SOUTH Gippsland Landcare Network hosted a dung beetle workshop on Saturday June 29 at the Kernot Community Centre.
World renowned dung beetle expert John Feehan presented to over 70 people on how dung beetles can make soil healthier and more productive by interrupting parasite life cycles, aerating soil, cleaning paddocks and reducing fertiliser requirements.
Dung beetles dig tunnels up to 30cm deep which they line with dung, fertilising the paddock and enabling water to percolate into the soil, and grass roots to access nutrients. It also improves habitat for earthworms.
Mr Feehan spoke to the audience about how to look after beetles on their property through measures such as the best practice management of pesticides and herbicides.
“It is very important that farmers ensure the chemicals (particularly drenches) they use don’t harm beetles, as the wrong drench can kill eggs and juvenile beetles, decimating colonies which then take years to recover,” he said.
“Research reveals that Moxidectin is the molecule that is friendliest for beetles.”
Following a soup lunch at the hall, attendees of the workshop moved to landholder Adam Tran’s farm in the hills south of Loch to release a winter-active colony of dung beetles.
Keen participants helped place handfuls of beetles in fresh cow dung, where the beetles will feed and then pair off, dig a tunnel and breed.
In three years’ time the colony should be well established and will start to spread to neighbouring properties.
Adam Tran was a supportive participant of the day, having seen the success of dung beetles first-hand.
“I had success with my old farm introducing dung beetles and allowing them to bury all waste where it’s needed a foot underground. This was done for environmental and production reasons,” he said.
“I highlight the production aspect because the average cow produces nearly 20kg of manure a day and 25kg for dairy animals.”
“On my property this equates to 1 tonne of manure left behind daily by the 50 mature cows, not counting the 50 calves.”
“Dung beetles will bury the dung before bush flies can breed which will reduce pink eye, feed the pasture at the root zone, increase aeration/water infiltration and reduce intestinal worm burden.”
For information about upcoming Landcare events such as this visit the SGLN Facebook page.