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12 September 2017

BIGG wins state landcare award!


The State Landcare Awards were held in Clare on 12th September 2017 where BIGG won the Australian Government Excellence in Sustainable Farm Practices Award.



 The award recognises an ‘individual, group or organisation that has demonstrated excellence and leadership in implementing integrated land management practices to a farm property or properties that protect soils, water and vegetation’.



The award is also strong recognition for Angaston Ag Bureau, who has operational and monitoring oversight of BIGG’s projects. Since BIGG’s inception in 2012, support from the local NRM boards (Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges, SA MurrayDarling Basin) has also helped ensure BIGG delivers innovate projects that respond to the needs of local producers.



BIGG will now represent SA in the Sustainable Farm Practices category at the 2018 National Landcare Awards. Well done team BIGG!




25 January 2017

Lucerne trial results highlighted a Barossa conference


LUCERNE was found to be more tolerant than expected from previous studies, to highly acidic soils in a recent project completed by South Australian Research and Development Institute’s (SARDI) principal research scientist Dr Alan Humphries.



Dr Humphries, who will speak on the outcomes of the Acid Tolerant Lucerne project at the Barossa Improved Grazing Group’s Perfect Pastures Conference on Thursday, February 16, said forage production in the first calendar year after sowing ranged from 4 to 12 tonnes a hectare under rainfed conditions at three of the sites with soil pHCa 4.1-4.3.



“Lucerne is grown on approximately 3 million ha in south-eastern Australia, but poor tolerance to acidic soils limits its further adoption,” he said.



“Lucerne is ideally established on soils in the pHCa range of 5.5 to 8.0, and although it is grown on more acidic soils, forage yield and persistence on these soils is often suboptimal.



“The primary aim of this research was to define the performance of new lucerne varieties and rhizobia strains selected for improved tolerance to soil acidity across a range of environments in south eastern Australia.”



During the study four sites in SA, Victoria and New South Wales with pHCa 4.1-4.3 were chosen with contrasting texture, aluminium toxicity levels and fertility, and this combined with a treatment to ameliorate surface pH to varying degrees with lime, was used to generate a range of environments to evaluate the performance of lucerne.



Dr Humphries said the Barossa was known to have acidic soils, and many of the project outcomes could be applied to lucerne pastures planted in the region. The project was supported by Meat & Livestock Australia and Heritage Seeds.



“The annual production of 12 t/ha had an approximate feed value of 147MJ energy and 2625 kg CP/ha of protein,” he said.



“This would be especially valuable to red meat producers considering that 50pc of the growth occurred outside of the traditional winter-spring production period, extending the growing season into summer and autumn. The summer production occurred despite decile 1-3 springs in 2014 and 2015, illustrating the capacity of lucerne to deliver a constant feed supply.”



The Perfect Pastures Conference will also feature 2016 Australian Rural Consultant of the Year Ken Solly, who will discuss ‘Resilience in Farming Communities’. Other speakers include Landmark production animal specialist Daniel Schuppan; BIGG technical facilitator-coordinator Georgie Keynes; PIRSA soil and land management consultant Brian Hughes and many more, who will cover a wide range of practical topics focusing on annual pastures systems within the conference theme ‘Optimising your sustainable grazing system’.



Ms Keynes encouraged producers to attend the forum.



“The conference will be a great opportunity for those in the Barossa region and further afield to find out the latest research on pasture varieties, and what they should be looking to plant in the upcoming year. We have a great mix of plant scientists, consultants and producers who will be presenting at the conference, and we’ll also be heading out on two site visits as well,” she said.



“The conference will also provide a brilliant opportunity for networking with other producers and industry experts. The $50 price for tickets includes afternoon tea and a two-course dinner and drinks package at Lambert Estate, with food provided by Handmade Catering.”



The conference is supported by Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin and Meat & Livestock Australia.



SARDI is a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA.



27 July 2016

Maximising pasture production


Producers will be able to maximise their pasture production in a variable climate following the results of an exciting new project from the Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG).


Funded by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and a collaboration between BIGG and Barossa businesses Coopers of Mount Pleasant and Farmer Johns, the project aims to develop a more reliable feed-base responsive to the changing climate.


A range of pasture types have been sown including perennial and annual grasses, clovers and forage cereals at sites in Ebenezer, Eden Valley and Keyneton with seed donated by Pasture Genetics, Heritage Seeds, the University of Western Australia, SARDI Oat Breeding Program, SeedNet and Wrightson Seeds.


