Getting kangaroos off the farm without fences or guns

Moving the maremma hotel

Moving the maremmas' home

Our farm shares kilometres of boundaries with state forest and, unfortunately, tonnes of its feed with hundreds of kangaroos and wallabies. While animal activists quote research carried out in semi-arid lands that found no competition between livestock and macropods, nothing could be further from the truth here.

The kangaroos and wallabies decimate luscious dairy pastures and crops. Last year, an oat crop adjoining the forest was cropped to just four inches high near the bush and grew to around a metre tall on the other (inner) side of the same paddock.

Our neighbours have installed massive fences in an attempt to keep the kangaroos and wallabies out, with mixed success. The other alternative is to shoot them and I do have a licence to cull 40. I haven’t used it because I hate the thought of it.

Instead, I’ve been looking at ways to deter them from the farm. A promising study used dingo urine but this seems to have come to a premature halt due to staffing issues. Many researchers have found ultrasonic deterrents ineffective.

I’m hoping we’ve found the solution. We’ve been bonding two maremma livestock guardian dogs, Charlie and Lola, to our calves and teaching them to respect the boundary fences. Fluffy white 35-kilogram bounders, these gentle dogs have a formidable bark and presence. They are also very protective of their “family” – us and the calves.

The only hitch to date has been getting them to roam far enough from their charges, so we’ve moved them and a couple of bovine mates to join a much larger mob living by the forest. Charlie was happy to go but Lola hung behind in her more familiar paddock. Fingers crossed they make the transition!

22 thoughts on “Getting kangaroos off the farm without fences or guns

  1. That’s very interesting. Just today I was driving through our farm and noticed that we have had a recent increase of kangaroos. We have two types, a small grey variety, and a larger red variety. They never seem to mix and usually stick to their “patches”. We have a licensed shooter come through when the numbers are out of control, but we do not like to do this. I don’t know if a dog would help in our situation, but I’d be interested to hear your results.
    In the USA we use to hang stockings stuffed with human hair on fences to keep deer from eating our garden. I wonder if the same might repel a kangaroo?

    • Interesting idea! There are actually quite a few good ideas for small areas (flashing lights, suspended CDs, stinky sprays, etc). Not so many though for kilometres of forest boundary.

      • Hi I tried the cd idea… I saw how bright it was across the paddock blowing and moving in the wind… while I watched a kangaroo hopped right over and sat and started to eat right beside it… waste of time sadly… so too I have found the white tape up high to show them the fence height… they hopped through that and broke it… need new ideas… not after dogs

  2. Hi there,
    I love reading your blog and find it fantastic. Can I just ask what kind of helmet that person is wearing when he is towing the Marrema’s new home? To me, it looks like a push bike helmet rather than a proper motorbike/ATV helmet. I guess this is better than nothing but I think we all need to be responsible in promoting safety, wherever that is. I understood that bike helmets are make for people who ride bikes, not ATVs, and maybe this is some whizz bang new helmet, so sorry if it is. I don’t want to be negative but I, too, would hate to see someone injured purely because the helmet was “too hot” or “it covers my ears”, excuses we have been fed when we enforce helmet wear on our farm. We simply say wear it, or find somewhere else to work. Tough, but in their own interests.
    Keep up the great work,
    The Helmet Police!!!

    • What sharp eyes you have, Helmet Police! We use equestrian helmets with the blessing of Farmsafe, which says they’re fine for use off-road on quads at speeds of less than 50km/hr. As you may be aware, there is currently no Australian Standard for quad bike helmets (even though the Kiwis have one).

  3. We have HUGE trouble with Roos as well. Land adjoining a wildlife sanctuary. At times there will be mobs of 70 – 100 (hard to count but it ranges). We can also apply for permit to cull but really in the end the number we are allowed to cull will not even make them batter an eyelid. The big ones can eat as much as a cow every day. It is heartbreaking at times. I’ll keep my eyes and ears out for more solutions. Cheers fellow dairy farmer

    • Good luck with it, Jude. I can understand the heartbreak – there’s nothing like trying to establish a new pasture or crop and seeing it disappear before you can graze it. The good news is that as our maremmas begin to range further and further from home, we are seeing a decrease in the number of roos!

  4. Hello. I’m having problems with kangaroos as well and I would like to know how are you going with your dogs. Do you have some new suggestion? Thanks Regards

  5. I just wondered if any of the people who have made comment on here are aware of a scientific calculation called ‘Dry Sheep Equivalent (DSE)
    The number 1 is attributed to a dry ewe being the amount it will eat per day.
    A Kangaroo is 0.4
    A Rabbit is 0.8
    2 Rabbits eat as much as a full grown Kangaroo.
    a Steer is 16 which means it eats 16 times more than a sheep and 32 times more than a Kangaroo
    You can find this table on any Government website which deals with ‘how much do animals eat’
    Combine this information with the carrying capacity of your land and you will be able to see if Kangaroos are really eating too much grass.

