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TAS Country : July 2010
32 Tasmanian Country Friday, July 30, 2010 Opinion Pasture thieves in too-hard basket CHEWS theFAT David Byard 'Things are tight for farmers now and they cannot afford to have wallabies in plague proportions, nor should they have to tolerate huge production losses on their farms even in good times.' FOUR years ago, the Australian Government funded a project costing $4 million to find an alternative to 1080. The inquiry was completed some weeks ago, however the report has been doing the rounds of government, and when it will be made public is anybody's guess. However, it seems very clear that the project has found no alternative to 1080. Feretox may be a possible alternative but people seem very concerned about any form of poisoning. Most people find any form of poison is repugnant, but when we recently had a plague of mice in the north of the state people didn't seem to be too concerned about using poison on mice, unsupervised and causing the inevi- table secondary poising to domestic pets. What the results of the trials conduc- ted under the $4 million project have clearly shown is that wallabies are in plague proportions in some areas of the state, literally eating farmers out of house and home. Since the introduction of high- quality grasses, fodder and other crops, the population of wallabies has ex- ploded. Unlike humans, wallabies will breed only if there is enough food. It seems the program has not found any silver bullets but researchers and scientists have been overwhelmed at the damage native animals, possums, and wallabies can and are creating. Some farmers who have had re- search done on their farms found to their horror that two thirds of their available pasture was being eaten by wildlife. It seems often farmers were not aware of the scale of the problem. John Dawson, manager of the 1080 program, has stated that in one trial site they were measuring the total pasture loss went to 800m from the edge of the bush and were losing 68 per cent of their total pasture. This led to an almost unproductive farm. What is even more scary, its seems that this is not an isolated case. People I have spoken to with 25 acre blocks of grass speak of not running any stock at all and having their grass eaten right into the ground all year round by browsing animals. King Island is a great example, as it has been estimated that they lose $28 million of production to grazing ani- mals. Farmers are becoming less and less profitable and there is no money left to fertilise grass that is going to be eaten by wallabies. I find it interesting to think that if farmers were loosing $28 million dol- lars because of a fire, a disease outbreak, loss of shipping, the closure of a meat works or any other catas- trophe, the government and com- munity would make sure the farmers were given assistance. However, because the issue at pres- ent has to do with 1080 the Government runs a mile in the opposite direction. Things are tight for farmers now and they cannot afford to have wallabies in plague proportions, nor should they have to tolerate huge production losses on their farms even in good times. Providing high-quality food and shel- ter for browsing animals that are in plague proportions, because govern- ments can't make a decision, is inequi- table and intolerable. The Government says 1080 is still available, but ask any farmer and they will tell you 1080 is becoming harder to get, and costly. Permit applications are processed slowly and the applicant is made to feel like an outcast. At this rate we might as well ban 1080 as it is almost useless. People say we should look for and find non-lethal methods. Many people say fencing is the answer, but there have been instances where wallaby fences have been erect- ed and the wallabies in the bush overgraze the bush and die of star- vation. Is this what the critics of 1080 want? Those who have put up fences to control wallabies complain about the expense and the task of continuously repairing holes where the wildlife have tunnelled underneath. Wombats are extremely good at it, and once they have burrowed through all their starving colleagues are in. Surely the answer must be in a suite of measures including 1080, Feratox, shooting, and fencing. We have spent $4 million to find an answer and it has become obvious that there is no simple answer. Green groups have little understand- ing of the farmers' plight and govern- ments are political opportunists, so once again the farming community will be the sacrificial lambs. The Independent Farmers Group along with other groups will be holding a forum to discuss and get some sort of unified approach that can be pushed to our elective representatives. The first meeting is planned to take place on Wednesday August, 18, prob- ably at Bridport. Guest speakers will have a maxi- mum of 15 minutes and there will probably be four speakers talking on shooting, fencing, 1080, Feratox and the numbers of wallabies. People from the Department of Pri- mary Industries will be invited to attend, along with farmers so that they can share their thoughts on how to deal Your new look Tasmanian Country offers unprecedented opportunities for display advertisements, features and advertorials. 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August 5th 2010