Demonstrating the benefits of dung beetles to prime lamb producers
|Project start date:||01 May 2018|
|Project end date:||14 October 2022|
|Project status:||In progress|
|Livestock species:||Sheep, Lamb|
|Site location:||South west Victoria|
The Enhanced Producer Demonstration Site (EPDS) concept was developed in 2014 as a partnership between Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and Agriculture Victoria. The partnership brings the benefits of integrating with Agriculture Victoria’s BestWool/BestLamb and BetterBeef network of producers and groups receive assistance from Agriculture Victoria extension staff throughout the demonstrations including monitoring, evaluation, reporting and communication.
This project comprised of two parts. Firstly, the completion of a suite of eight (Phase 1) demonstrations that commenced in 2014, and secondly, a further seven (Phase 2) demonstrations, established through an expression of interest (EOI) process that commenced in 2018 / 19.
Investigating the presence of dung beetles in southwest Victoria and demonstrating their benefits in prime lamb operations.
Healthy soils and pastures are critical for a productive prime lamb operation. There is limited research on the use of dung beetles in sheep production systems, however research in cattle systems suggests by burying and consuming dung, dung beetles improve nutrient cycling and soil structure, reduce pasture fouling, and increase pasture growth (Doube 2008).
The South West Prime Lamb Group (SWPLG) undertook dung beetle trapping in conjunction with the Dung Beetle Environmental Engineers (DBEE) project to investigate existing populations of dung beetles and their seasonal abundance. Trapping was performed for twelve months across eight properties (four per year for two years). Twelve species were found, including eight introduced and four native species. A noticeable gap in the abundance of introduced dung beetles was observed from late autumn, through winter, into early spring.
The project also demonstrated the impact of deep tunnelling Bubas bison on soil fertility. Trials showed that dung beetles were mobilising nutrients and increasing soil fertility to depths of 10-30 and 30-60cm. Plant roots and earthworms were observed to be travelling down dung filled tunnels.
The project highlighted the benefits of dung beetles for prime lamb systems and opportunities to value add to these benefits by filling seasonal gaps in abundance.