These sites will be regularly monitored for a range of outputs including feed value and dry matter production over the next three years, allowing producers to learn about varieties which are suited to their environments.


Project facilitator and livestock producer Georgie Keynes says the challenge is to optimise pasture productivity while anticipating variable seasonal conditions.


“As well as a feed-base that can handle different rainfall patterns, we are also looking for options that increase flexibility,” Georgie says.


“In recent years, climate change has been leading to variable rainfall patterns, late breaks, early finishes and more summer rainfall events. However most pasture feed-bases are still optimised for the traditional weather cycle of reliable, winter dominant rain.


“The advice we are receiving from climatologists is that rainfall is likely to be above-average in 2016 so we have included forage cereals that should run to head in a wet spring to be utilised for hay or silage.”


Producers will be able to assess the trials at pasture walks to be held through the year including the BIGG spring pasture walk on Friday September 16.
More information: www.biggroup.org.au or contact Georgie, 0409 287 261, georgie.keynes@biggroup.org.au.




29 March 2016

Eden Valley farmers share bushfire learnings two years after fire 


Barossa livestock producers are hoping their bushfire experiences can help farmers affected by future fires.


The Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) have spent the past two years investigating the recovery of pastures after bushfire through grants from Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges and SA Murray Darling Basin.


Project manager Georgie Keynes, whose family lost almost 6,000 Ha in 2014 bushfires, says there’s a lot that can be learned from the Barossa experience.


“It has been a challenging two years since the Eden Valley fire and a year since the Hutton Vale fire. We’ve learnt a lot, sometimes the hard way, about managing pastures, the farm and ourselves,” she said.


The Eden Valley and Hutton Vale fires in 2014 burnt over 24,000 Ha in the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges, mostly made up of native pastures. BIGG have worked with affected producers to assist in both immediate and long-term recovery, and have produced a fact sheet, case study booklet and video to share their learnings.


“One thing that we found that was really important for recovery was engaging with the community.” Georgie said. “Keeping in touch with one another meant they could compare plans and discuss pros and cons. It also provided a network of people who understood what we were going through.”


The challenge of balancing recovery with financial needs was another key learning.


“The monitoring BIGG has performed has shown that even with careful management, it will take years for our pastures to return to their pre-fire productivity. In the meantime, the affected producers still need an income. We’ve had producers who have tried a range of different options from long term agistment, to droughtlots, bringing stock back on early, and off-farm employment,” she said.


“There was no right answer, it depends on each family’s circumstances.”


Since the fire the region has had two very dry springs, which meant some producers have had to re-evaluate their decisions which were made on the assumption that we would get more rain. Many producers fully or partially destocked this summer in order to give their pastures a better chance in 2016.


“I would say that whatever decision you make, make sure you consider the long-term, have a back-up plan in case of low rainfall, and be prepared for a long road to recovery.”


The case studies, video and fact sheet can be found at www.biggroup.org.au




24 March 2016


Demonstrating Watercourse Rehabilitation with Native Plant Communities


Georgie Keynes, Technical Facilitator, BIGG


Rehabilitating a watercourse is a brilliant way to improve water quality, reduce erosion, provide habitat for birds and to improve on-farm production however, how do you select the most appropriate plant community to do the job?


With the support of the NR AMLR and the 25th Anniversary Landcare Grant Scheme Funding, the Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) are helping landholders investigate how effective different native plant communities are at achieving this rehabilitation process.


The Project aims to explore and demonstrate the native plant communities that provide 100% annual ground cover to help stabilise the soil, prevent erosion and reduce run off and communities which improve habitat for birds by providing perching, nesting and feeding sites. In addition the cost/benefit of the processes will be compared across the different communities.


The Process


Working on the Klemm’s dairy farm in Moculta, the Project, which began in May 2015, fenced off a 250m length of watercourse which runs during the winter months and was significantly pugged through the summer months. Groundcover levels through the centre of the watercourse measured 10-20% with areas along the bank being completely bare. Woody weed removal of over 20 Briar Rose plants, Artichoke and thistles and a plant species survey and bird survey were performed prior to planting.


Tubestock was planted in July after a shroud spray to remove the initial weed completion. 20 metre plots of the following plant communities which are local to the area, were replicated and compared against three control areas:


  • native grasses including wallaby, kangaroo and spear grass
  • understory plants (approx. 60cm tall), including juncus sp., lomandra and hardenbergia
  • tree’s including sheoak, peppermint box and red gums
  • trees and mid story plants including acacia sp., busaria and dodonae.


