BCLG and LLS Collaborate on Biosecurity Issues

LEFT: Before habitat destruction. RIGHT: After burrow harbour destruction.
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Boorowa Community Landcare Group (BCLG) and Local Land Services have been collaborating on biosecurity issues in the Boorowa and Yass areas, including pesticide training, rabbits, baiting of foxes and feral pigs, as well as the ongoing effects of the drought.

BCLG coordinator Linda Cavanagh recently met with Local Land Services’ (LLS) biosecurity team of Scott Schlunke and Rachel Elliot to discuss the management of biosecurity issues, particularly during the current pandemic situation.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, both BCLG and LLS had to make changes to adhere to government restrictions designed to help stop the spread of the virus. “Whilst producers are feeling a little more hopeful after recent rains, we have had to reduce social interaction by postponing training courses and changing the way we run our group drop offs,” said Rachel Elliot.

LLS has been working to develop an online vertebrate pesticide training course, which will run in conjunction with face to face courses in the future.

The number of rabbits has seen an increase recently. “As a result of the dry Summer, many people noticed a lot more rabbits around and consequently this had an impact on competing with feed for livestock,” said Senior Biosecurity Officer Scott Schlunke. “We ran a number of successful baiting programs in the area and since the rain and mild weather, the calicivirus strain has further reduced the rabbit population in some areas. Baiting should be followed by harbour destruction (refer to images), then the numbers won’t come back.”

“We are encouraging people who find dead rabbits, of unknown cause, to take part of the free testing service,” Rachel Elliot said. “If landholders find a fresh dead rabbit, place the rabbit in a bag and freeze it. We will sample the rabbit and send it for testing to see if the rabbit died due to calicivirus and what strain of calicivirus was responsible.”

The Autumn fox baiting program saw a high participation rate from landholders, with 211 properties laying baits, spanning 104,000 hectares in the Boorowa area. “Now that we are anticipating a better growing season, this coordinated approach to baiting will have reduced predation numbers for lambs,” said Scott.

While feral pig numbers had been low, there has been a recent increase. “Feral pigs have been quiet during the dry season, but we have seen a recent increase in activity and multiple landholders have undertaken control by methods including baiting and trapping. Control of feral pigs is important now more than ever, given the threat of African Swine Fever in nearby countries. If African Swine Fever was to enter Australia, the production losses to the domestic pork industry could be enormous and stand to damage Australia’s clean image,” Scott said.

LLS management techniques include inspections and education on the risks of swill feeding for pig producers, Council tip inspections and feral pig monitoring/control programs.

Effects of the long, dry Summer include compromised groundcover and lack of water for livestock. To help set producers up for a better start to Autumn, monitoring pastures reducing grazing pressure by adjusting stock numbers was recommended.

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