Benefits of group fox baiting

By Rhett Robinson, Senior Biosecurity Officer and Will Thorncraft, Biosecurity Officer

February 2020

Year round fewer foxes

By group baiting in the autumn and again during winter you will have significantly fewer foxes year round. Spotlight surveys done in the past have compared fox group baiting areas that are done annually in autumn and winter north of Dubbo to areas south of Dubbo where group baiting is not done. It showed a significant difference in fox numbers year round. Ask your roo shooter if he sees a difference in fox numbers on farms that participate in group baiting programs.

Mark more lambs

Sheep producers who participate in group baiting programs mark more lambs. Research done on fox predation of lambs has shown predation ranged from anywhere between 0 to 30%. Typically landholders locally report an increase in lamb marking numbers of around 10% from controlling foxes. One example is one landholders who said that prior to baiting foxes as part of his local baiting group he never marked over 100% of lambs and since fox baiting he has never marked under 100% of lambs every year.

Use less baits

By baiting as part of a group you will use a lot less baits; as other surrounding  landholders are also baiting you will not be poisoning foxes that are coming from their property as well. Most landholders who bait as a group have at least halved the number of baits they used previously.

Save time

Because you need to use less baits this is a big time saving in doing a baiting program.

Less risk to working dogs

Using less baits also means less risk to working dogs.

Better for native wildlife

In group baiting areas landholders report an increase on ground nesting birds such as plovers nesting and being seen, not only is fox control good for your hip pocket but is good for native wildlife as well.

Foxes eat dung beetles

Foxes are a major predator of the dung beetle. Entomologist and dung beetle expert John Feehan said he once gutted a fox an hour after sunset and found it had consumed 160 dung beetles. Had it not been killed John said the fox would have gone on all night eating dung beetles.

Dung beetles improve the soil

Dung beetles play a major role in the nutrient cycle where they take manure and bury it up to 300mm in the soil. During this process they form thousands of holes in the soil which provides increased pore spaces for increased water infiltration, nutrient cycling, water holding capacity, increased amounts of stored carbon and boosted microbe and worm levels.

According to Mr Feehan 80% of the nitrogen in the cowpats will be lost if remaining on top of the soil. With beetles present 80% of the nitrogen in the cowpats will be added and infiltrated into the soil.

Dung beetles reduce fly populations

A good healthy dairy cattle will produce two litres of wet cow manure, up to 12 times a day. One cow dung can produce 2,000-3,000 flies. So, one cow could potentially help produce 36,000 flies a day. Female flies lay a cluster of eggs which take 12 hours to hatch but the dung needs six days undisturbed for the flies to survive.

The dung beetles can bury a cow pat in 48 – 72 hours and in some cases can do it in a couple of hours therefore destroying any reproduction of flies.

Too little dung beetle activity will result in excessive amounts of manure left on top of the soil providing a breeding ground for flies and internal parasites which can cause production losses in livestock operations through excessive uses of expensive drenches and increased parasite resistance. Excessive fly amounts in wet times also has the potential to cause major losses in sheep through fly strike.  Flies also cause infections in open wounds and cuts, spread diseases such as pick eye and cause eye issues in livestock

Fly control in the Hunter Valley

A major horse stud in the Hunter Valley increased their beetle population due to the excessive number and disturbances the flies were having on the polo horses’ health and wellbeing. The exercise reduced their fly population by 99%.

Given the benefits of these beetles a key step to protect and preserve these little doers is to control foxes.

To join a pest animal control group please contact your Local Land Services biosecurity officer today on 1300 795 299.


Entomologist John Feehan in conversation and online at

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