Queensland farmer Lester Cronau’s nightly war with feral pigs is costing him thousands of dollars, and for the next few months at least, he’ll be fighting it alone.

Key points:

  • Feral pigs are causing thousands of dollars worth of damage to Queensland farms 
  • Farmers are calling for immediate support to tackle the issue 
  • The National Feral Pig Action Plan is still months away from being finalised 

On his sugar cane farm at Yerra, south-west of Maryborough, he has seen groups of up to 30 feral pigs roaming his land.

But despite the growing costs and frustration, a National Feral Pig Action Plan to help him and other farmers tackle the pests is still months away. 

While exact figures are unknown, it is estimated there are 23 million feral pigs in Australia, costing the agricultural industry upwards of $100 million a year. 

An older man in work clothes and a wide-brimmed hat stands by a barbed wire pig fence with a grass paddock behind him

Maryborough sugar can farmer Lester Cronau is at his wit’s end trying to keep feral pigs out of his farm.(

ABC Rural: Megan Hughes

)

After becoming fed up with the damage the boars were causing, Mr Cronau  started installing a fence to pig-proof his property.

It has barbed wire across the top and wide metal mesh that prevents the boars from breaking through it and digging underneath it. 

“I’ve only got 800 metres …  it’s helped but the whole place needs a fence around it,” he said. 

“The issue with that is the creek — fencing along that is an issue because if you get floods it’ll just knock it down.”

Farmers and others in the industry, including trappers, are calling for immediate support.

Action needed now

In the past year, Maryborough cane farmer Norm Muller has had to cull 250 feral pigs on his property.

While that has eased the pressure on his farm for now, he says the pigs seem to come in waves and he expects more will find their way onto his farm. 

Mr Muller said the problem was much bigger than just the pests eating the crop.

“It’s the mess they make when they dig for grubs underneath the trash blanket and some of the holes can be 2 or 3 feet deep,” he said. 

“It’s dangerous for people working.” 

Sam Floss runs Cane Pig Queensland, a feral pig control business specialising in trapping the pests on cane and macadamia farms across the state. 

Several small black feral pigs are caught in a large trap on a sugar cane farm.

Feral pigs are causing thousands of dollars worth of damage on farms across Queensland.  (

Supplied: Sam Floss

)

He said the problem had worsened over the past two decades. 

“Twenty years ago you’d never see blocks of cane just laying down on the ground,” he said. 

“What they do in the cane and in the macadamias — it’s quite disturbing on a big scale.

“Thousands of dollars just gone, probably even hundreds of thousands in just this area [Fraser Coast] alone.” 

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Plan still months away   

The National Feral Pig Action Plan started in March 2020 to coordinate control efforts across Australia over the next decade. 

A draft plan has been created but it is not expected to be finalised and endorsed by government until October this year.

When the ABC interviewed farmers about the feral pig problem and asked their thoughts on the action plan, they hadn’t actually heard of the initiative,  which raises questions about the effectiveness of the committee’s communication with those most affected by the pests.  

Management coordinator Dr Heather Channon said that on the Fraser Coast the committee had spoken directly to the council as well as with representatives from Maryborough Cane Productivity Services. 

“What we can do to help with strengthening and building that and making it in a more coordinated way is really one of the key focuses of the plan.”

Dr Channon said the committee was “constantly doing other stakeholder engagement activities through Landcare, working with the National Farmers’ Federation and other agricultural sectors”.

A steering group has been established and work is underway to form an implementation committee which is aiming to meet for the first time in the near future. 

Farmers at war with feral pigs but national action plan still months away
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