Government and industry respond to rangelands dry season

Cattle in a feedlot in the WA northern rangelands
Government and industry are working to assist pastoralists and respond to the rangelands dry season.

The State Government, through the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), is committed to supporting sustainable and profitable pastoral industries, and positive animal welfare outcomes.

Dry seasonal conditions across parts of the rangelands, including the Kimberley, Pilbara, Gascoyne, and Murchison regions, are significantly impacting the State’s pastoral sector, and DPIRD development and extension activities assist with timely decisions, in line with seasonal conditions.

To support rangelands producers, DPIRD has initiated a dry season response program, and is working closely with other Government departments and industry organisations, including the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association (KPCA) and the Pastoralists' and Graziers' Association (PGA), to identify and implement appropriate management actions.

The response program will consider ways to improve the coordination of resources and programs during this difficult period, to best support producers.

Areas being examined include:

  • Implementation of dry season herd management plans.
  • A temporary special assistance permit to provide pastoralists with transport extensions.
  • Agistment arrangements to ensure available feed and water are optimised for livestock.
  • Additional State Government funding of $50 000 each for declared pest control to the Pilbara, Meekatharra, and Goldfields-Nullarbor Recognised Biosecurity Groups.
  • Contact with properties identified as requiring additional support.
  • Dry season information forums, and
  • Assessing the provision of fit-for-purpose spatial imagery and decision support tools.

Be informed and up-to-date

The 2019 northern pastoral season webpage provides useful information to support producers to make more informed business decisions. It includes details on:

  • Rangelands seasonal information, including climate outlooks, such as rainfall-to-date, and rainfall outlooks, as well as other sources of climate data, and contacts.
  • Resources, such as livestock management information and tools.
  • Pastoralists' responsibilities under the Animal Welfare Act 2002, information to help make welfare decisions for cattle and sheep, as well as the relevant Codes of Practice.
  • Links to available support services and assistance, including the Rural Financial Counselling Service WA, Beyond Blue Support Service, and Regional Men’s Health Initiative.
  • Relevant DPIRD staff contact details, to discuss livestock, cropping, or land management strategies throughout the season.

Stay tuned for more updates on how Government and industry are working to assist pastoralists and respond to the dry season in affected areas of the rangelands.

For more information, visit the 2019 northern pastoral season webpage.

DPIRD boosts support for Grower Group Alliance

Group photograph of Agriculture Minister with grower group representative
Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan (centre) with representatives from grower groups and DPIRD at the launch of the Grower Group Alliance’s new premises located at the front of DPIRD’s South Perth office.

Farmer-led research, development, and innovation has been boosted in Western Australia with investment to enhance the capacity and efforts of the Grower Group Alliance (GGA), and improve returns to growers.

The State Government recently committed $4.38 million over four years to assist the GGA to support its 44 grower groups located throughout the State, as well as additional support.

Under the new arrangements, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development will assign staff and resources to the GGA to build collaborative initiatives.

Strength in collaboration

The new commitment reinvigorates DPIRD’s 17-year association with GGA, which has seen department staff, grower groups, and farmers work side-by-side to identify and solve real-world problems, resulting in significant farm business and industry innovations.

The partnership has paved the way for faster adoption of new farm management practices, and new varieties and technologies, backed by high quality, ground-truthed information.

The arrangement reinforces this long, strong history of collaboration, and is expected to lead to an increase in demand-driven, applied, on-farm research via grower groups, and engage DPIRD researchers with issues farmers are facing on the ground, providing valuable information exchange.

Team WA

The unified approach will strengthen capacity to attract scientific and ag-tech research, development and innovation (RD&I) investment to Western Australia.

DPIRD has extensive regional field research infrastructure and quality scientific laboratory facilities, and research expertise.

GGA has access to a network of grower groups whose combined membership reaches more than 50 per cent of the State’s farming businesses located throughout the State, predominantly in grains and livestock industries, with some focused on irrigated agriculture, natural resource management, or local landcare initiatives.

A Collaboration Council, including GGA board members and DPIRD executives, will be established to provide high level strategic advice to assist both organisations to optimise their RD&I investments.

Group photograph of event special guests
Pictured in front of the Grower Group Alliance’s new office (from left) are GGA chairman Dr Kevin Goss, Agricultural Region MLC Darren West, Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan, GGA CEO Annabelle Bushell, and from DPIRD, Director General Ralph Addis, and RD&I Managing Director Dr Mark Sweetingham.

