As if the big dry isn’t enough for our vignerons to contend with, the drought has presented them with another epidemic that could potentially wipe out their income for the next 12 months – kangaroos.
It’s a controversial decision and one that is not made lightly but vignerons may soon be left with no alternative but to start shooting kangaroos, desperately searching for food as the region remains in the grip of one of the worst droughts on record.
Fast running out of green pick, roos are honing in on vineyards waiting for the September bud burst when they are guaranteed food.
Already expecting a low volume vintage because of the drought, Pokolbin vignerons Fairfax Media spoke to this week said a roo cull is imminent and they could soon make application to the State Government’s Office of Environment and Heritage for tags and hire registered shooters.
Respected industry leader Bruce Tyrrell and vignerons are probably the least effected by the drought compared to other agricultural industries as vines can withstand pretty harsh weather conditions.
“Having said that it is very, very dry and we really need rain in the next few weeks because when Spring gets going and we have bud burst, we could be in trouble with kangaroos,” he said.
“We probably lost about 80 tonnes to roos last year. If there’s nothing else to eat they will find what they can and that’s likely to be vines.”
“I’ve seen a little vineyard here, which normally picks around 35 tonne, lose 30 tonne over two nights after kangaroos moved in. That vineyard lost most of its income for that year,” Mr Tyrrell said.
The other damage is to vineyard infrastructure like fences. “The bigger grey kangaroos can make a mess of fences and this is one of the things that are often forgotten,” he said.
“When I was a kid there were very few roos around here. Then we had a couple of serious droughts and they started to move in from the west. No one was culling them or looking after the numbers. Now there’s no reason for them to head back.”
“It was always the case, particularly in Summer, that you would have a gun in the back of your car and if you saw a sick roo or a lame one you’d put it out of its misery,” Mr Tyrrell said.
“I was attacked for shooting some joeys one night. The poor things couldn’t stand up and all you could see were ribs. A sudden and quick end is better than dying of starvation,” he said.
Expecting a backlash from Greenies, Mr Tyrrell had a strong message.
“We’d be better off if we had a lot more practical input rather than highly educated impractical input from a city office,” he said.
Agnew Wines (Audrey Wilkinson, Pooles Rock and Cockfighter’s Ghost) Chief Winemaker Jeff Byrne who has worked in the industry for 19 years, agreed with Mr Tyrrell.
“This is the driest I have seen it and we’re just starting to see some swelling in the chardonnay and have been forced to start irrigating the vines which is the earliest for irrigation I can remember,” Mr Byrne said.
“We’re seeing a higher than normal amount of kangaroos, clearly looking for food. I would agree that once we have beautiful, green, soft shoots starting that kangaroos could become attracted to them and we may require some additional kangaroo culling,” he said.