up a return to pasture cover and density is a high priority after a fire. The pasture plants should be encouraged to set seed in the Spring following the fire. This can be assisted by avoiding heavy grazing pressure in the mid to late spring period, and by not cutting the pasture for hay or silage in this first post-fire spring season.

Expect 50% production in the first Spring after a pasture burn, and a complete recovery could be 12 to 18 months or more to get back to full production.