Strong and sustainable

The State Government support provides the GGA with the financial security to continue to support its grower groups and focus on building its suite of projects, training and development opportunities, and linking groups with science ag-tech innovators to ensure products are relevant to WA agribusinesses.

Forward together

A celebration was recently held in DPIRD’s South Perth office, where GGA’s new offices are positioned, to encourage greater visibility and the integration of grower groups with GGA and DPIRD, and cement this phase of the collaboration.

For more information about the Grower Group Alliance, visit the GGA website.


WA prepares for a future in renewable hydrogen

Hands holding the Western Australian Renewable Hydrogen Strategy document
The Western Australian Renewable Hydrogen Strategy outlines the State Government's plan to position WA as a major producer and exporter of renewable hydrogen

The Western Australian Government recently announced its plan to position the State to become a major producer and exporter of renewable hydrogen, with the release of the Western Australian Renewable Hydrogen Strategy

The Government supported industry development with a commitment of $10 million in the Renewable Hydrogen Fund to facilitate private sector investment in the renewable hydrogen industry in Western Australia.

The strategy was informed by the Renewable Hydrogen Council, which was convened following the WA Renewable Hydrogen Conference, held in Perth in August 2018.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Director General Ralph Addis, who is a member of the Council, said the State’s vision was to establish WA as a significant producer, exporter, and user of renewable hydrogen.

With many parts of the world transitioning to a low-carbon economy, the demand for Australia’s traditional energy products and exports, like thermal coal and fossil fuels, are predicted to decline. Some of the world’s leading industries are already turning to renewable hydrogen as a possible clean energy source.

Hydrogen offers diverse applications: as an energy carrier; in chemical feedstock; and it has great potential to support decarbonisation of the world’s energy and industrial sectors.

WA is the second largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world, and is uniquely placed to become a key participant in the renewable hydrogen industry because it features vast renewable energy sources, including solar and wind. WA also has an extensive land mass, a strong existing energy export sector, and proximity to Asia – its biggest customer.

The strategy outlines four focus areas for investment: export; applications in remote-located industries; hydrogen blending in natural gas networks; and transport. It also complements the work of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council in developing a National Hydrogen Strategy, led by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO.

A dedicated Renewable Hydrogen Unit will be established in the department to administer the Fund, provide a central point of contact, and coordinate the Government’s work on the growing industry, for domestic use and export.

For more information, visit Energy Futures, or contact the Renewable Hydrogen Unit.

RED Grants help regions to grow and diversify

A collage of photographs depicting RED grant funded projects
The RED Grants program will inject $28.8 million over five years into projects that will directly benefit regional communities.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Regional Economic Development (RED) Grants program is supporting regional communities to capitalise on opportunities to drive economic growth, create jobs, grow industries, and support small businesses.

RED Grants will inject $28.8 million over the five years to 2022/23 into projects that will directly benefit regional communities.

Applications for round two of the RED grants program are now open, and the nine Regional Development Commissions are working closely with their communities to identify further opportunities to grow and diversify with the support provided through the program.

Round one of the RED Grants program, announced earlier this year, invested $6.38 million in 70 community-led projects focused on enabling industry diversification and expansion, skills development and training opportunities, and boosting tourism.

Avon Valley Beef received $190 000 to install a new automated lamb supply chain at its Northam abattoir to triple lamb processing, and enable sheep and cattle to be processed simultaneously.

The enterprise’s improvements enable Wheatbelt producers the opportunity to significantly increase sheep and lamb supply to the abattoir from 600 head per day to a maximum of 3,600 per day, resulting in more locally processed sheep meat products available to the market.

In the South West, Ocean Grown Abalone received a RED Grant of $85 000 to contribute to the construction of Augusta Boat Harbour Seafood Processing Facility. The new infrastructure is set to double the company’s greenlip abalone production by 2021, and open up potential markets in China and South East Asia.

Each Regional Development Commission manages the RED Grants process for its region, and is able provide advice to applicants during the process.

Eligible applicants can apply for RED Grant funding of up to $250 000 for individual projects that promote sustainable jobs, partnerships, productivity, skills, and capability, and stimulate new investment in industry diversification.

More information on the RED Grants program, including links to Regional Development Commission websites, for application information and program guidelines, is available at

Applications for round two close 13 September 2019.

Regional Local Content Advisers supporting business and jobs in WA

Three people standing in front of event banners
Wheatbelt Regional Local Content Adviser Megan Creagh (right) talks to Moorditj Yaakiny RDA Wheatbelt Noongar Enterprise Development Scheme project officer Rob Miles (left) and Main Roads regional manager Craig Manton at a recent enterprise forum to boost opportunities for small and medium sized businesses.