Due to the extremely dry spring, the plants were watered in October, December, January and early March.


Year 1 Results


The most noticeable results one year after fencing is the reduction in pugging and the increased groundcover which measures between 90 and 100% across the entire site. These levels would significantly reduce the risk of erosion and run off, improving water quality and demonstrate the effectiveness of simply removing stock from the watercourse area.


Considering the dry conditions, the majority of the plants have survived extremely well with over 70% survival rate, with the majority of losses occurring within the understory plant plots. Interestingly the majority of Juncus species planted did not survive, however plants which were originally there have thrived and flourished with the removal of stock demonstrating a much cheaper option to tubestock planting!


Weed control has been a continual problem with caltrop, which was already present in small numbers, flourishing in the areas which were sprayed out for plants. As competition from the native plants increases, the caltrop is likely to reduce and will be measured in subsequent years.


Plans for the future


The Project in its second year will fence off an adjacent section of watercourse to determine the cost effectiveness of machine direct seeding.


In following years, as the plants become more established, the bird and fauna surveys will be repeated. Production benefits of increased pasture production through rotational grazing and the improved milk production as a result of shade and shelter for the cows will also be determined.




17 February 2016



BIGG changes in watercourse rehabilitation thanks to plant communities



Significant changes in ground cover and site recovery have been observed at the halfway mark of the Barossa Improved Grazing Group’s (BIGG) one-year watercourse rehabilitation project.
The project, which received funding through a 25th Anniversary Landcare grant from the Federal Government, has seen the development of a site to compare the effectiveness of different plant communities at stabilising watercourse banks.



This includes four sections: native grasses, understory plants up to 60cm tall, trees and a combination of understory plants and trees. The 20 metre plots have been replicated and compared with control areas along a watercourse on dairy farmers Ben and Murray Klemm’s property in Moculta, near Angaston in the Barossa Valley.



BIGG technical facilitator Georgie Keynes said the results so far had been impressive.



“Before the fencing and planting, the dairy cows would make the most of the green pick in summer in the moister conditions of the watercourse which led to pugging, mud and in some areas less than 20 per cent ground cover,” she said.



“This area now has 100 per cent ground cover, with no pugging or watercourse erosion, which is a great turnaround after only 12 months.”



Work in the first year has included fencing the site, removal of woody weeds briar rose and artichoke and planting of the tube stock species. The sole remaining plant from a vegetable garden which used to be at the site, a quince tree, has flourished with the stock control. However, weed control remains a problem.



“Caltrop, which was already present in small numbers, has thrived in the areas which were sprayed out for planting,” Ms Keynes said.



“Ben and Murray have controlled it in the paddock using boom spraying either side of the watercourse fence and using a backpack spray pack within the watercourse area. As competition from the native plants increases, the caltrop is likely to reduce.”



The Angaston Ag Bureau hosted a ‘sticky beak’ meeting in February to show members the site and learn about the importance of watercourse rehabilitation. The feedback was positive, with members commenting on how “amazing” it was to see how quickly the site had rehabilitated once the stock were removed.



Due to the early end to the season, plants were watered in October, December and January. Despite the conditions, there has been a 70 per cent survival rate of plants.



Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges district officer Julian Marchant said some plants would be replaced in favour of traditional species.



“The more traditional species including the eucalypts, acacias and most of the native grasses have survived, while the more unusual species such as the lomandra and convolvulus have not,” he said. “We will replace these species with the more traditional ones for in-fill planting in 2016.”



In its second year, an adjacent section of watercourse will be fenced off to determine the cost effectiveness of machine direct seeding.




10 September 2015



Blockbuster pasture walk for livestock producers



In its biggest ever pasture walk, the Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) will be visiting three major project trial sites on September 21.



Technical facilitator Georgie Keynes says the farming systems group are excited to share learnings from the projects with Barossa livestock producers.



“The blockbuster pasture walk is an opportunity for producers to learn from BIGGs trials and demonstration sites and network with industry experts. We will be visiting sites from all of our major projects looking at native pastures, rotational grazing, revegetation of watercourses and sub-clover root diseases,” she said.



The field walk will feature a field presentation and question and answer session with noted University of WA research agronomist Professor Martin Barbetti, who together with BIGG is investigating sub-clover root diseases through a three-year MLA funded Producer Research Site grant.



