MLA's beetle mania

A NEW research and development project from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and the Federal government will see dung beetles used to increase farm productivity and profitability.
MLA's beetle mania MLA's beetle mania MLA's beetle mania MLA's beetle mania MLA's beetle mania

Dung beetles hard at work. Inage: iStock.com/CreativeNature_nl

Kristy Moroney

Over $9 million will be invested by the government who announced its contribution to the Rural R&D for Profit Programme on 15 May in Casino, NSW.  The program aims to support research projects that translate into genuine benefits at the farm gate.

The MLA will collaborate with 12 project partners with the shared goal of realising the untapped value of 80 million tonnes of dung produced by Australian livestock every year.

Member for Page and Queensland MP Kevin Hogan said the project had the potential to deliver exciting benefits for Australia's $23 billion livestock industry.

"This project will involve the roll-out of national and region-specific dung beetle services to a network of over 1000 producers and producers groups,” Hogan said.

"These groups will have access to information such as a dung beetle database, infield training and online education packages to help select the more beneficial dung beetle species for their farm,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said it was no wonder the ancient Egyptians elevated the humble dung beetle to sacred status.

“Dung beetles can deliver big benefits on farm, they can improve soil health, reduce the spread of pests and diseases, increase pasture health and reduce nutrient run off into waterways,” Minister Joyce said.

"This project will help farmers unlock the potential of these powerful 'ecosystem engineers' to increase productivity and reduce the costs of production, effectively turning dung into dollars,” he said.

"We know it's important that R&D isn't just pie-in-the-sky ideas, but can be translated into real results and ABARES has found that for every dollar the government invests in agricultural R&D, farmers generate a $12 return within 10 years.”

The funding for the $180.5 million Rural R&D for Profit program is further to around $700 million that the government invests in rural R&D each year.

The CSIRO's 1965-1985 Dung Beetle Project successfully introduced 23 species of South African and European dung beetles to Australia, improving the quality and fertility of Australian cattle pastures, and reducing numbers of pestilent bush flies by around 90%.