Apple Orchard is Given a Lifeline
John Evans owns a 50 hectare apple orchard at Geeveston in Southern Tasmania. A sudden explosion in the wallaby population over the last few years quickly destroyed the productivity across 20 hectares of his orchard. The wallabies ate 1000 newly planted Gala trees, which cost $18,000 in planting costs, however factoring in the cost of a complete year of production would equate up to $40,000.
“They eat all the grass in the alleyways so it reduces organic matter in the orchards. They reach into the apple trees to eat the foliage and buds, and once the frosts come they eat the bark starting at 1.2 m and tearing the bark down to the ground, essentially ringbarking the trees” Mr Evans said.
“They break down our newly grafted trees, pulling the new tip growth over to eat the ends to the point where the grafts break out and we have to regraft the next spring, they also eat pasture down to a point where the grass can’t grow and the weeds take over. We had been running around 18 head of cattle at our home farm, but suddenly we were lucky to run the bull over winter.”
A 10km exclusion fence was erected, it used 11/90/15 Stocksafe-T® Longlife® wire to prevent animals from penetrating the fence, the spacing of the wire aims to deter the pests.
“We have put land bridges over the creeks and fenced those, so the wallabies can’t come in up the creek, and in the corners we have double fenced so that should they get in, they won’t be able to force the fence off the clips with their pressure,” Mr Evans said.
“Those trees are forecast to grow up to 110 tonnes per hectare at an average price of $400 per bin (360kg) back to the farm, and we will be growing 3000 bins when we finish planting. That’s a lot of money. Even if we’d lost half, production losses would have been huge.
“Without the feral fence we couldn’t go forwards, and if we had attempted to, we would have lost $150 000 a year minimum.
Advice for farmers, from farmers
“I never thought I’d be fencing to keep things out of the farm, only to keep things in. Now, in my opinion if you don’t use feral fencing you’re wasting your time.”