A dung beetle.

Dung beetles can help improve the productivity of pastures

We’ve dung it again! Our exotic solution to the dung problem in Australia continues

Between 1969-87, CSIRO Entomology introduced exotic dung beetle species to clear pastures of accumulated livestock dung. Now we're introducing two new species to 'finish the job'.

  • 18 May 2006 | Updated 18 August 2014

Overview

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With the average cow dropping between 10 and 12 dung pads per day, pastures can quickly become fouled and provide the ideal breeding ground for flies.

With a single dung pad able to produce up to 3000 flies in a fortnight, this situation can rapidly get out of control.

Although Australia has several hundred species of native dung beetles that make use of the fibrous dung produced by kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and other native mammals, most are unable to cope with the large quantities of dung produced by introduced livestock, particularly cattle.

To help dispose of the excess dung and prevent flies from breeding, between 1969-87 (and 1990-92 in partnership with WA Department of Agriculture), CSIRO Entomology introduced a range of exotic dung beetle species to Australia.

Since then, the collection and redistribution has continued through Landcare groups, farmers and individuals with a passion for the beetles.

The current problem

A recent assessment of the current status of introduced dung beetles showed that while some introduced species have apparently reached the expected limits of distribution, others have not. 

Also, parts of Australia are well served by a diverse suite of dung beetle species and experience a sustained level of dung burial, whereas other parts are not.

In particular, the southern, temperate cattle region of Australia is lacking dung beetle activity in early spring.

CSIRO has started a project to introduce two species of European dung beetles to southern Australia to clear dung during early spring and “finish the job”.

This project is being supported by Meat and Livestock Australia.