Pimelea plant poisoning of cattle – working towards research solutions

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Pimelea plant poisoning of cattle – working towards research solutions

Research into reducing the impact of Pimelea toxicity needs to commence now.  Seasonal conditions since 2015 have triggered abundant plants across central Australia.  Cattle losses and clinical signs of toxicity are high in south west Queensland. 

If you are concerned about Pimelea weed, please join the collaborative network of producers and businesses backing a research project examining how to combat this toxic weed.

The goal is a $1 million research project over three years to investigate:-
  1. Rumen de-tox bacteria.
  2. Rumen absorption compounds.
  3. Improved management of Pimelea in pasture.
Potential research project partners, to date, include the University of Queensland, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, Queensland's Future Beef extension team and AgForce.

Background information to Pimelea
To find out some background information on Pimelea please CLICK HERE.

What do we need?
Producer contributions are helping make this research a reality.  We need to collectively raise up to $500,000 from industry and partners to co-match a government grant.

To date, producer pledges have raised a grand total of $420,000 of pledges over a three-year period, clearly demonstrating that producers want research solutions to the devastating impacts of Pimelea. 

How can you contribute?
  1. Pimelea impact survey
    Complete this short confidential survey on the impacts of Pimelea on your business, family and mental health.  Help elevate the need for this research to the wider cattle industry and governments by contributing data on cattle losses, financial costs, lost carrying capacity and your well-being.
  2. Cash and in-kind pledges to kick start research
    Graziers may be willing to contribute the cash proceeds from the sale of one or more livestock or similar. In-kind contributions may be for activities such as voluntary labour to collect Pimelea plant samples, access to livestock for rumen fluid samples, use of paddocks for a trial, helping with best practice field trials or hosting a field day.
    Please use this form to pledge cash or in-kind and return to AgForce.
  3. Pimelea Plant Collection
    Researchers require Pimelea plant material collected now, while it is regionally abundant after recent rain.  Plants will be processed and freeze dried in the Coopers Plains laboratory for use over the three-year project period.  You can help with Pimelea plant collection by collecting bundles, up to two kilograms in weight.
    Please read the plant collection information sheet before collecting Pimelea on how to collect, location information required, storage of plants and where to send plant material.  Contact is Associate Professor Mary Fletcher, UQ, phone 07 3443 2479, email mary.fletcher@.uq.edu.au.

Meat & Livestock Australia MLA has provided an additional $1.5Million funding to University of Queensland UQ over three years to continue rumen research into plant toxins.  Highest priority is combating Pimelea cattle poisoning through potential development of a rumen inoculum and effective absorbancy compounds. 

This new MLA project follows on from the initial six-month project initiated by $75,000 from pledging producers with co-matching contribution of $75,000 from MLA's Donor Company MDC (Sept 2017 to March 2018).

The initial $150,000 MDC project has:

(a) Enabled rumen researchers from UQ and DAF to collect over 100 samples from a range of Pimelea-affected and unaffected grazing animals, whilst Pimelea was very abundant in western Queensland.  These samples were collected from 100 rumen and stomach fluid samples from animals in Pimelea-infested pasture from 15 different properties.

From these samples we found the following:
  • Cattle which showed signs of Pimelea toxicity;
  • 4 breeds of sheep, boer, rangeland goats, and culled kangaroos - All of which showed no signs of Pimelea toxicity; and
  • Locally bred cattle with no signs of Pimelea toxicity
(b) Collected 100 kg of Pimelea plant material from 30 sites during Sept to Dec 2017.  This freeze-dried Pimelea is essential for ongoing rumen research, especially if seasonal conditions reduce field abundance of the toxic plant.

(c) Elevated the importance, extent and issues of Pimelea cattle poisoning amongst the wider cattle industry and rural communities. This contributed to MLA considering plant toxins along with advancing new rumen genome technologies as a national priority worthy of further research. Pimelea communication network has expanded to NSW and SA producers and organisations seasonally affected by Pimelea, Regional Councils and companies such as AGL Energy.

Rumen Research Leaders:
  1. Associate Professor Mary Fletcher, University of Queensland. Phone (07) 3443 2479 or e-mail mary.fletcher@.uq.edu.au
  2. Diane Ouwerkerk, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Phone (07) 3708 8391 or email diane.ouwerkerk@daf.qld.gov.au
Proposed Ecology and Pasture Management Research
There is scope to do additional research on managing Pimelea in pastures.  Particular importance is dry, seeding Pimelea in browse height of buffel pastures.  Some affected producers have been trialling fertiliser regimes and other methods to reduce Pimelea infestations.

During early 2018, AgForce is identifying outstanding key questions to build on previous research, producer results, prioritise best mix of research options and source additional resourcing.

Everyone is committed towards investigating all possible solutions to Pimelea cattle poisoning.

Making research a reality now

Industry and research partners are pursuing a range of available grant opportunities to expedite research into possible solutions to overcome Pimelea plant toxicity. 

With the sub-total of Year 1 cash pledges of $55,000, we can pursue 1:3 funding from Meat and Livestock Australia's Producer Innovation Fast Track.  If successful, MLA will co-match this $55,000 pledge with a $165,000 one-year grant to commence research as soon as possible.  An application has been lodged with MLA.

There are two options for ongoing research funding beyond Year 1.  MLA is currently assessing a research application through the open call for research, development & adoption (RD&A) projects.  If the application is successful, red meat levies collected through MLA will fund Pimelea research and no additional producer cash pledges will be required, beyond Year 1.  If the open -call project application to MLA is not successful, the other option is negotiating Year 2 and 3 Pimelea funding by co-matching pledges with a grant through MLA's Donor Company.

Collecting samples
University of Queensland and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries scientists are continually seeking Pimelea plant samples to assist in their ongoing research. Guidelines for collecting samples can be found here.

For more information, please contact Marie Vitelli at AgForce Queensland via email agforce@agforceqld.org.au, phone (07) 3236 3100 or fax (07) 3236 3077.

Pimelea plant poisoning of cattle – working towards research solutions

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