The field walk will start at Sedan Hill, where native pastures are recovering after the 2014 Eden Valley bushfire at a trial funded by Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges and Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin.



“Our first trial site looks at the options for recovery of native grasses after fires, including a demonstration of the effects of phosphate fertiliser on native grasses. We will be talking about the best options for managing native grasses through the spring and summer seasons,” Georgie said.



“At the same location, we have another trial running to assess the cost versus benefit of rotationally grazing native grass pastures. Rotational, or cell, grazing is known to have some fantastic results in productivity, but the cost of setting these systems up in these hilly rocky areas are often limiting.”



The second visit will be to the group’s National Landcare Programme watercourse rehabilitation demonstration at Moculta.



“There are great NRM benefits from rehabilitating watercourses, but there is a cost associated, so we want to show producers how valuable revegetation can be, from reducing erosion potential, to improving water quality, and increased biodiversity. We’ve planted a range of plant communities including grasses, trees and shrubs, to help producers identify which options are best for them,” Georgie said.


The field day will finish off at the sub-clover trial site at Moculta, where Professor Barbetti will discuss the key sub-clover diseases in the Barossa and their effect on pasture productivity. The site also features a clover variety demonstration sown by Coopers of Mount Pleasant, where producers can view the performance of 25 different clover varieties.




August 21, 2015


New focus group to boost vineyard grazing uptake in Barossa


Eden Valley livestock producer and grape grower Ben Zander is a strong advocate of sheep grazing in vineyards, with his family using the increasingly-popular practice for more than 30 years.


Ben was one of six local growers who last week participated in a focus group, run by the Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) and Barossa Grape & Wine Association (BGWA) to investigate barriers to vineyard grazing and identify methods of promoting its productivity and natural resources management benefits.


“We have grazed our vineyards for a long time, and believe it is something that everyone can take on. It has great benefits for livestock farmers and, for those who don’t own stock, the fees from agistment can be an additional source of income,” Ben said.


Ben says the main reason he grazes stock is the combination of weed control with additional feed for his sheep.


“Putting the sheep in the vineyard can improve the condition of the vineyard as we can minimise herbicide costs and maintain good management of our vineyard floor. Because of our topography cultivation isn’t a viable option, so sheep can fill the management gap during winter and also return part of what they eat to the soil in a form that the vine can easily take up,” he said.


“But at the same time, the grasses that the sheep are feeding on in the vineyard mean we can rest our paddocks. By late autumn the paddocks are relatively bare, so by moving the sheep into the vineyards we can let the pastures rest and get away after the season break,” he said.


The BIGG and BGWA, with funding by Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, are encouraging grape growers and livestock producers to consider vineyard grazing.


“The main requirements are sound fencing and water access, which many vineyards already have in place, to keep stock out during the growing season and irrigate vines. There’s not a lot involved in setting up a vineyard for grazing,” Ben said.


In Ben’s experience, dripper lines are not generally an issue with sheep, and the stock can sometimes be left in after budburst, as long as there is enough feed available and trellis height is adequate.


“There aren’t many vineyards that I would think would be unsuitable for sheep grazing, especially during the vine dormancy period. Even younger vines, which sheep can cause damage to, can be alright if the sheep aren’t kept in too long and they don’t get regularly stressed or spooked and run,” he said.




7 August 2015


Graziers update aims to make dollars and sense out of pastures


The Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) and Grasslands Society of Southern Australia (GSSA) have teamed up to bring together a pasture update for graziers in the Barossa region, to be held at the Nuriootpa Sports and Function Centre on August 25.


BIGG chairman Mark Grossman says the MLA sponsored event has an all-star line-up of speakers covering a diverse range of topics from pasture improvement to business management.


“BIGG and GSSA have organised a fantastic agenda to provide producers with the latest insights and research to help improve their productivity and profitability,” he said.


Speakers include West Australian farmers Marcus and Shannon Sounness, who will discuss their experiences in the MLA Challenge.


“For the challenge we spent 12 months using MLA resources to improve our business, while blogging about our progress to share our learnings with other producers,” Marcus said.


“Our most significant technical change was identifying that for us, it is generally more profitable to turn off 35-40kg store lambs. We used to turn off prime Merino lambs, and we struggled to get weights up. By looking at meat per hectare rather than per head, we worked out that we could save as much as $40,000 on our feed costs.”


However the major outcome of the challenge was in the Sounness’ family roles and succession.