The Local Content Adviser Network (LCAN) is assisting regional businesses throughout Western Australia to capture opportunities for public and private sector contracts to generate growth and jobs.

The LCAN works with State Government agencies and regional small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to improve business competitiveness, by boosting their capacity, capability and confidence to bid for contracts and tenders.

The initiative is being delivered via the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Local Content Advisers, based in the State’s nine Regional Development Commissions.

The program reaches across the State, encompassing rural and remote communities and, a range of SMEs, including Aboriginal businesses.

Connecting suppliers and buyers

Local Content Advisers are experienced facilitators, who work with a range of stakeholders throughout the supply chain to connect suppliers and buyers, while also assisting regional SMEs to be aware of and seize business opportunities in regional WA.

In June this year, the State Government announced $300,000 in funding over three years to boost local content capacity though activities, including events, procurement training workshops, briefings and networking forums to connect buyers and suppliers.

These practical measures are designed to assist SMEs in the regions overcome the tyranny of distance and the lack of opportunities to build capacity and competitiveness in regional WA.

Local Content Advisers can assist regional businesses to:

  • better understand how to sell to government
  • find assistance to build supply chain capability and capacity
  • identify upcoming government supply opportunities
  • identify State and Federal Government financial assistance programs
  • understand their rights and responsibilities under the Western Australian Jobs Act (2017)
  • connect head contractors with subcontractors
  • participate in productivity and business capability activities.

Regional activities

Each of the nine regions in WA has a Local Content Adviser, who has an understanding of the unique nature of the business environment within that region.

The LCAN is tailored to meet the needs and operating environment, given the diversity and scale between the regions of the State.

In the past year, the LCAN has facilitated connections through more than 2470 engagements and interactions with businesses, government and industry stakeholders.

The LCAN has identified the value of regionally based tender briefings, supplier and buyer awareness programs and the opportunity to improve online tender information.

The success of the network can be seen in the Wheatbelt, for example, where businesses won more than 55 per cent of the total worth of single region based contracts last month (July), which is a big win for regional potential, capacity and growth.

The contracts totalled almost $200,000 – which may appear reasonably small but when multiplied through the region, will make a significant difference economic growth and expansion in the community.

Boosting regional growth and jobs

The LCAN is an essential component of the State Government’s broader commitment to drive regional economic growth and jobs.

It supports the government’s Buy Local and Aboriginal Procurement policies, as well as the WA Industry Participation Strategy.

The department and the Commissions have a strong commitment to the LCAN and efforts to grow regional business expertise and entrepreneurship.

By supporting business growth in the regions, the investment will generate flow-on benefits for employment, local economies and community wellbeing.

For more information about the LCAN click here, while more localised information about program is available from Regional Development Commissions.

Feral cats now declared pests in WA

An adult bilby in bush land at night
The bilby is one of many Western Australian species at-risk from feral cats. Image courtesy of Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

The State Government has strengthened measures to protect native Western Australian wildlife from feral cats by declaring them a pest animal under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 (BAM Act).

The declaration supports native wildlife management programs, like those conducted by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, within State reserves and other areas of high conservation.

It also allows local conservation groups and other organisations to receive funding to carry out control and management programs to effectively and humanely manage feral cats.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) administers the BAM Act and prepared the legislative amendments needed for feral cats to be declared pest animals.

Management and control of feral cats is undertaken by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

Some of the recognised control methods for feral cats include exclusion fencing, baiting, trapping using cage traps, and shooting. All control methods must be humane, and comply with the Animal Welfare Act 2002.

Feral cats are those that are living and reproducing in the wild. They are not socialised and survive on their own in the wild by hunting.

Feral cats are a major threat to WA’s unique biodiversity and native fauna. In Western Australian, there are presently 36 mammals, 22 birds and 11 reptile species vulnerable to predation by feral cats.

Australia-wide, the pest cats have played a major role in the extinction of at least 27 mammal species.

Predation by feral cats is recognised as a key threatening process under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

At-risk wildlife in Western Australia include the western ground parrot, Gilbert’s potoroo, northern quoll, western quoll or chuditch, numbat, quokka, and bilby.

While feral cats are the same species as domestic cats, they are extremely different in how and where they live. Only feral cats will be targeted by programs under the pest animal declaration, not stray or domestic cats, and mainly in reserves and areas that are away from urban areas.

