Downs farmers fight back against pest scourge
THE scourge of rabbit infestation has the ability to bring the region's vital agricultural industry to its knees and now the community is preparing to fight back.
A recent program run near Wallangarra saw more than 200 rabbit warrens destroyed in a move that could save farmers further north a great deal of heartache.
Darling Downs Moreton Rabbit Board compliance officer Greg Wilson said in the right environment rabbits could breed up to once a month, having litters of up to six offspring each time.
"They'll eat the best food on the farm,” he said.
"You'll find rabbits competing with the cattle for the food and in most cases, they'll eat the crops right down to the roots and completely destroy it.
"Market gardeners lose seedling plants, which is lost money and time, this is something we've seen recently. "If we don't keep right on top this issue, it will continue to become bigger and bigger.”
Mr Wilson said one of the best ways to control rabbits was to destroy their warrens.
"Once we find out where they are, we get in and totally destroy their homes,” he said.
"This makes them more vulnerable to predators and a lot less likely to breed, as they need that controlled temperature of the warren.”
Farmer and former Rabbit Board chairman Ross Bartley said he detested the idea of rabbits on his farm.
"It's as bad as having rats in the roof,” he said.
"No farmer wants rabbits on their property, so measures need to be taken, and the time and resources found to be able to do that.
"In the Lockyer Valley, rabbits decimated crops - we never want to get to that level of hotspot.”
SDRC pest management officer Craig Magnussen said invasive pests were a serious issue from one end of the Southern Downs to the other.
The council and Queensland Murray Daring Committee will hold a series of workshops to pass on best-practice procedures to local landholders. The first workshop will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, December 13 from from 9.30am to noon at Warwick Saleyards, near the sheep sales area.
Lunch will be provided and the workshop will feature industry experts covering topics such as the risk of rabbits to your property, how to identify where rabbits are breeding, control techniques, legal obligations for landholders, and how to best control local weed species such as boxthorn, lantana, tree pear and chilean needle grass including chemicals and the most effective control techniques.
Guest speakers will include Darling Downs-Moreton Rabbit Board inspector Mark Ridge, USQ Research Fellow Dr David Berman and JB Weed Consulting and Training weed control expert John Barker.
"Pests in all forms are detrimental to the agriculture, environment and the amenity of the region,” Mr Magnussen said. "Wednesday's Warwick workshop will be the first in a series over the course of the next 12 months with QMDC to allow us to better inform landholders about the various pests in the region and the best ways to control them.”
Mr Magnussen said there had been some intensive research done into the impact rabbits have on the land. "Eighty rabbits eats the same amount of pasture as one steer,” he said.
"A good warren might produce 50 rabbits in a year.
"In dollar terms it's really important to get rid of them to save the landholder's bottom line.
QMDC's regional co-ordinator for biodiversity and pest management Holly Hosie said their role was to work with landholders and other stakeholders to help improve the natural resources in the Queensland Murray Darling Basin.
"The committee covers off on a whole lot of important issues,” Mrs Hosie said.
"From vegetation to land, soil and river health.
With respect to weeds and pests across the Southern Downs area, there are a number of pressing areas.”