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Newsletter | January 2020

ARGT outbreak | Monitoring anti microbials | WALRC forums

Your views on animal welfare needed

One of the things the team at WALRC loves to do is to support our emerging scientists. And, Murdoch fifth year veterinary student Olivia Turner, who is undertaking a research project about public attitudes towards animal welfare, would love your help.

“We are seeking a better understanding of society’s view on some welfare issues and part of that understanding is comparing that to the view that livestock producers hold,” Olivia says.

The survey, which has University research ethics approval, relates to companion dogs and sheep exports, and includes information provided by the Australian Veterinary Association and The Sheep Collective.  WALRC encourages our readership to get right behind this and feed your opinions in. It’s an interesting set of questions! So click on and have a go!

Olivia’s supervisor is veterinarian and animal welfare researcher, Dr Teresa Collins.
Olivia has asked us to encourage you to contact her directly if you have any feedback on

Ryegrass Toxicity alert

Our colleagues at ASheep in Esperance are reporting that the Great Southern region has seen an increased prevalence in Annual Ryegrass Toxicity (ARGT) with multiple confirmed cases in the last three months.

Cases have included both sheep and cattle herds and mortality rates have been reported to be anywhere from 10-100%.  

The Esperance-based Swans Veterinary Clinic is urging livestock producers to continue surveying paddocks for ryegrass and to submit samples for testing if infected pasture is suspected.

Preventive measures for ARGT are part of WALRC’s current priorities to assist the safe use of pastures in the wheatbelt.  However, WALRC chair Tim Watts says it is disappointing to note that no research group has put forward a proposal to address this livestock productivity limiting issue.

“ARGT remains one of the reasons why livestock have been disappearing from the crop-livestock businesses.  With Twist fungus no longer available, and good progress on a vaccine shelved many years ago, we need new initiatives in this area,” Tim said.

Monitoring anti-microbial drug use

MLA has recently commissioned a project to develop and pilot a system that red meat producers might voluntarily use to monitor the use of antimicrobial drugs in their cattle and sheep.

Anti-microbials include antibiotics given by injection, in stock feed or via another route (orally, eye, uterus, udder etc). Anti-microbials also include the ‘ionophores’, which are products such as monensin (Rumensin) or lasalocid (Bovatec) that are mainly used in feedlots or containment lots.

Anti-microbial resistance and its impact on human health is a serious concern worldwide. There is considerable scrutiny of the use of anti-microbials in livestock industries. Australia’s sheep and beef industries have a good story to tell because they use very low quantities of anti-microbials.

We have to be able to justify that claim, though, and this starts with on-farm monitoring of antimicrobial usage. As the dairy industry has been rapidly discovering, getting even a rough handle on the extent of antimicrobial usage, is challenge. 

MLA is now looking for producers interested in helping us start to address this information void and who would happily be part of a 10-minute phone interview with one of the project’s consultants.  The project aims to understand what systems, if any, producers are using to record antimicrobial usage, and what a suitable recording and reporting system might look like.

If you would be interested in taking part in an interview, please email Scott Williams on

The latest low-down on dung beetles

MLA is part of a consortium of investors in the Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers (DBEE) project, which aims to fill the gaps in the distribution of beetles across southern Australia by introducing new species.

The project will also build on previous research to expand the distribution of existing species and develop a supply and distribution pipeline so more livestock producers can access beetles.

There’s some great progress being made in this space and we encourage you to click on to to get the full low-down. There’s even a list of ‘where to get your dung beetles on this site, although we note no WA supplier currently listed.

Sheep Flock Demographics modelling

A great piece of work undertaken by DPIRD last year was the process of modelling how producers’ management decisions can significantly (and rapidly) change the size, structure and productivity of the WA sheep flock.

DPIRD sought to understand the effects of a set of management decisions on the size of the WA sheep flock, lamb turn-off and wool production and gain an understanding of the impact of the changes to the flock structure and composition.

The modelling was carried out on the assumption of no turn-off going to the live export trade. To reduce the complexity, each scenario was modelled in isolation.  It’s a good read - have a look at:

Mark the dates for Livestock Matters 

WALRC will be heading to the regions with a team of researchers to profile the efforts of some potentially high impact research projects and what this means to producers.   We are spearheading the days with keynote speaker and former Nuffield scholar Michael Craig of Yarrow, Victoria.  As per our reputation, excellent discussion and great speakers guaranteed! Plus cold beer at the end of the day. 
  • Manypeaks - March 25
  • Kulin - March 26
  • Dandaragan - March 27
Full program out next month but if you’re anywhere near these towns, pop it in the calendar.

Time to start preparing applications

The next round of Producer Demonstration Site applications will be open on April 1 and close May 12.    As always, these project applications need to be completed at a time when farmers are flat out and WALRC urges intending applicants not to delay planning until applications formally open.  Part of WALRC’s role is to assist grower groups to optimise their chances of a successful application - and we encourage any groups contemplating lodging in the next round to get directly in touch with WALRC chair Dr Tim Watts to start planning your approach. Tim can be reached on
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WA Livestock Research Council · WALRC Secretariat · PO Box 668 · Denmark, WA 6333 · Australia

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