18 Feb 2014

Dung beetles released in Hawke's Bay farm

6:45 pm on 18 February 2014

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills will be keeping a close watch on the cow pats in his paddocks, to see if they start disappearing. It won't be due to wishful thinking on his part.

He introduced three varieties of imported dung beetle onto to his Hawke's Bay farm last week, and he's keen to see evidence of them doing their job.

Farmers have started releasing the beetles to help break down and disperse the animal dung that covers an estimated 700,000 hectares of pastoral land in New Zealand.

They move the dung into the ground to use for food and egg-laying, in the process increasing soil health and fertility, reducing nutrient run-off from pasture and reducing parasitic infection in livestock.

The first imported dung beetles were released in Southland last year and Mr Wills thinks their introduction on his farm may be the first in Hawke's Bay.

He says he's been told three or four of the larger dung beetles can demolish a cow pat in a few days.

He's also an enthusiastic supporter of using insects for weed control.

His greatest success has been knocking back heavy infestations of nodding thistle.

Mr Wills says he's introduced another bio-control, the green thistle beetle to tackle Californian thistles, and he expects to see them making an impact in a few years, as numbers build up.