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Camels weeding out farmer's problem the natural way

WEED CONTROL: South Burnett grazier John Gleich has been using camels to control African box thorn for the past 12 years.
WEED CONTROL: South Burnett grazier John Gleich has been using camels to control African box thorn for the past 12 years. Michael Nolan

LANTANA, stinging nettle, African box thorn and wattle. As the bane of every farmer's paddock they are expensive and time consuming to control.

So a savvy grazier needs to think outside the box for a solutions.

For the past 12 years John Gleich has been onto a winner in the form of 16 dromedary camels that he runs on two properties in Proston and Wondai.

"I was talking to Terry Griffiths about African box thorn and how they control it over in Africa," Mr Gleich said.

"He comes from out west and spends a lot of time working with camels around Charters Towers and he said they love eating weeds."

"I guess because they come from such dry conditions."

Mr Gleich took the punt 12 years ago and said it saved him a fortune.

"I didn't believe my eyes when I saw them eating stinging nettle," Mr Gleich said.

"They rip the whole thing out and send it straight down their gullet, they must have an iron gut.

"The only thing they can't eat is mother-of-millions, that'll kill them."

Along with eating the weeds they also prevent seeding.

"Camels digest 97% of what they eat so you get very little germination from them."

When the African box thorn flowers Mr Gleich's camels will rip into the new growth and what they don't eat will be shaken from the plant, further reducing its ability to germinate.

Usually birds will eat the box thorn's berries but instead of digesting their seed birds will pass them which ends in new plants, spreading through paddock.

Once the camel has had its feed any saliva left behind is highly acidic and it will kill the remaining bush.

"When you put them in a paddock they'll go right around the boundary fence and eat all the weeds around the boundary, on both sides," Mr Gleich said.

"I think it's a case of the camel working out its boundaries.

"You can break them like a horse, then put them in crush, scratch them for ticks and work them like cattle."

Despite their broad gait Mr Gleich said he's had no fence-jumpers.

"All you need to have is a good top wire, the camel will reach out over the fence to get to weeds on the other side and if the top wire breaks they'll get out."

"But other than that they're fine."

At more than $1000 each camels can seem prohibitively expensive but Mr Gleich says they're worth every penny.

"Everyone said I was bloody mad, but if you get them young they live for 60 years and you don't have to clean up the scrub."

Mr Gleich said if one took into account the cost of 20l drums of tordon, labour and fuel, his camels were a bargain.

Topics:  camels proston wondai

South Burnett

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