Site preparation - Protection from grazing by livestock and feral animals
Whatever method you choose to revegetate your site, your young plants will be vulnerable to grazing by domestic, native and feral animals. Plants are most vulnerable to damage when less than a metre in height as they can be completely eaten or severely damaged at this stage. Over this height, they can still have many leaves and shoots removed, be broken by trampling or scratching or have their bark chewed leaving them ringbarked. Large plants are most vulnerable to large animals such as horses and cattle.
Wallabies and kangaroos cause considerable damage to young plantings by eating and breaking the canopy. In certain areas brush-tailed possums defoliate plants of all ages. Rabbits cause significant losses particularly in direct-seeded sites by completely eating young seedlings. Hares have an annoying habit of nipping off the stems of young seedlings. Sheep, horses and cattle both eat the foliage of young plants and trample young plants. Horses have been known to eat the bark from trees at particular times of the year, even on mature trees. In WA '28' parrots cause severe damage to young plants by chewing leaves and stems.
Damage can occur to some or all of the species and can vary from mild to severe. There are several options to prevent grazing or browsing of your plantings.
- Fencing to exclude animals. The fence should be designed with a particular animal in mind. Most agricultural fences will keep out sheep, cattle and horses, but will not exclude macropods or rabbits. To exclude rabbits you will need to use wire netting, at least on the bottom 300mm of the fence. Fences to exclude kangaroos and wallabies need to be high (1.8m) to prevent them from jumping over. Some designs for exclusion fences can be found here. Some tips on possum-proof fencing can be found here. The Department of Agriculture in WA has some useful ideas to exclude kangaroos.
- Tree guards are sometimes used to protect young plants from browsing. Very tall tree guards of rigid corrugated plastic are used to prevent kangaroo or wallaby browsing in some areas. Smaller guards are effective in stopping rabbits or hares from destroying young plants, even though they may browse the tops of the plants.
- Reducing populations prior to planting. The most effective method to control rabbit and hare browsing is to reduce their numbers at the site prior to planting. Rabbit burrows should be ripped and existing animals should be poisoned or shot. Usually your State or Territory Department of Primary Industries (or equivalent) can advise you on effective and humane methods to control rabbits. (e.g. Rabbit control factsheet)
- Deterrents. There are a number of options available to deter animals from entering a site such as foliar grit sprays which make the leaves unpalatable, irregular loud sounds and variations on 'scarecrows'. These methods vary in effectiveness, but are usually much less effective than fencing.
- Trapping. Some animals such as parrots, possums and wallabies can be trapped and relocated with varying success. You will need to check with your State or Territory wildlife agency before trapping native animals.
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