Pigs caught on motion activated cameras enter McConachie’s orchard at Wolvi in July.
Pigs caught on motion activated cameras enter McConachie’s orchard at Wolvi in July. Contributed

'Explosion' of feral pigs targeting our nuts

GYMPIE macadamia growers have met with government and industry leaders to devise a plan to curtail the worsening impact of feral pigs on the local industry.

Wolvi and Anderleigh macadamia producers in particular are under attack from increasing pig incursions, with the industry "conservatively estimating" the problem is costing south-east Queensland growers $500,000 a year in crop losses.

Damage to orchard floors, earthworks and access areas cost at least that amount again, Suncoast Gold Macadamias grower services and field support office Brice Kaddatz said yesterday.

Twenty five stakeholders, including representatives from Gympie Regional Council, Agforce and HQ Plantations, attended the recent meeting at Suncoast Gold, chaired by senior ranger pest management with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Norm Taylor.

The meeting focussed on the areas under the heaviest pressure - Wolvi and Anderleigh.

"A moderate size pig can consume 4-6kg of macadamia in-shell per hour," Mr Kaddatz said.

"Pigs will normally visit an orchard for four to six hours in a night. Mobs of up to 120 pigs have been observed on local farms."

Mr Kaddatz said local hunters and trappers working independently had so far this year eliminated about 250 pigs, but a universal program was now needed "to have a measurable impact on the exploding numbers".

"One grower experienced with feral pigs described a group of sows and piglets seen at Wilsons Pocket as a 'seething black tide spreading across the orchard'," he said.

The meeting heard about sophisticated trapping equipment being tested for pig control by Yarramine Environmental.

"This equipment allows for computerised triggering of traps via real time monitoring from 1000km or more away.

"The use of chemical baiting is difficult and farmers are happy to see this controlled by QPWS and local authorities. Some macadamia growers have erected exclusion fencing.

"This is successful, but the cost can be prohibitive on larger farms with rugged boundary areas."

Feral pigs are also impacting on other crops in the Gympie region.

One local ginger producer estimates his losses at $100,000 for 2013.

A larger operator has reportedly experienced losses closer to $200,000.

"All local primary producers are invited to register their production losses to allow scarce resources to be effectively targeted," Mr Kaddatz said.

Producers can register through Mr Kaddatz at Suncoast Gold by phoning 5482 0040, 0438 861198 or brice.kaddatz@suncoastgold.com.au.

Meetings will be held next Thursday at Anderleigh and Wolvi properties to ensure control opportunities are maximised.

If successful, the program has potential to be expanded to other areas under pressure from feral pigs in south-east Queensland.