It is important that domestic pet cat owners comply with the Cat Act 2011, which requires all pet cats be sterilised, microchipped, and registered by the time they’re six months old, and any requirements and curfews imposed by the local government. 

For more information about feral cats, visit the Centre for Invasive Species’ PestSmart website or the Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy.

Mid West high-speed broadband rollout underway

Minister for Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan launching broadband towers in the Mid West
Pictured at the launch of the Digital Farm Grants program’s Mid West high-speed broadband service (from left) are Logic IT Solutions director Nick Van Namen, Mid West Development Commission (MWDC) board member Lara Dalton, Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan, Agricultural Region MLC Darren West, and MWDC chair Todd West. 

The first 12 telecommunications towers of the Digital Farm Grants program in the Mid West have been completed, benefiting about 500 farmers in the region.

Geraldton company Logic IT Solutions was responsible for the installation of the towers, which enable Chapman Valley and North Midlands farmers to connect to enterprise-grade broadband with speeds of up to 250 Mbps.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) Digital Connectivity team at Geraldton recently hosted Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan, who officially switched on one of the Mid West network towers.

The State Government has invested $1 million towards this network, which has triggered an additional $1.5 million in investment in cash and value-in-kind from Logic IT Solutions, local shires and grower groups, helping local farmers stay globally connected.

The Digital Farm Grants program is a $5 million State Government initiative, administered by DPIRD.

For further information, email

DPIRD ag-tech inspires at Southern Dirt Techspo

DPIRD regional manager talks with farmers in front of exhibition stand
DPIRD’s regional manager, Alison Lacey, talks with Wagin farmer Rob Rex (left) and Boyup Brook farmer, Warren Pensini, about the department’s digital dashboard at the Southern Dirt TECHSPO 2019 held in early August.

The rising interest and adoption of agricultural technology in Western Australia was highlighted recently at Southern Dirt TECHSPO 2019.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development partnered with the Southern Dirt grower group in the two day event, which attracted more than 450 people from across the grainbelt to Wagin and Katanning.

Visitors to the event were able to see the latest ag-tech innovations, equipment and networks and to hear from leading researchers and product providers from across the country.

Some of DPIRD’s ag-tech investments were on display, including enhancements to the Pastures from Space service, the updated Sheep Condition Scoring app and surveillance technology, while department staff led discussions about the opportunities to be gained from ag-tech advancements.

Interactive workshop experience

Day two of TECHSPO 2019 at the department’s Katanning Research Facility, drew more than 200 visitors, who took the opportunity to test new sensor technologies and examine how they and various network providers could provide onfarm solutions.

Prior to the event a range of sensors were installed around the property, including instruments for dust, security, water tanks and gates, as well as an automated weather station and pump controller.

Department staff and four commercial network providers were on hand to talk to visitors through the various ag-tech options that would best suit their operations.

Visitors were able see how the sensors could be tailored to their needs and projected onto the department’s large digital dashboard, displayed on a large visual display unit.

Broad digital understanding

The feedback from the interactive workshop experience was that there was a broad range of understanding and experience with ag-tech and digital literacy, from those who were just starting out to others who were highly ‘tech-savvy’.

The department’s On-Farm Connectivity and IoT projects manager, Kari-Lee Falconer, prefaced the event with a talk about the department’s work in this area, emphasising that it was easy to get overwhelmed by new technology, which changed rapidly.

She told the gathering the adoption of digital agriculture was estimated to add $24.6 billion to the National Gross Domestic Product and would be a ‘game changer’ in providing new ways to improve onfarm productivity and profitability.

In her talk, Kari-Lee encouraged agribusinesses to become connected, as digital connectivity became more available, to research and trial ag-tech solutions and to remain flexible and open to new technological developments.

DPIRD activities support digital development

The department has a number of digital projects underway to assist WA agribusinesses to develop and adopt new technology to remain internationally competitive.

The $5 million Digital Farm Grants Program is helping to bridge the ‘digital divide’ across regional WA, delivering fast, reliable, affordable and scalable broadband services to areas outside the NBN fixed line and fixed wireless footprint over the next 12 months.

The North Midlands and Chapman Valley Fixed Wireless Networks were turned on recently, the first of 11 successful grants, which will see digital connectivity upgraded for 1,240 agribusiness, over 41,000 square kilometres from Kununurra to the Great Southern over the next 12 months.

The Department’s eConnected Grainbelt Project is working with grower groups and consultants throughout the grainbelt to promote the awareness and application of ag-tech innovations in providing digital solutions to onfarm challenges.

