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Beyond the Bale : September 2012
Feral pigs cost the agricultural industry over $100 million each year. The wool and sheep industries are directly affected, largely via predation of lambs, but also by damage to fences. Furthermore, pigs wallow and foul up water sources, turn over vast areas of soil when rooting for food, and facilitate the spread of weeds. Feral pigs also host serious diseases with the potential to devastate livestock operations. Sheep graziers from the Macquarie Marshes in northern NSW recently reported their experiences to the Invasive Animals CRC for an information series on feral pigs and feral pig management. Michael O’Brien said he lost almost 70 per cent of his lambs in 2011 with a potential cost of $250,000 to $300,000. “This year’s lambing has turned out to be an utter disaster due to pig devastation in as much as we put 3492 ewes out to lamb in the middle of March and only made 1102 lambs,” Mr O’Brien said. “ I believe conclusively that most of our losses were due to pigs; there was a tremendous outbreak of pigs following the third reasonably wet summer and following a very wet December/January.” Nearby sheep grazier Simon Earl agreed that feral pigs can have a huge effect on newborn lambs. “We lose a lot of lambs to the pigs when they get into it,” Mr Earl said. “ We might lose 30-40 per cent of our lambs to pigs if we didn’t do any baiting. At my wife’s place once when it was flooding, they poisoned one side of the flood and not the other side and it was 30-40 per cent difference in the lambs.” Another grazier David Thornton told of the pigs’ effect on fences. “They’re hard on fencing, especially boundary fences. Pigs, particularly the older ones, make large holes,” he said. 33 on-farm feral pigs can have a devastating effect on lamb marking percentages, but there are control techniques available which can be effective. fasT faCTs l Feral pig numbers have increased dramatically due to recent wet weather providing the pigs with plenty of feed and water. l The burgeoning feral pig numbers are costing some woolgrowers heavily through predation of lambs, and damage to pasture and fences. l Available to woolgrowers is a suite of feral pig control techniques – which can be integrated with feral dog and fox control techniques to form an integrated pest management program. September 2012 Beyond the Bale Credit:JohnCarnemolla/AUSCAPE feral pigs praCTiCaL feraL pig ConTroL Aerial shooting by helicopter is more effective than ground shooting and considered very competitive with other control methods on a cost-per- kill basis in the right conditions. Used in a coordinated fashion, aerial culling programs have the potential for large- scale and rapid knockdown (64-80 per cent efficiency) of feral pig populations in Australia. Trapping: Trapping is a valuable method for managing feral pigs at relatively low densities and where control by poisoning or shooting is not feasible, such as near urban areas. fencing: Exclusion fencing is a physical, non-lethal way of protecting high-value areas from feral pigs, such as lambing paddocks. Just like with any other pest animal problem, such as with wild dogs, it is important for landholders to work together to reduce the impact, such as organizing aerial shoots and coordinated baiting programs. More information: For further information about feral pig control techniques see the Invasive Animals CrC’s website at www.feral.org.au In Australia, a suite of feral pig control techniques are available. Generally, no single technique will completely remove feral pigs from a given area, so a combination of techniques is usually needed. poisoning: Ground-based poison baiting is one of the most economical and effective ways to control feral pigs on a broad scale. Ground baiting can achieve around 70-99 per cent rapid population knockdown across a range of Australian habitats. Products developed by Animal Control Technologies Australia and the Invasive Animals CRC, of which AWI and MLA are integral partners, include PIGOUT® and the HogHopperTM, which can make feral pig baiting safe and target specific. Aerial baiting is also used in some regions of Australia but is typically less effective than ground baiting because feral pigs generally need to become familiar with taking bait first. shooting: Intensive ground shooting – both recreational and professional – can be effective in some localised settings where pig numbers are low. Hunting with dogs can make ground shooting campaigns more successful, particularly in dense habitat.