CONDAMINE producers called in the help of a chopper last week to try and alleviate the pressures of feral pigs in the area which is making it difficult for them to keep crops alive.
The first coordinated aerial pig shoot for the Condamine West Group from Tuesday to Friday last week saw 938 pigs and one wild dog killed across 73 properties totalling 138,738 hectares.
Last year producers in the area battled a feral pig problem that caused significant damage to chickpea and sorghum crops leading to concerns over spread of disease through pigs such as leptospirosis and worms.
Condamine farmer Jake Hamilton, who grows dryland wheat, chickpea, sorghum and mungbean crops, was one of the 54 landholders involved in the coordinated shoot which saw at least 24 pigs killed on his 3237 hectare property, Burradoo.
The property borders a forestry creating a major pig problem meaning crops grown there are usually written off.
Mr Hamilton said the shoot was perfect timing given he had just finished planting both Burradoo and another 2428 hectare property on Monday.
“Chickpeas are the ones they really go after and it’s not uncommon for a pig to uproot 200 to 300 metres of crop,” he said.
“I’ve been seeing the same mob every second day of 30 or 40 pigs (in that paddock) so hopefully they have got most of them.
“It’s pretty good timing for those fellas to come and shoot when they did because the paddock they got those pigs (pictured) had only been planted a day or two.”
Condamine farmer Richard Wunsch put a chopper up himself three weeks ago after loosing about 20 hectare of chickpeas to feral pigs last year.
His own chopper shoot and the coordinated event in the area had seen about 500 pigs killed around and on his 2300 hectare property, Yulabilla.
Mr Wunsch purchased the property three years ago and grows about 1700 hectares of wheat and chickpea but it wasn’t until last year that he suffered significant crop damage.
He said he couldn’t afford to let the same thing happen in 2017.
“This year we are all over it which is good,” he said.
“If it (the coordinated shoot) can happen every six months that would be better. They breed so quickly they need to be right on top of it.
“The boys got a drone and the pig tracks were unreal, we had to make a move. We couldn’t wait for the shoot to happen it would have been more than 20 hectares of damage.”
Helicopter pilot Scott Bridle, who was involved in the shoot, now specialises in aerial pig shoots and with his company, Scott Bridle Helicopter Pty Ltd, he works alongside shooter Ben Mann of Straight Shooter Pty Ltd.
He said the feral pig population had reduced by 85 per cent since the Western Downs Regional Council began the coordinating aerial shoots about five years ago.
The cost of the Condamine West Group shoot was subsidised by Western Downs Regional Council and the Queensland Murray Darling Committee while landowners will pay a portion based on hectares shot.
Western Downs Regional Council Deputy Mayor Andrew Smith said feral pigs in some areas have been known to increase by 500 per cent in a 12 to 15 month period and they were a significant threat to the agriculture industry.
“The success to date should encourage more areas to get involved and of course with the three way partnership...it’s really affordable,” he said.