Teamwork key to tackle pigs

Fighting off feral pigs with a neighbourly spirit

Horticulture
Cane grower Robert Boccalatte (right) with NQ Dry Tropics Project Officer Brad Holt (left) and Bren Fuller, Land Protection Officer, Whitsunday Regional Council (centre).

Cane grower Robert Boccalatte (right) with NQ Dry Tropics Project Officer Brad Holt (left) and Bren Fuller, Land Protection Officer, Whitsunday Regional Council (centre).

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"In a bad year pigs will eat between 500kg to a tonne of cane, but that's not the only problem,"

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With a population matching humans, feral pigs are one of Queensland's most widespread and damaging pest animals.

Spreading dangerous weeds, degrading precious soil and water, destroying crops and property, the disease carrying animals are a constant threat to the agricultural industry.

Cane farmer Robert Boccolatte is fed up with the damage caused by feral pigs on his property at Saltwater Creek.

"In a bad year pigs will eat between 500kg to a tonne of cane, but that's not the only problem," Mr Boccolatte said.

25 growers attended the event in Inkerman.

25 growers attended the event in Inkerman.

"It costs time and money to replace damaged fence lines, and grade areas of the farm the pigs have disturbed.

"Their digging also creates ideal conditions for chinee apple to grow."

Mr Boccolatte was one of more than 25 Saltwater Creek cane farmers who attended an NQ Dry Tropics forum focused on tackling the threat of feral pigs to cane growers in the region.

The event was an action call for growers to join forces with neighbours and form a local "cluster group" to improve the cost-efficiency and effectiveness of feral pig management.

NQ Dry Tropics Project Officer Brad Holt said the idea was for a group of landholders to pool resources and coordinate control efforts across multiple properties.

"Instead of individual farmers simply focusing on their own patch, they can cover a bigger area by working together and sharing the cost of aerial control," Mr Holt said.

Mr Holt said that as well as impacting crops, feral pigs damaged creek banks, causing sediment runoff that reduces water quality in local waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.

Collinsville grazier Jim Hillier told growers about the success of his Bowen River cluster group, whose members had significantly reduced the impacts of pigs.

"It's the best thing we've ever done," Mr Hillier said.

"It's the most efficient way I have found to control pigs - we all pull together to contribute funds to get the chopper in and we cleared them out."

The information day was part of the Reducing Burdekin Sediment project, funded by the Queensland Government's Natural Resources Investment Program.

Bren Fuller, a Land Protection Officer from Whitsunday Regional Council, told participants that successful cluster groups required a "champion" to maintain momentum for the long term commitment.

"You may need to hit them hard and then reduce the frequency of control over time, but you can't walk away or they will return - if you stop you may as well not start," Mr Fuller said.

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