Graziers told to work with dung beetles, not against

Tablelands dung beetle project aims to raise awareness of farmers about the benefits of the species

Beef
Remarkable NRM project coordinator Louise Gavin collecting Dung Beetle specimens from a property to send to Dr Bernard Doube, the director of Dung Beetle Solutions Australia (DBSA), for examination. Picture: Supplied.

Remarkable NRM project coordinator Louise Gavin collecting Dung Beetle specimens from a property to send to Dr Bernard Doube, the director of Dung Beetle Solutions Australia (DBSA), for examination. Picture: Supplied.

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An Atherton Tablelands project aims to identify the species of Dung Beetles and the benefits they hold for farmers across the region.

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A group of Atherton Tablelands beef and dairy farmers are surveying dung beetle species on their properties, as part of a year-long trial, to identify the benefits of the species.

Each month, fifteen farmers are having their dung beetles identified to determine which varieties are best suited to their location when purchasing new beetle species.

The project is funded by the Queensland Government Reef Water Quality Program and delivered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Cape York NRM, and Terrain NRM.

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Collected specimens from each farm are sent to the director of Dung Beetle Solutions Australia (DBSA) Dr Bernard Doube, who will examine the data.

Since the CSIRO first introduced dung beetles in 1968 to specifically work on cattle dung, about 23 introduced species have formed sustainable populations across Australia.

Since the CSIRO first introduced dung beetles in 1968 to specifically work on cattle dung, about 23 introduced species have formed sustainable populations across Australia.

Remarkable NRM project coordinator Louise Gavin said the report recommends varieties of dung beetles likely to be successful for other farming properties on the Atherton Tablelands.

"Dung beetles work quickly to remove nutrients from the surface and bury the dung from fresh cow pats to where the plants have best access to it, aerating and fertilising the soil, reducing runoff and erosion," Ms Gavin said.

"Removing the dung from the pasture reduces flies and breaks the parasite lifecycle, reducing the need for chemical control for flies.

"Most landholders want to improve their pastures and to do that they need healthy soil and great water quality and the dung beetles are doing that and all the farmers need to do is to not kill them."

Dung beetle create tunnels which aerates the soil, allowing rain to percolate and boost soil moisture. Nutirents are recycled and carbon is sequestered in the soil. Dung is broken down and polluting runoff is averted from waterways.

Dung beetle create tunnels which aerates the soil, allowing rain to percolate and boost soil moisture. Nutirents are recycled and carbon is sequestered in the soil. Dung is broken down and polluting runoff is averted from waterways.

In 2019, Louise networked a group of Atherton Tablelands beef and dairy producers and facilitated a series of meetings to exchange information and ideas.

Ms Gavin said it was important for graziers when working with stock, to consider the chemicals they use to treat parasites.

"There are treatments available that are dung beetle friendly which can help maintain your existing dung beetle population," she said.

Fascinating results found

Ravenshoe biological beef producer Lisa Price, who joined the trial in January this year, wanted to learn more about the dung beetles on her 80 hectare grazing property.

Ms Price said it was fascinating to see the different type of beetle specimens in her paddocks.

"We wanted to learn more about the dung beetles role in our paddocks and when they are most active during the seasons," she said.

"It was exciting when we found out that we had a special dung beetle species in our cow manure called O percuarius, found predominantly in south-west Queensland and eastern NSW.

"We live on the southern Tablelands and it was interesting to compare results with other beef producers across the region."

Funded initially by Cape York Natural Resource Management and the Enhanced Extension Coordination in the Great Barrier Reef Project the project has led to an expansion of the number of farmers involved for the 2nd year.

Funding has been received by Remarkable NRM through the Federal Landcare Smart Farms Program for continued research until June 2022.

A report detailing the initial year of research is available via www.remarkablenrm.com.au.

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