“My folks were retiring at the time, so we used the opportunity to look at everyone’s roles in the business. For instance my father is no longer active on the farm, but he is instead performing a consultant role, filling the technical gaps where Shannon and I might not have the experience, such as markets,” Marcus said.


“Shannon’s role in the family has also changed significantly as part of the challenge, from where she used to feel a bit of an outsider, but through communication and changes from the project, now she is an integral team member, and in fact the two of us now own the business and we’ve moved on to look at succession plans for the next generation.”


Other speakers include:

  • Macquarie Franklin principal consultant Basil Doonan speaking on logical business decision-making, focusing on profit drivers in a pasture-based grazing system.
  • National lucerne breeding program leader Alan Humphries on new lucerne varieties and their place in pastures
  • Agrilink consultant Jeff Braun speaking on productivity of cereals and canola for grazing and grain.
  • CSIRO researcher Therese McBeath speaking on phosphorus efficiency in pastures and addressing the question ‘where does all the P go?’
  • Growing Solutions’ Leighton Pearce speaking on using drones to assess and manage pastures, livestock and water supplies.




29 April 2015


Vineyard grazing practices examined by BIGG and BGWA


A survey by the Barossa Improved Grazing Group and Barossa Grape & Wine Association has found the majority of BGWA respondents either already graze livestock in their vineyards or are interested in grazing in the future.


With funding from Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, BIGG and BGWA are aiming to understand the barriers to grazing adoption and promote the natural resources management and productivity benefits of the practice.


Eden Valley producer Sue Holt was one of the participants in the survey, and the winner of a lucky draw prize; a Dorper lamb donated by BIGG member Bruce Hancock.


“We’ve been grazing sheep in our vineyard for the past five years. We started putting the sheep in the vineyard to reduce chemical consumption, which has been really successful; we’ve used only one knockdown spray in the past five years. Since we started, we’ve also found that it’s very beneficial for resting other paddocks, and reduces compaction,” she said.


In total 34 grape growers participated in the survey, which found that growers who graze their vineyards for a number of reasons, including weed control, reducing chemical consumption and reducing input costs.


The survey determined that the key success criteria to successfully graze livestock in vineyards included adopting rotational (or crash) grazing, managing the timing of grazing and having good fencing.


The primary reason growers do not graze were the need for new or upgraded fencing, followed by concerns about potential soil compaction and a lack of interest in sheep.


Sue’s key tip for vineyard grazing is careful monitoring.


“We wait until most of the leaves have fallen before letting the sheep in, so that we achieve as much sugar accumulation as possible before the vines go dormant, then take them out either before budbust, or earlier if they’ve eaten all the feed. It’s important to take them out when feed is scarce to stop them chewing on the bark,” she said.


The project will now elaborate on the survey findings with a focus group made up of a cross-section of grower and industry representatives.





Producer workshop focuses on boosting lamb survival


Barossa sheep producers have learnt about farm management practices to improve lamb survival at a workshop in Flaxman Valley.


The workshop, organised by Rural Solutions in conjunction with the Barossa Improved Grazing Group, featured presenters Jason Trompf, J.T. Agri-source, and Gordon Refshauge, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, and provided producers with strategies for minimising lamb losses.


Kapunda producer Clyde Hazel and his daughter Sarah were among 28 participants in the workshop.


“While I’m reasonably comfortable with my current lambing performance, I am always interested in reducing lamb losses and improving the welfare of my animals,” Clyde said.


“I’ve found this type of practical workshop to be wonderful in the past, and Sarah has joined me for her professional development; as an agriculture teacher this information is invaluable for her.”


Presenter Jason Trompf said there were steps that producers could take to improve lamb survival.


“The first 48 hours of a lamb’s life are critical. Mismothering and dystocia (difficult births) are the most common causes of lamb losses,” he said.


The workshop presented key management practices to improve survival rates including management of ewe nutrition, genetics, feed on offer and mob size.


“Ewe nutrition is the number one factor to ensure lamb survival. Maintaining a good condition score can reduce birth trauma, mismothering, and improve birthweight, milk production and lamb growth rates,” Dr Trompf said.


The condition score needs to be maintained at CS3 from early pregnancy, and then after scanning at 90 days, single-bearing ewes can be maintained at CS2.8-3, while twin-bearing ewes require CS3.0-3.3.


Feed on offer in lambing paddocks is important. The ewe requires sufficient feed available so she does not have to leave the birth site, which allows for improved bonding with the new born lamb.


