News briefs 30 September 2011

Beef Central, 30/09/2011

Vic scientists tackling rye grass staggers

Scientists at DPI Victoria say ground breaking research has provided the key to eliminating ryegrass staggers in livestock. DPI Vic researchers have used new $2.5 million mass spectrometry equipment to learn the secrets of endophytes, or fungi, found in many pasture grasses. The research means DPI scientists now know which endophytes can be safely added to pasture grass seeds to improve pasture productivity without risking stock health. Ryegrass staggers is a serious problem in livestock grazing perennial ryegrass dominant pastures in summer and autumn, sometimes causing significant stock losses. The condition occurs when stock graze on pastures with grasses containing fungal endophytes which produce certain harmful chemicals known as alkaloids. However, the fungi also protect the plant and help to boost pasture productivity. “What this latest research means is that we know which combinations of fungi carry zero risk of causing ryegrass staggers but can also help to boost pasture productivity,” Prof German Spangenberg said. “In the foreseeable future we will be able to provide seed companies with the information they need to inoculate seed with fungi that achieve productivity gains that are well matched with the grass varieties but carry no risk of causing staggers. There is potential to breed pasture varieties with less lignins, which reduce digestibility, and higher carbohydrates, biomass and nutrient quality.”


US cows exposed to wastewater give birth to dead calves

With Coal Seam Gas drilling operations rapidly expanding across eastern Australia, a news report from the US this week underscores the critical importance of resource companies and regulators developing adequate protections against leakages of waste water onto farming and grazing land.The State Impact website reports that a herd of cows from a farm in Pennsylvania recently gave birth to dead calves after being exposed to waste water from a natural gas drilling process. In April last year waste water from a large storage pond leaked through its plastic liner and flowed onto a cow pasture in Shippen Township, Tioga County.  The article said: “Farmers Don and Carol Johnson found the leak, along with the hoof prints of 28 beef cattle who had wandered through and possibly drank the contaminated water. The waste water came from a well that had been fracked on their property. When tested, the water contained chloride, iron, sulfate, barium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, strontium and calcium. The spill killed all vegetation in an area 30 feet by 40 feet.” The website said it recently followed up with Carol Johnson to find out how the cattle had since fared. She reported that of the eleven calves born to the cows that were exposed to the water, only three have survived. “They were born dead or extremely weak. It’s highly unusual,” she said. “I might lose one or two calves a year, but I don’t lose eight out of eleven.” The article can be read here.


Lock the Gate alliance lodges complaint about CSG advertisements

The Lock The Gate alliance has lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Bureau about claims made in the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s “We Want CSG” advertising campaign. Alliance president Drew Hutton said the campaign risked misleading the community through “phoney claims”. Mr Hutton said there was no partnership agreement between farmers and miners as implied by the advertisements – farmers were forced by the law to accept access agreements against their will or otherwise faced being hauled into court, he said. Additionally, the coal seam gas produced by mining in Australia was not going to power the city of Sydney for 1000 years, but would instead be shipped for export until supply was exhausted. The complaint also challenged the claim that mining will breathe new life into country towns. “The gas rush is disadvantaging other industries who can’t compete for employees and leading to social disruption from a fly-in workforce,” Mr Hutton said. “The community is locked in a David and Goliath battle against a cashed up industry that thinks it can change public sentiment by spreading phoney claims. The fact is that Australians are smarter than that – we don’t want this industry and we won’t accept the risks it poses no matter how much they spin it.”

APPEA says Lock the Gate guilty of phoney claims

The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association chief executive Belinda Robinson says the Lock the Gate Alliance has made false claims about the CSG industry in submissions lodged to parliamentary inquiries. “Submissions to two parliamentary inquiries by the activist group Lock the Gate should be disregarded after the group conceded its work was inaccurate and misleading,” she said. The submissions include text copied and unreferenced from a USA study of the American shale gas industry, with the words “coal seam gas” substituted for the words “shale gas”. “The study that this group has drawn its material from actually makes no mention of coal seam gas or the Australian industry,” she said. “Two parliamentary inquiries have been misled and this brings into question the integrity and credibility of those responsible.  In a September 16 press release, Lock the Gate’s President, Drew Hutton, said he doesn’t want to see the community ‘hoodwinked by phoney claims’. The natural gas industry agrees.” 


AgForce president heads to Cape York

AgForce president Brent Finlay, AgForce cattle policy director Andrew Simpson and Agforce policy director Drew Wagner are hosting a free field day at Coen in Cape York to discuss issues with cattle producers in the region next month. The field day is open to all producers and will be held at the
Coen Information and Inspection Centre on Monday October 10, from 9.30am to 4.30pm. The focus of the forum will be to discuss key issues affecting the region including grazing, heritage listing, nature refuges, bio-security, natural resource management of the Cape and the Carbon Farming Initiative. National Farmers' Federation environment liaison officer Jol Taber will outline the impacts of heritage listing and other guest speakers will canvas nature refuges, natural resource management issues, helpful farm technologies and the Carbon Farming Initiative.


MSA workshops for Vic, NSW, Qld

Angus Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and Certified Australian Angus Beef (CAAB) will host five free half-day seminars on MSA across eastern Australia in October and November.  The seminars will provide an introduction to Meat Standards Australia and advice on how to supply beef into the MSA system, producer requirements and recommendations, how MSA grading works, how to use MSA carcase feedback, and explanations on how MSA is used in the Certified Australian Angus Beef program. Each workshop commences at 8:30am and will run until 12:30pm, and will be followed by a CAAB lunch. Locations and Dates: Armidale Ex-Services Club, 137 Dumaresq Street, Armidale NSW, Tuesday, October 25; Coachman’s Inn, 91 Wood Street, Warwick, Qld, Thursday, October 27; Commercial Club Albury, 618 Dean Street, Albury NSW, Monday, November 7; Mercure Ballarat, 613 Main Road, Ballarat, Vic, Wednesday November  9; and Warrnambool Golf Club, Younger Street, Warrnambool Vic, Friday November 11.  To registered contact Jessica Watters on 02 6773 4609.


Bull selection workshop at Chatsworth, Vic

A bull selection workshop will be held at the Coolana Angus stud of Mark and Anna Gubbins, Chatsworth, Victoria, on Thursday, October 20. Topics and activities will include how much a bull costs; fertility and structural soundness; using EBVs; participation in a mock auction; management of new bulls; and Beef CRC Maternal Productivity research outcomes. The presenters are Bob Dent, a consultant from northern NSW with more than 40 years of experience in the cattle industry; Katrina Copping, a research scientist based out of Struan Research Centre who has been involved in the Beef CRC Maternal productivity research project; and Maria Crawford, a Beef Industry Development Officer from DPI Hamilton coordinating Better Beef and More Beef from Pastures extension in South West Victoria. Registration commences at 9am for a 9:30am start and 3:30pm conclusion. The workshop cost is $10 per person including lunch. To register contact Maria Crawford by Monday, October 17, on (03) 55 730749, 0428 554244 or



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