FERAL pigs have caused landholders across the state's North West in excess of $47 million according to a new study.
Conducted by agricultural research consulting firm AgEcon, the study was commissioned by North West Local Land Serviced (NWLLS) and it showed producers across the industry were being hit by the pest animals.
Focussing on the winter 2020 and summer 2020/21 cropping periods and after surveying impacted stakeholders, the study found producers had lost more than $47 million in that period alone.
The research was the first time in nearly a decade the issue had been investigated in the region and it showed irrigated cotton was the hardest hit commodity, with the losses equating to $113 per hectare.
It's estimated about 15,000 bales of both irrigated and dryland cotton valued at over $8 million was lost to feral pigs during the research period.
Wheat growers were also not spared by the pests, with the report estimating $20 million, or 77,000 tonnes of grain was lost due to damage caused by feral pigs.
"Per hectare, the wheat losses were $25/ha, however due to the scale of planting, the losses certainly added up," NWLLS senior biosecurity officer David Lindsay said.
"This highlights that regionally feral pigs are causing large economic losses, not just in high value crops."
Mr Lindsay said livestock producers were also impacted to the tune of about $2 million or 11,000 lambs.
"With livestock prices rising and predation of lambs by feral pigs not often identified, this cost could easily be much higher," he said.
"Biosecurity Officers have seen an increase in enquiry from sheep farmers particularly for feral pig control options.
"As harvest continues across the region currently and cotton crops are growing, hopefully this information encourages landholders to consider their control programs and think about just how much they are willing to lose to feral pigs."
NWLLS regional pest animal co-ordinator Shane Green said ideal breeding conditions for feral pigs could cause the issue to worsen.
"Given the research for this report was done when the pigs were not in a major breeding cycle you can't help but think it is going to get a lot worse," Mr Green said.
"The conditions for them to breed don't get any better than they are right now and it looks like a difficult time ahead."
Mr Green said it was crucial that landholders act now to curb the explosion of wild pig numbers in the region.
"The breeding season is probably one of the best we have seen for a very long time," he said.
"In terms of control options, are experience has shown that combined activities are the key, particularly baiting and aerial shooting done as part of a broad-scale program.
"It's also important to remember that LLS is also on-hand to assist you in getting a program started, or even help you link up with other collaborative programs that are going on in your area.
"The first step can be to reach out and we are more than happy to help."
The full report is available on the LLS website.
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