Ram and ewe selection can have a significant effect on survival rates. Excessively large lambs or small lambs can result in dystocia or starvation respectively. Where high birthweight issues occur, particularly with maiden ewes, producers should select rams with low Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBVs) for birth weight. Ewes that consistently fail to rear lambs should be culled from the core breeding flock.


Mismothering can be minimised through improving mob management. Smaller mobs can help reduce the risk, with recommended targets of fewer than 200 for twin-bearing ewes and 400-500 for single-bearing ewes. Reducing both mob size and stocking rate gives the lambing ewe more privacy  resulting in less disturbances during lambing and therefore  better bonding and  improved mothering.


A key strategy Dr Trompf recommends is adequate data collection.


“Lamb marking is an excellent opportunity to collect useful data that can help producers plan their next lambing season,” he said.


“I know everyone is under pressure and often producers struggle to get time to collect data, they’re just flat out marking but my advice is if there’s ever a day in the year that it’s worth getting an extra pair of hands, it is lamb marking day. That way you’re using the opportunity to collect the data you need to maximise lamb survival in the future. Lamb marking day for sheep producers is equivalent to yield mapping for cropping enterprises”.


The workshop was sponsored by AWI and SheepConnect.


For more information on lamb survival, visit www.makingmorefromsheep.com.au/



22 April 2015


NRM techniques on display at annual Hogget Competition


Following a record dry spell through spring and summer, increasing numbers of Barossa producers have been turning to confinement feeding to preserve paddock groundcover and increase NRM outcomes.


The Angaston Agricultural Bureau held its annual Hogget Competition at Keyneton Park on March 26, supported by Natura Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, with the theme of ‘innovations in sheep feeders and trailers’.


After such a dry start to the season, groundcover in pastures has been essential to ensure soil stability when the season breaking rains arrived.


The Bureau showcased the work some of their producers have done in sheep feeding equipment at the Hogget competition last month, to show how simple it is to set up confinement feeding and improve the pasture conditions going into late autumn.


While recent rains may have helped in the short term, with dry spells becoming more and more common, these innovations will become more important in the future.


Keyneton producer Graham Keynes was one of those who brought along his feeding trailer to the competition.


“On our property we’ve set up a dedicated confinement block with troughs, and have been using our feeding trailer to feed while the pastures have been pretty bare over summer. This means we can protect the pasture, while ensuring the stock are healthy and getting adequate feed. It’s really important to us to ensure there’s groundcover in the paddocks so that the top-soil isn’t lost in the first big rain,” Mr Keynes said.



Friday 13 February, 2015


Sub-Clover Project Update


Sub-clover is a vital component of Barossa pasture systems and in 2014 Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) received a three-year Producer Research Sites grant ($70,000) from Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) to investigate the effect of soil borne root diseases on local sub-clover productivity.


As part of the project, in 2014 BIGG conducted various small plot trials, the results of which were presented at a project meeting held in Adelaide in January 2015. The meeting included participants from BIGG, Rural Directions (MLA’s SA project coordinators), The University of WA (the project’s research partner) and the Mackillop Farm Management Group which, like BIGG, received an MLA grant and are investigating soil borne root diseases on sub-clover in their region (south-east SA).


BIGG’s 2014 trials were conducted at Moculta (Murray and Ben Klemm’s property) and Eden Valley (David Woodard’s property) and evaluated the productivity of three different sub-clover cultivars (Clare, Trikkala and Woogenenellup) with and without the fungicide seed treatment metalaxyl. Metalaxyl is registered for the control of seedling diseases caused by pythium and phytophthora in sub-clover but has not been trialled locally.


Treatments in the trials were sown in one metre row plotand assessed for seedling emergence (2-5 weeks after sowing), plant nodulation and dry matter production throughout the growing season. Although soil borne root diseases were known to be present at both trial sites, the results indicated that no clear conclusions could be drawn on metalaxyl’s effectiveness to reduce the impact of root diseases. This was also complicated by the short growing season, with well below average rainfall occurring in late winter/spring at both sites.


The meeting also reviewed BIGG’s field trials plans for 2015, which include further investigations with metalaxyl. They complement a range of similar field research that the University of WA is planning to conduct at a trial site in the Barossa this year. These trials will include chemical seed and spray treatments, cultivation and livestock grazing as potential root disease management strategies in sub-clover.



Friday, 12 December 2014


New vineyard grazing project to promote NRM, productivity benefits


BIGG has won a $5000 community action grant for a new project, ‘Livestock grazing management in Barossa Valley vineyards’, funded by Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges.