      • I had a look at the link you sent me but I was unable to find anything of significance because what you are showing is a crop of forage oats not a paddock which is grazed by cattle or sheep and I can’t see how the two compare. I am not saying that Macropods don’t damage crops and it’s fantastic to see you have used something other than a gun.
        This is from Saunders Veterinary Dictionary:
        dry sheep equivalent
        Home >Library >Animal Life >Veterinary Dictionary

        A unit of animal feed based on how much more or less feed each animal requires compared with that required by one dry (not lactating) sheep; abbreviated DSE. The same system can be used to estimate the nutritive value of a paddock of pasture or a shed full of hay. Based on the figure of a daily requirement for 7.2 megajoules of metabolizable energy for a 2-year-old dry sheep weighing 45 kg; e.g. a dairy cow milking 20 kg milk/day has a dry sheep equivalent of 23; a beef calf of 200 kg body weight has a DSE of 4.
        DSE as you can see is a means of measuring how much an animal eats, it has nothing to do with ‘arid zones’
        You may like to look at this also.

        • Hi Cienwen,

          Those oats were to be grazed by cattle! Shame they didn’t get to graze anything where the oats had been decimated by the macropods ahead of them.

          In my view, the figures you presented earlier tended to paint the picture that they have negligible impact, which as you can see from the pictures, is not the reality. They, together with government research in arid zones, are also numbers used by some animal activists to suggest that kangaroos and wallabies do not compete with cows.

          Statistics aside, the proof of the pudding is in the eating (pardon the pun).

        • Cienwen, that calculated consumption you quote is fatally flawed. What happens from my extensive observation of wallaby behavior on the NW coast of Tassie is that the macropods graze the pasture so intensively and continuously that it ceases to grow at all during the winter, and in the spring when it should be rocketing out of the ground its root system is so stunted that it fails to grow sufficiently to cope with the dry period. I have watched previously productive hay paddocks decline over three years to the point that this summer they will not be harvested at all, and will have to be fenced and resown. The remaining vegetation is moss, buzzies and thistles! Where a paddock does grow, if it is not immediately grazed the wallabies trample what they do not eat and the cattle refuse to eat it.

          Feed intake is only a fraction of the issue, and using it as an argument ignores the other realities.


          Simon Warriner, beef farmer and dairy farm worker.

    • It is not so much the absolute volume that is eaten but the fact that what is eaten is the newly emerging growth, over and over until it stops growing. The loss of this growth restricts any future growth and subsequent to that the root structure shrinks, further limiting plant recovery. This renders the academic estimates about equivalent livestock units completely meaningless because it fails to take into account grazing management regimes. Over time the pasture is destroyed, and in NW Tasmania it reverts to rock weed, fern and buzzies.

      Having installed 8-80-15 pig wire in 96, and recently 11-90-15 on my employers lease block and seen the holes dug underneath that i have started collecting used corrugated iron and will use that on areas where I cannot put a fence on a bulldozed line on clay.

      Wallabies in tassie are a serious plague costing the state a bloody fortune, but with a government enthralled by the plantation industry and completely clueless nothing will be done unless the farmers do it themselves. The problem has got steadily worse since the plantation plague, Port Arthur and the resulting firearms clampdown, and the restrictions on 1080. I don’t like poison but I do understand why it gets used. There is only so many k’s of fence that can get built each year!

  6. Pingback: 50 shades of green in an electrifying Easter | The Milk Maid Marian

  7. The problem In WA is that the kangaroos are now in almost plague proportions. You shoo them away and the next farmer down the line gets them. They have to eat. The only permanent way is to decide what a reasonable number is and shoot the rest. One has to remember because of our farming the land, supplying food and water the population has increased far beyond the norm.

    • If the response to a “bang” that does not cause death is anything like the response to a normal gunshot when shooting I doubt a starters pistol will make any difference. Most just look up and then carry on grazing if that is the night. Some nights they are real spooky and will not sit, but spook just on the lights. Plus, you still have to be out there to use it, and the frightened (maybe) animals come back and graze when you have gone home to bed.

      Fencing seems to be the answer, but it takes time costs lots of money and it needs constant repairs to be effective

      • I help look after our local airport. I have tried a pistol with blanks when the RFDS was approaching. Worked to start with but they got used to it. After a week they didn’t even bother to look up. Propane activated bird scarer works but for some reason the local population of humans keep phoning the shire and police informing them that WW 111 has started !!! What do we do ?? For others thinking of noise for airports, it also scares kangaroos that aren’t on the airport to hop about and end up on the airport.

Leave a Reply to Cienwen Hickey Cancel reply