Article Summary: Native animals, such as the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, can significantly threaten your crop's success and biodiversity and are increasing in Australia's Southeast despite best efforts to keep them at bay. This article explores the impact of native animal grazing on farmland, discusses its effects on biodiversity and crop success, and provides actionable and non-lethal steps to reduce the impact on your pastures, animals and farming operation. And if that’s not all, we look at some of the good things sharing your land provides!
As a farmer, you understand the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between your farm's ecosystem and the crops you produce. However, native animals, such as the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, can significantly threaten your crop's success and biodiversity and are increasing in Australia's Southeast despite best efforts to keep them at bay.
In this article, we'll explore the impact of native animal grazing on farmland, discuss its effects on biodiversity and crop success, and provide actionable steps to reduce the impact on your pastures, animals and farming operation.
The impact of native animal grazing on farmland
Grazing from native animals, including kangaroos, can positively and negatively affect farmland. While grazing can help maintain a healthy balance of vegetation, it can also lead to overgrazing and the depletion of essential plant species. In addition, native animals can damage crops, reduce the amount of feed for livestock, and potentially spread disease.
But first, let’s talk about the kangaroo problem
Since European settlement, the kangaroo population has been steadily increasing. A lack of natural predators, access to vast water networks, and clearing land for farming increase grazing opportunities for kangaroos.
Originally hunted sustainably by first nations people for thousands of years, kangaroo populations have become a significant problem for Australian farmers in recent decades. In some areas, the kangaroo population has reached up to 50 animals per square kilometre. According to a report by the Australian Government, the Eastern Grey Kangaroo population in Victoria has increased by 40% in the past decade, and the estimated cost of kangaroo damage to agriculture in Australia is $4 million per day.
The problems caused by kangaroo grazing are numerous. First, kangaroos can cause significant damage to crops, including vineyards and orchards. They also compete with livestock for feed, and their grazing can lead to the depletion of essential plant species, reducing the amount of feed for livestock. Second, kangaroos might spread diseases, including bacterial and parasitic infections, affecting livestock and crops. Finally, overgrazing by kangaroos can lead to the loss of indigenous plant species, reducing biodiversity and potentially having a cascading effect on other species in the ecosystem.
Farmers have been attempting to manage kangaroo populations for decades. One method of controlling kangaroo populations is culling, which involves shooting kangaroos. However, this method is controversial, with animal welfare concerns and it only being a temporary measure, where it can lead to population booms in the following years.
Thankfully, several effective non-lethal methods are widely used to reduce the impact of kangaroo grazing on farmland. From establishing wildlife corridors and providing alternative feeding areas for kangaroos to implementing deterrents and sustainable grazing practices, you can work towards maintaining a healthy balance on your farm.
This is why it's important to know your options and the steps you can take to co-exist harmoniously or ensure you are not competing with native grazers.
Impacts on biodiversity
Biodiversity is essential to maintaining a healthy ecosystem on your farm. Native animals are crucial in maintaining biodiversity by pollinating plants, dispersing seeds, and controlling pests. However, overgrazing can lead to the loss of plant species. This can have a cascading effect on other species in the ecosystem. For example, losing a specific plant species can lead to the loss of pollinators or the inability of certain animal species to feed.
Reduced biodiversity of flora can also lead to soil erosion and affect the diversity of other plant and animal species on your pastures and your farm ecosystem.
According to the Australian Government's State of the Environment report, habitat destruction and fragmentation from grazing are major threats to Australia's biodiversity.
For the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, its grazing habits can lead to the loss of plant species and reduce biodiversity. For example, research has shown that kangaroo grazing can lead to the loss of tussock grasslands, critical habitats for several endangered species, including the Plains-wanderer bird and the Striped Legless Lizard.
Impacts on crop success
Native animal grazing can also have a significant impact on the success of your crops. In areas where farming is the primary industry, grazing can lead to crop damage, resulting in lower yields and less profitability for you, the farmer. The Eastern Grey Kangaroo in Australia is known to damage vineyards and orchards, causing the loss of valuable crops, and if you have them on your farm, you'd be well aware of the damage they can cause.
Competition for food between native animals and livestock can also harm crop success. Overgrazing can reduce your pasture's overall health, resulting in decreased yields and high costs to bring them back up to standard. This can have significant economic impacts on your bottom line and the wider agricultural industry.
To repeat a key Australian government finding, kangaroo damage to agriculture is estimated to cost $4 million per day. Kangaroo grazing can lead to the depletion of essential plant species, which can reduce the food for livestock and even lead to soil erosion.
Ok, so that’s the bad stuff… are there any positives? The short answer is: yes. Let’s take a look below.
How kangaroo grazing can benefit farmers
Having native animals grazing on your farm can help maintain and restore the natural balance of an ecosystem. How? Controlling plant growth and reducing the risk of wildfires is a current reality for many areas of Australia after enduring La Nina for the last two years.
Grazing can also help promote the growth of certain plant species. This can benefit both wildlife and livestock and increase your farm's biodiversity.
Kangaroos are not fussy grazers. What does this mean for you? They will typically consume a wide variety of plant species, which can help reduce the growth of invasive species and improve the overall health of your pastures.
By allowing kangaroos to graze on your land, you can reduce the need for herbicides or other chemical treatments, which can be harmful to the environment and costly for your farm. If you wish to upgrade to an organic operation, then this method is in alignment.
If you live in a tourist area, kangaroos on farmland can be a draw card for ecotourism, providing an additional source of income for you and your local communities. Just think; a working farm, a viewing deck, picnic areas, and public feeding opportunities may be possible for your farm.
The potential benefits of native animal grazing will vary depending on several factors, including the type of ecosystem being grazed and the intensity and frequency of grazing.
Reducing the impact of native animal grazing on your farm
Thankfully, there are things you can do to co-exist in greater harmony with the native animals that also call your property home.
Reducing the impact of native animal grazing on your farmland requires a multifaceted approach. Here are some actionable steps you can take:
Establish and maintain wildlife corridors: By establishing wildlife corridors, you can provide native animals with alternative feeding areas, reducing their reliance on your crops.
Culling, or harvesting: Reducing kangaroo numbers via culling or animal harvesting is one way to control the population for a time, but it is considered by many to be a ‘band-aid’ solution. It’s also fraught with risk, labour and legalities. For further information on taking this route to control the kangaroos on your property, you need to contact your Department of Wildlife Management and apply for appropriate permits, for example, an Authority to Control Wildlife (ATCW) via the Conservation Regulator.
Implement deterrents: There are several deterrents that you can implement to reduce the impact of native animal grazing, including fencing, noise devices, and visual deterrents. For example, scarecrows and reflective tape can deter kangaroos from entering your crops.
Implement sustainable grazing practices: Sustainable grazing practices, such as rotational grazing and managing grazing intensity, can help maintain a healthy balance between vegetation and grazing.
Consider alternative land uses: If native animal grazing is a persistent issue on your farmland, consider alternative land uses.
Did you know that with intelligent satellite mapping, you can easily allocate accurate pasture breaks, select paddocks to graze and quickly plan out temporary fencing in an instant via your mobile phone? Experience easy farm mapping with pasture.io’s groundbreaking farm tech, helping farmers everywhere manage their pastures and grazing methods. To find out how this can help you with your farm management efforts, including managing native grazers, contact our team today.
Until we meet again, Happy Grazing!
- The Dedicated Team of Pasture.io, 2023-03-30