The project will work with the Barossa Grape & Wine Association to quantify the level of livestock grazing in vineyards, understand the barriers to grazing adoption, and promote the natural resources management and productivity benefits of the practice.


Most grape growers in the Barossa do not graze their vineyards, however good grazing management can deliver significant NRM benefits, including:

  • Improved weed control, particularly for herbicide resistant weeds.
  • Improved groundcover, particularly under the vines which would normally be sprayed.
  • Improved biodiversity through reduced herbicide use, particularly where native grasses are grown.
  • Improved nutrient recycling given manure is being added to the vineyard.
  • Reduced soil compaction given less mowing or cultivating in the vine mid-rows.
  • Reduced reliance on machinery, fuels and herbicides.


The project will comprise three components. Firstly, an extensive survey to quantify the extent of current vineyard grazing in the Barossa, the interest of grape growers to introduce grazing, and identify reasons why grazing has not been adopted.


The second component of the project will be reviewing and elaborating on the survey findings with a focus group made up of a cross-section of grower and industry representatives, and finally, there will be concluding report and associated media communications to increase knowledge and understanding among grape growers about livestock grazing in vineyards.

More information: For more information on the project, please contact BIGG technical coordinator Brett Nietschke, 0432 804 389, brett.nietschke@biggroup.org.au.


Monday, November 3, 2014


Know your natives for pasture recovery


A field day hosted by the Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) last week educated Barossa Valley producers on identification and management of native grasses and the role they plan in native pasture production systems.


The event was held as part of a BIGG project investigating native pasture recovery following the 2014 Eden Valley bushfire, funded by Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges and Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin. The day was attended by 26 Barossa Valley farmers, stakeholders and natural resources officers.


BIGG technical facilitator and Keyneton landholder Georgie Keynes said the field day featured native grass expert Millie Nicholls who helped producers identify native grasses and make their own plant reference guides.


“The native pastures we observed have recovered very well after the fires, with a lot of regeneration occurring, however Millie showed us the importance of monitoring these pastures carefully to ensure they are not overgrazed and will continue to recover,” Ms Keynes said.


Key lessons learnt during the field day included the benefits of growing a variety of species, such as grasses and herbs, to provide a complete diet for livestock, and the critical nature of resting pastures to promote growth, recovery and species regeneration.


“Allowing periods of grazing and resting is particularly important following this year’s bushfire. At the field day, we learnt that destocking burnt pastures now, while the grasses are setting seed, is important for recovery,” Ms Keynes said.


In 2015, the BIGG project will continue monitoring pastures in areas burnt-out by the fire to assess recovery, with soil testing starting over the next two months and fertiliser trials in 2015.


To learn more about the native pastures project visit www.biggroup.org.au or contact BIGG communication officer Rebecca Barr on 0402 788 526.




Tuesday, September 30, 2014


BIGG win for premium pastures


The Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) held its final pasture walk for its Barossa Pasture Challenge Project on September 19 where various award winners were announced, with the top honour going to Anthony and Chris Steinert, representing the Angaston Ag Bureau.


The Steinerts won best overall pasture, judged by consultant Tim Prance on pasture profitability, botanical composition, ground cover and production potential. They received a $500 pasture seed voucher donated by Heritage Seeds.


Other winners were Andrew Koch, representing the Barossa Mid-North Dairy Discussion Group, who won a $50 Coopers Farms Supplies voucher for the most improved pasture, and Jamie Nietschke, representing Koonunga Ag Bureau who won a bag of ryegrass seed donated by Farmer Johns for the most profitable pasture.


The Barossa Pasture Challenge Project, funded by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR), aimed to implement a sustainable and productive pasture renovation program for paddocks in the region. It achieved this through the local producer groups (Angaston Ag. Bureau, Koonunga Ag. Bureau, North Rhine Sheep Group, Mount Pleasant Beef Group and Barossa Mid North Dairy Discussion Group) competing against each other to improve by any means a nominated pasture paddock throughout 2014, except being re-sown to a new pasture.


The pasture walk visited the six competing pastures, with an excellent turnout of 30 local producers who were able to benefit from the skills and knowledge of Mr Prance as well as local agronomists Peter Wendt and Craig John who provided technical assistance throughout the project.


Technical facilitator Brett Nietschke says the members found the challenge was a great learning experience.


“Through the process of the challenge, our producers were able to see how different manipulations, such as weed control and grazing strategies, affected the performance of the pasture. We tracked the quality and productivity of each pasture throughout the season, and shares these learnings at the pasture walk,” he said.


