LANDHOLDERS in the Upper North and western Eyre Peninsula could gain an extra income while helping control kangaroo populations as part of a newly-launched pilot program expected to roll out this month.
The trial, jointly developed by PIRSA, the Department of Environment and Water, Livestock SA and Macro Meats, would support up to 10 landholders in the existing commercial harvest zone to become licensed kangaroo field processors.
During the three-month trial, all fees and accreditation costs will be waived to encourage landholders to participate.
This comes alongside a proposed expansion of the SA Kangaroo Commercial Management Plan's harvest zone to include the South East, Yorke and Fleurieu peninsulas, Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island.
Macro Meats managing director Ray Borda said the trial had the potential to "solve a few problems", including high numbers of kangaroos, low numbers entering the supply chain and low income for farmers due to the drought. He said many farmers were already using non-commercial destruction permits, with kangaroos shot and "left on the ground".
He said this created animal welfare concerns, potential for disease and attracted feral animals. He said industry estimated about $5 million worth of kangaroos were "wasted" this way.
"We've got a drought that is only getting worse, whether someone is growing crops, sheep or cattle, their income will be restricted in next couple of years," he said.
"If they're going out and shooting kangaroos anyway, why don't we train those farmers in animal welfare, hygiene and compliance.
"Yes, it's more work but it is an income."
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Mr Borda said SA needed 150 shooters - three times the present number - to ensure consistent supply and build markets.
"We've got all the reasons why we should be looking at this, and the only reason why we shouldn't is because it's more work," he said.
Mr Borda said the industry would help with training, mentoring and setting up chiller bases. The state government has also contributed $25,000 to the project.
Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone said the program would identify landholders whose properties were experiencing drought conditions and the impact of high kangaroo numbers on the land and available feed.
If successful, he said the program would be expanded.
The trial will be administered by Livestock SA, with chief executive officer Andrew Curtis saying kangaroos had become an increasing issue in the past five years.
We've got all the reasons why we should be looking at this, and the only reason why we shouldn't is because it's more work.
"It has gone from something manageable to near plague proportions, in parts," he said. "And the drought is exacerbating the issues."
Mr Curtis said the pilot would show if training farmers was a viable option.
"The kangaroo meat industry needs continuity of supply and it would also reduce pressure," he said.
Mark Ludgate, Peterborough, said large numbers of kangaroos had been an issue before the onset of drought but had become a massive problem.
He said the announcement of the pilot program was a "positive first step" but questioned if 10 landholders across SA would be enough.
"We've probably got 20 farmers shooting regularly each week in this region, and we are not making any major headway," he said.
He said it would be more effective to drop the cost of tags for dedicated, professional shooters to encourage more to enter or come back to the industry, instead of relying on overworked farmers.
The kangaroo meat industry needs continuity of supply and it would also reduce pressure.
Alongside the trial, DEW is also calling for feedback on a plan to expand the harvest zone to cover most areas of the state as well as include the tammar and red-necked wallabies, the eastern grey and Kangaroo Island western grey kangaroos, alongside the existing red, western grey and euro kangaroos.
"We are looking at species which are not threatened and have increased in abundance and distribution during the past decade," DEW CEO John Schutz said.
"Surveys will be conducted to determine population estimates for each species in each sub-region so quotas can be set."
- Details: Contact Livestock SA on 08 8297 2299 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Feedback on the management plan can be shared at yoursay.sa.gov.au until September 6.
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