Feral pigs drive farmers nuts
THE push by the State Government in recent years to convert many large areas of what was previously State Forest into National Parks has come at a high cost to many landholders near the new Parks.
While the government has legislation in place that applies to private landholders, those rules regarding pest and weed management do not apply to the government on State land.
This has led in many areas throughout Queensland to an increased feral animal and environmental and declared weed problems for Park neighbours.
While the Federal Government on their land makes some effort to control both declared and environmental weeds and pest fauna, the State refuses to admit there is a problem or acknowledge that it is their role to at least attempt some control measures.
Before the areas were declared as National parks, they were often managed by leaseholders who were obliged to control feral pests and weeds.
One landholder who has been particularly hard hit is Wilsons Pocket macadamia grower Lyndon Hall, who says that pigs in his crop have cost him more than $50,000.
“It is not just the actual lost income which I estimate to be about 30 per cent of income,” Mr Hall said, “It is the time, at least two hours a day checking fencing to see where the pigs came through last night.”
Pigs eat the fallen nuts by cracking with their jaw and then spitting out the husk and shell. It is a definitely learnt behavior that is soon used by any pigs in that group.
When the damage first became apparent Mr Hall erected a pig netting fence around the whole 2700 tree plantation but said that it did not really work for long.
“Once the pigs got a taste for the nuts they would soon find a way through,” he said.
“Last year we put an electric fence just inside the netting but the pigs are prepared to take a short painful shock to get at the nuts.”
Mr Hall said that on a clear winter’s night pigs can be heard cracking nuts from at least 500m away.
Macadamias are harvested by finger wheel devices once the mature nuts have fallen to the ground.
“It is impossible to beat the pigs to the nuts,” he said. “Even if you could harvest every morning there would still be nuts for the pigs.”
One avenue of control that is being explored is macadamia baited trapping, when the lead pigs who may have been trapped before are removed so they do not make the others aware that traps are to be avoided.
“The traps are left open and baited during the year, but only closed during harvest when the pigs may have got used to coming in through the trap,” Mr Hall said.
He said that control is continual as the population can breed up within a year.
Mr Hall said that there is good evidence to suggest that young castrated pigs have been brought into the district from further west.