While the Pasture Challenge is now complete, BIGG is not taking a break, with three other projects still underway, including using soil moisture monitoring in grazing systems, investigation of root diseases of sub-clover, and recovery of native pastures following the Eden Valley bushfire.




Friday, September 5, 2014


Prizes to be awarded at BIGG Pasture Walk



The pasture paddocks in the Barossa Improved Grazing Group’s Pasture Challenge Project will be judged during an upcoming pasture walk on Friday, September 19.



The Challenge is funded by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, to promote the sustainable improvement of pasture paddocks in the Barossa region. Five local producer groups (Angaston Ag Bureau, Koonunga Ag Bureau, Barossa Mid North Dairy Discussion Group, Mt Pleasant Beef Group and North Rhine Sheep Group) have been competing against each other to improve their pastures throughout the 2014 growing season.


BIGG technical facilitator Brett Nietschke says the pasture challenge has been a great success for the group.


“We’ve had some friendly competition between our members, with each producer group striving to improve their pasture, and the result is we’ve and been able to learn a great deal about different strategies for sustainable pasture improvement,” he said.


The pasture walk will be held on Friday, September 19, to visit each of the Pasture Challenge paddocks to showcase how they have been improved, starting at Ebenezer at 12.30pm and finishing at Flaxman Valley at 5pm. The walk will include a visit to BIGG’s MLA-funded trial site at Eden Valley, which is investigating the effect of root diseases on the productivity of sub-clover pasture.


“We’re lucky that we have so many great projects going on at the moment so that while we’re judging the pasture challenge we can also show producers where we’re at with our sub-clover root disease project, and talk about our soil moisture monitoring project and our new project looking at recovery of native pastures following the Eden Valley bushfire.


“As part of the Pasture Walk, consultant Tim Prance will judge each of the Barossa Pasture Challenge paddocks, and we’ll be awarding various prizes at the end of the day. The prizes have been kindly sponsored by Heritage Seeds, Nufarm, Farmer Johns and Coopers Farm Supplies and will include awards for the most productive pasture, the most improved pasture and the most profitable pasture”.




Wednesday, July 16, 2014


LambEx a huge success and showcase for SA


LambEx 2014 at the Adelaide Showgrounds attracted over 25 local Angaston Ag Bureau and BIGG members, family members, young local producers and agricultural professionals during 9-11th July 2014.


Bruce Hancock and Joe Keynes, members of the Lambex Committee were blown away by the attendance of over 900 delegates from SA, the breathe of Australia and even Overseas from New Zealand, The America’s and Europe. They said, “it was an honor to be part of a great team that developed and delivered what was acknowledged by many attendees as the best forum or conference in a long time, if not ever in SA!  Value for money was often iterated, along with what was a great showcase for South Australia, with the great speakers and excellent exhibitions.”


On Wednesday, over 100 delegates participated in two bus tours to the Barossa region and hosted by the SA Mt Lofty and SA Murray Darling Basin NRM Boards, while others attended the Sheep CRC Concept to Impact Conference. The PIRSA Welcome Function in the evening got LambEx off to great start with a great tag team effort by the new Minister of Regions and Sam Kekovich, the Australian Lambassador and showcased many local and provincal foods.


Thursday was full-on with specific breakfast sessions for the early-birds, a full forum program of speakers and panels, and over 70 very informative and interactive exhibition booths and livestock displays during the breaks– some developed and manned by local Barossa producers. The Lambex Young Guns was judged and although Barossa candidates were unsuccessful, they were very competitive and richer for the experience, as is the Barossa for them choosing to showcase our region. There was also a State Mystery Box Challenge Competition for the AMIC Apprentice Butchers.


Throughout LambEx the Royal and Agricultural Society catering staff did both themselves and SA proud by doing a fantastic job in quickly feeding the huge delegation with continual high quality lamb dishes.


The AWI Grandslamb Dinner was a taste sensation and during the evening, the winners of Australia Best Lamb Competition was announced with over 60 other entries from across the nation – “Thornby Lamb” from the McGorman family, Sanderston.  This was a huge win for this family business and just reward for their tireless effort and investment along the whole supply chain and industry best practice.


The LambEx 2014 program covered the power of consumer perceptions and advocacy, international lamb opportunity, on-farm and processing technology, livestock predators, livestock farming systems and margins and the all important “people magic’ of communication and succession planning – key critical success factors of any business!