This week, our podcast host, Tim Dangen, talked with Sam “The Trap Man” Gibson about dealing with pests on farm. Sam is a catchment coordinator at NZ Landcare Trust in Tairāwhiti, “The mighty East coast,” and his passion is trapping pests.
Right from the start, Sam had something to say about pests– that he doesn’t actually like calling them pests. “I don't use the word pest for stoats or possums or anything like that. Because it's a judgment,” says Sam. Whether or not you call them pests, animals like possums, stoats, and deer can be a problem for on-farm biodiversity and productivity. Predators like stoats eat native birds, while deer chomp pasture and trample native bush.
Our first big takeaway from the chat with Sam is that when it comes to pest control, let your passion guide you where to focus. There are many feral animals that can create problems on farm, so sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Sam says: “It comes down to what you want to achieve and what you're passionate about on farm. A lot of folks will will say, kiwi are important to us, and other folks would be like deer are impacting my bottom line, I need to do some work there. So I think it just comes down to what project you want to do, and what project your neighbors want to undertake.”
The second big takeaway is that removing pests like deer can help both farm productivity and biodiversity on farm. Sam says, “I've got farmers over here on the coast that, you know, they're losing 12% of their productivity, because they've got an extra 1300 stock units on farm due to feral deer… Deer will eat the most palatable species until it's pretty much gone. So we often think we're doing a great job as farmers in retaining those forest fragments, but really, we're just retaining a canopy that's oftentimes unpalatable. Really, it's a pretty dulled down forest ecosystem.” When deer eat all the underbrush and seedlings on the ground, bush blocks and plantings can’t regenerate and thrive over time.
Luckily, there are some good ways to control deer populations like deer fencing off pastures or even whole farms. Sam says that with a bit of effort to control deer, native species return quickly. “It's amazing you notice that [native vegetation] will start to fruit real early. And so you get your birds such as kereru and korimako and toutowai, and miromiro all coming back really quickly because they're all looking for a feed.” Trapping and shooting pests also improves biodiversity on farm, especially when done within bush blocks.
Our final takeaway is that working with your neighbours, farm advisors, catchment group, and local community on pest control allows you to share knowledge and resources and will lead to a bigger impact and more successes. “By joining a catchment group and combining with other farmers and creating a shared plan, it’s really easy to get funding. We've got the resources locally to be able to give us a hand and help us design, predator control projects. [And] it's not just farmers that are interested in on farm biodiversity, you know, like, we've got community groups where hunters are happy to turn up and chip in.” And since pests don’t pay attention to farm borders, working with local community will help control pests on a large landscape scale.
Sam summed up this chat with a great point– farmers are the ones who care for land and animals, so the kind of thinking farmers bring to the table is essential for improving native biodiversity. “[Farmers] are just determined and efficient. They're already going through the equations in their mind, if I do this and do that, over the long term, we're going to see a real solid increase. And that's what I love seeing is turning that thinking that we typically align with food production, to biodiversity and water quality gains, and who better in the country to do it than farmers? We've got the land, we've got the got the seed population, we've got the resources, and we're looking after on behalf of the whole of Aotearoa.”
To hear more about pest control, listen to the full episode with Sam at this link: https://open.spotify.com/episode/7Lnika4ud9CT2wE4X3pC4N?si=63bcd04ba0f84561. The Our Farms, Our Future podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. For more tips and tricks from Sam, follow him on social media at “Sam The Trap Man.”
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