The University of Queensland has revealed some surprising data about life on an Australian farm. Traditionally, kangaroos and dingoes have raised the ire of farming communities across the nation. But new data reveals that kangaroos are actually more detrimental to cattle producers than dingoes!
Thirty different farming properties took part in the UOQ study headed up by researcher and dingo authority Ben Allen. The data revealed that active populations of native dingoes helped lower the costs associated with cattle grazing. Despite the obvious fear of an over-active dingo population, Mr. Allen says that the delicate relationship between the two species is critical.
“One of the things we know, but haven’t done a good job quantifying, is the relationship between wild dogs, cattle and kangaroos,” Mr. Allen told the ABC’s Country Hour program.”We know wild dogs eat cattle and that gives us a cost. We also know kangaroos eat grass and that grass is not available to cattle. The tricky part of this story is that dogs will keep kangaroo numbers down, so, with every bit of dog control, there’s a trade off.”
The merits of baiting programs and the culling of wild canine populations has also been questioned by the UOQ findings. “You might get a benefit controlling dogs because you get reduced predation on your cattle, but it comes with a side-effect cost, as you’ve now got more ‘roos,” Mr Allen explained. “We found kangaroos can cost from 13, up to 40 per cent of your herd every year. On average, it’s about a quarter of the things eating your grass. So, if you can find a way to get rid of those kangaroos – and dogs will do that for you – then you could basically run 25 per cent more stock without having an impact on total grazing pressure.”
In the end, the committed researcher and self-confessed dingo lover says that there is a cost benefit to leaving the dingo population in tact. “The money you could make by running more stock with less ‘roos in the system would far exceed the cost dogs will incur by chewing on your cattle… If I was a beef producer living in northern SA, for the most part I’d probably leave my dogs alone and let them do their job. But when the season turned, or they looked like they were going to get stuck into my cattle, then I’d want to be controlling those dogs pretty quickly. Then, at the minute when the season changed back and they got other things to eat again, I’d ease off.”
But for those inside the so-called ‘dog fence’, the need for culling might be a little bit different. “Inside the dog fence is a completely different story. That’s because the system is very, very different,” Mr. Allen noted. “But, in principle, we should think about the pros and cons of any one of our management actions.”
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