Booming numbers of feral pigs on the North West Slopes are converting into cash for Inverell-based trapper Graeme Crisp.
Mr Crisp has been running traps on the properties of Graham and Laila Hosegood on the Upper Whitlow Road north of Bingara and, in eight weeks, harvested 146 pigs.
Any pig that weighs more than 31 kilograms earns $1/kg at the chiller box in Inverell, and it seems like an infinite supply is on hand.
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"I took two big sows to the Inverell box that weighed 55 and 54 kilos," Mr Crisp said.
He said about 100 of the 146 pigs he harvested from the Hosegood's property were pregnant sows.
Trapping the pigs is a reasonably straightforward process. However, Mr Crisp says the bait, grain, is a victim of the price surge.
"We're trying to use supplies of old barley, wheat and oats; the grain is getting pretty expensive," he said.
He said trapping and removing the pigs also eliminates the problem of rotting carcases on properties where pigs are being actively controlled.
"It's good to get the pigs off people's properties. My main job is working in a tire retailer in Delungra, and we often get locals coming in with punctures in farm utes and tractors caused by pig bones," he said.
He takes his catch to chiller boxes at Inverell and Warialda.
"We take the offal out but leave the heart, lungs and liver attached to the carcase for testing."
Les Cleal, Warialda, has been involved with chasing and harvesting feral pigs for 60 years.
"I've never seen so many pigs as I see around the countryside now," he said.
A trip to Moree from Warialda on Monday morning in foggy conditions between 8am and 9am revealed feral pigs on roadsides and paddocks in numbers that "were unbelievable".
Mr Cleal said harvesting feral pigs were part of the answer to reducing numbers, but he believes incentives for the work should be more significant.
"Thirty to 40 years ago, I was getting $1/kilogram, and you could do a night's work on $20 of fuel. Today the price is still $1/kg, but it could cost over $100 to fill up your ute," he said.
Mr Cleal runs the chiller box at Warialda with local, Jade Lane. He says while the bureaucratic red tape is important, lowering accreditation costs could encourage more people to become feral pig harvesters.
He said 'piggers' needed to complete a safe food handling course, and accreditation costs about $330 a year.
When a carcase is dropped off at a chiller, it must be eviscerated, but the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys must be retained to provide samples for the health testing process.
Results are usually returned within five days, and then the carcases a trucked to Toowoomba, Qld, for processing, freezing and shipping to countries in Europe like Germany, France and Sweden.
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