Support for the kangaroo industry from Agriculture
The kangaroo harvest provides a critical service to farmers in reducing the economic impact on them from super-abundant kangaroo populations. It has been estimated kangaroos cost the Agricultural sector in excess of $90m/year. This includes direct losses by grazing crops or pastures as well as damaging fences and other farm infrastructure. At times these costs can be high, during droughts for example kangaroos can quickly eat out feed reserves farmers have set aside for their livestock.
“It has been estimated that harvesting kangaroos at the maximum sustainable level can improve long term wool yields by as much as 25%”
In cropping areas kangaroo grazing pressure can cause significant crop loss. In Bungunya district, on the inland fringe of the winter wheat belt in Southeast Queensland, crop losses attributable to eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) have been at yield reductions of 8-17% for the district as a whole. Barnes, A; Hill, G J E, CSIRO, 2012, Estimating Kangaroo Damage to Winter Wheat Crops in the Bungunya District of Southern Queensland
In pastoral regions managing Total Grazing Pressure (TGP) is essential to maintaining plant biodiversity. Kangaroos represent a significant component of the TGP along with sheep and cattle. Farmers can control their sheep and cattle numbers to ensure the TGP does not threaten the overall environmental health of their property, but the kangaroo harvest is the only tool available to control kangaroo numbers. Thus it is an essential environmental management tool and it is for this reason that the kangaroo industry is strongly supported by a great number of professional Ecologists and conservation NGO’s.
They eat all ground cover, grasses and small native bushes which leads to erosion of soil and extinction of native grasses and small bushes. In a dry time which can go for several years here in Australia the effects of these large numbers are catastrophic to the environment and the sustainability of the farm.
In a dry season when we have large mobs of several hundred Kangaroos they can quickly decimate our crops and pastures. We not only have immense grazing pressure but also damage to fences and environmental tree plantings to contend with.
Having just recently scouted a 400 ha native pasture grazing block I was shocked to find little to no grazing value for our cattle because the kangaroos have grazed it off over the past 4 months. Additionally, the kangaroos have impacted our grain production area. Overall we have lost approximately 25 ha of crop. It doesn’t sound like much but when the input costs are $350/ha and unrealised income of $1200/ha the numbers add up quickly. At $1550/ha over 25ha we will miss out on $25,000 this year alone. Long term we probably miss out on $15,000 per annum on cropping alone. A rough estimate on lost grazing income is in the realm of $10,000 per annum.
Our property has been at the forefront of environmental farming planting over 18,000 trees and using recycled green waste as fertilizer. Over-abundant kangaroos are creating major issues with us in trying to restore areas of trees. The kangaroos knock down the trees in fenced off areas and then eat the young trees to the ground. We like having some kangaroos; the issue is the number that we now have has multiplied with improved pastures and the tree establishment and due to surrounding forest areas. The issue becomes particularly difficult in dry times with the numbers competing for grass and causing more destruction to trees.
As kangaroos are free roaming they constantly overgraze plants in our pasture as they are able to come back onto the green pick, this causes the more desirable species to be eaten out which impacts on our operation. As we are managing holistically we are trying to ensure we minimise overgrazing by providing adequate recovery period for our grass plants, however the kangaroo population makes this increasingly difficult.