The $582,800 WA Internet of Things (IoT) DecisionAg Grant Program has provided grants to eight grower groups and five secondary schools to explore a range of ag-tech opportunities and challenges.

The grant recipients are trialling connectivity solutions and internet-based technology, including IoT apps and devices and systems to monitor, collate and analyse generated data.

Initiatives include using remote sensors to monitor and collect real time weather and soil moisture conditions, investigating Wi-Fi repeaters and long range low power networks, and establishing Smart Farming demonstration sites.

For more information about the department’s digital and ag-tech investments, visit the Department’s website and search for ‘ag-tech’ or ‘digital’.

Catch up on latest animal health, biosecurity and traceability information at Dowerin

DPIRD and private vets at a 2019 field day
Have a question for a vet? Visit the DPIRD display to catch up with your local DPIRD vets and private vets for the latest information on animal biosecurity and how livestock disease investigations contribute to market access. Pictured are DPIRD and private vets supporting animal health surveillance at a field day earlier in 2019.

The latest animal health, biosecurity and traceability information will be available at this year’s Dowerin Field Days in the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development shed.

Department vets will be joined by local private vets at the shed to demonstrate their partnership in supporting WA’s animal health surveillance.

Department Northam field veterinary officer Rod Thompson said animal health surveillance in Australia was delivered under a national framework and was designed to ensure market access and food safety.

Department vets work closely with private vets on a daily basis to protect Western Australia’s high biosecurity status.

Producers who visit the shed can benefit from expert local advice from local private and department vets about animal health and biosecurity issues on their property.

Dr Thompson said producers could pick up information at the display on how to access subsidised disease investigations that support our livestock market access as well as correct animal feed, biosecurity and responsible use of antibiotics in livestock.

A pig biosecurity guide will also be available, as well as information about how to prevent African swine fever in Australia’s pig populations.

Officers will also be on hand to help producers with National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database recording requirements, National Vendor Declarations (NVD) queries and to check brands details.

Information about the skeleton weed program will be available including display plants and distribution maps. The program is adopting new remote sensing data collection technology to complement traditional surveillance methods, with representatives from the company behind this technology also on hand to talk about their involvement.

The department’s biosecurity officers are teaming up with local area Recognised Biosecurity Groups to talk about best practice management of a range of declared pests including wild dogs, feral pigs and weed species like cactus.  

Visitors can learn more about how to report pests and weeds to the department using MyPestGuide Reporter. There will also be reminders to clean and decontaminate before moving machinery.

Seasonal information to assist livestock producers will be available, with a focus on water and feed budgeting.

The department’s eConnected project team will be on-hand showcasing some new advances in on-farm technology and connectivity networks.

Large property maps will be available for farmers to check out their properties, and look up the current contact details the department has recorded against their properties for emergency management.

Visitors can learn more about climate-ready agriculture, including water efficiency, removing soil constraints and improving soil condition.

Displays from Regional Men’s Health, Perth NRM, Muresk, Murdoch University and University of Western Australia will also be hosted in the shed, which can be found along Uberin Street.


Upcoming events

Cutting for hay could be a salvage option
The Hay and Silage Gourmet workshop will explore growing, making, buying, allocating and supplementing hay and silage

Regenerative Agriculture Conference

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is Major Partner of the RegenWA Regenerative Agriculture Conference: Investing in our Food Future. 

This conference will bring together farmers and key industry stakeholders to facilitate informed discussion and initiate the development of a plan that supports the adoption of leading sustainability practices, like regenerative agriculture, in Western Australia.

  • When: Wednesday, 11 September 2019
  • Time: 8.15am - 6pm
  • Where: Optus Stadium, Burswood
  • Cost: Different ticket options are available.

For more information and registration details, noting registration is essential, see the RegenWA website.


Hay and Silage Gourmet workshop

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is sponsoring the Western Beef Association's Hay and Silage Gourmet workshop, which will explore best strategies for making, buying, and allocating hay and silage.

DPIRD climatologist Ian Foster will present on, ‘Getting the pasture ready and cost effective fodder conservation decisions,’ alongside presentations from industry consultants.

  • When: Wednesday, 28 August 2019
  • Time: 10am – 5pm
  • Where: A private farm at Vasse (address provided on registration)
  • Cost: $20 per person. Includes lunch, morning and afternoon teas, and notes.

For more information and registration details, noting registration is essential, see the Facebook event.