Grazing Land Management

Turning 80 million tonnes of dung into paydirt

Beef Central, 07/09/2018

CSU Professor Leslie Weston

DUNG beetles are the focus of a national research effort to turn 80 million tonnes of dung produced by Australian livestock each year into a multi-million dollar benefit to farmers.

The $23 million project will be led by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) with the research being led by Charles Sturt University (CSU) through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.​

“This project aims to build our knowledge of the role that native and imported dung beetles provide in farming systems such as improving pasture and soil health and reducing the spread of flies and parasites,” Graham Centre Director Professor Michael Friend said.

A CSIRO run program from 1964 to the mid 1990’s introduced dung beetles from southern Africa and southern Europe, with 23 species established in Australia.

CSU Professor Leslie Weston said the new project will develop information and pathways for dung beetles to be incorporated more widely into livestock production systems.

“A key part of this research is developing a regionally specific dung beetle service to farmers supported with extension and monitoring activites,” Professor Weston said.

“We’re also going to investigate the importation and mass rearing of three new species and two endemic species that should be more suited to conditions encountered across inland Australia.”

Professor Friend said Charles Sturt University and the Graham Centre were focused on providing meaningful research outcomes for industry and rural communities.

“These beetles may be small but there’s potential for them to have greater economic, environmental and social benefits.”

The five-year project is supported by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), through funding from the Australian Government’s Rural Research & Development for Profit program.

Doug McNicholl

MLA’s Sustainability Innovation Manager Doug McNicholl said the project would enable producers to gain greater knowledge of and access to dung beetles that can provide significant productivity and environmental benefits on-farm.

“Dung beetles play a critical role in grazing ecosystems. By burying dung in the soil, the beetles improve the flow of water, nutrients and carbon into the root zones of pastures, which improves pasture productivity.

“And by disturbing the dung, they prevent build-up of flies and worms which in turn improves animal productivity.

“In addition to investigating new beetle strains and giving some existing species a population boost, the project will quantify the economic and environmental benefits beetles provide to the red meat industry. We’ll also learn more about how to look after these little critters so that they can continue to do their good work into the future.”

The research is led by CSU with eight partner organisations: The University of Western Australia, CSIRO, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, The University of New England, Dung Beetle Solutions International, Warren Catchments Council, Mingenew-Irwin Group and the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Source: CSU.  The Graham Centre is a research alliance between Charles Sturt University (CSU) and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI)


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  1. Sandra Baxendell, 09/09/2018

    Published research I have seen showed dung beetles initially increased worm larvae but over time decreased larval numbers eventually.

  2. Russell Pearson, 09/09/2018

    One of the best things that’s happened in the Qld outback has been the introduction of dung beetles, the more species that can be introduced the better. There was talk a couple of years back of dung beetle that was effective against Buffalo Fly. Getting on top of this pest would more than compensate the $23m budget and also focus the next generation of Agri science people on this very important development.

  3. Ron Shaw, 08/09/2018

    This would appear to be duplicating work already done by Qld DPI Cattle Extension Officers (circa 1998 – 2002, refer to the Charters Tower office).
    Whilst I’m an advocate for the worthiness of enhancing soil conditions through including Dung Beetles in our cattle/land management, spending $23 million to duplicate an existing effort -> I am not!

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