The South Australian government will breed and release millions of sterile Australian blowflies as part of a trial to control the pest.

Key points:

  • The South Australian government will release millions of sterile male blowflies from late 2022 on Kangaroo Island
  • Blowflies cause flystrike, a disease that causes pain and even death in sheep
  • Flystrike costs the Australian sheep industry $175 million a year

The government will release six million blowflies a week on Kangaroo Island to test how useful they are in eradicating the species. 

Blowflies cause a disease called flystrike in sheep when their maggots infest fouled sheep wool. 

Flystrike can be painful or even deadly for sheep and is thought to cost Australian agriculture $173 million a year. 

South Australian Primary Industries Minister David Basham said the government would release the flies as part of an 18-month trial, which could be rolled out on the mainland if successful.

A bald man wearing a suit jacket and a pink shirt

SA Primary Industries MInister David Basham says eradicating blowflies on Kangaroo Island would save farmers $88 million over 25 years.(

ABC News: Michael Clements

)

“Blowflies have a significant impact on the welfare of sheep, and flystrike is a horrible thing for sheep to go through,” he said. 

“This is a great welfare outcome if we can eradicate these flies in the environment to make sure that we reduce the workload on the farming enterprise to manage those flystrikes.”

The program is an 18-month trial set to start in late 2022 but according to the state government it will take four years of releases to eradicate sheep blowflies on Kangaroo Island.

The state government estimates that if blowflies can be eliminated it will save Kangaroo Island farmers $88 million over 25 years. 

A mob of rams stand in long green grass at a farm near Dirranbandi, April 2021.

Meat and Livestock Australia says flystrike costs Australian agriculture $173 million a year.(

ABC News: Nathan Morris

)

In Australia, farmers remove strips of flesh from the rear of a sheep to prevent flystrike in a controversial practice called mulesing

However, Agriculture Kangaroo Island chair Rick Morris said if the blowflies could be eradicated then farmers would be able to stop mulesing. 

“[This is] pretty exciting for industry, because the thing that jumps into my head is that there is the potential to cease mulesing further down the track, given all the price premiums that are showing up in that market now,” he said. 

“This sort of program rolls out options for farmers on KI.”

How sterile blowflies could save Kangaroo Island farmers millions
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