Sunday, 9 December 2012

Dung Beetles Now Active In Cattle Manure

In the past couple of weeks we've noticed quite a deal of dung beetle activity in the manure pats from our cattle. This link takes you to the Dung Beetle article on Wikipedia. The article explains that there are three main types of dung beetles:

  • 'Rollers' who are called such because they roll the dung into balls
  • 'Tunnelers' because they tunnel under the dung and bury it in the the tunnels they make in the soil
  • "Dwellers' because they basically live or dwell in the dung
In our dung we've observed two different species. One is quite small at about twice the size of a house fly or half the size of a blow fly. They other is much larger at around 2/3rds the size of Christmas Beetles. Based on the activity we can see in and below the dung at least one of these is a tunneler; which to be honest is our preferred type as we are very keen to see the beetles assist in the build up of organic matter in our soils.

Below is a sequence of photos showing different aspects of the beetles and the dung at different stages. NB: The photographs are not all of the same dung pat, but rather a range at different stages of dung beetle impact.

Untouched / fresh dung pat

From what we understand this is a pretty good 'shape' for a dung pat in that it contains good moisture whilst maintaining reasonable structure. Given that we are now in the non-growing season due to the extended dry period (we've not had a rainfall event of in excess of 25 mm since July) we recently recommenced giving our cattle daily Distillers Condensed Soluble as a supplement, together with a small quantity of some other minerals and grains.

It is important to note that whilst some of the sheep manure has dung beetle activity it is much less in percentage terms of the total number of deposits. Almost all of the cattle manure pats have some level of beetle activity which we deduce is as a consequence of the greater critical mass of the cattle pats. They take comparatively much longer to dry out and have a higher initial moisture content.

Early Stages of Dung Beetle Activity

Here you can see evidence of the tunneling activity on the edge of the cattle pat.

Tunneling Through the Dung

The above photograph was taken of the preceding cattle pat after most of the top was moved away. Clearly evident is one of the tunnels through the manure, as is one of the beetles (partially covered). We've been able to flip over some of the pats at this stage and have seen entrances to the tunnels that are in some cases every 2 to 3 cm or so, quite evenly spread.

Dung Tunnel Close-up

Here's a photo in macro of the same dung tunnel.

Dung Beetle in Close-up

Here's a better picture of one of the species of dung beetle. It's similar in appearance in some ways to a Christmas beetle and about 2/3rds the size.

Pat as Dung Beetle Activity Subsides

Here you can see that the cattle pat has lost most of its structure due to the dung beetle activity.

Pat After Dung Beetle Activity Has Ceased

Here you can see just how well the dung has been dispersed. Eggs will have been laid in the below-ground stores of dung. Aside from assisting in enhanced mineral cycling the beetles also dramatically reduce the scope for flies to lay eggs in the dung.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Trampoline Mat Replacement

The mat on our family trampoline needed replacing. A web search identified the Gold Coast based business called Topline Trampolines and checking of the website suggested they were reputable with reasonable pricing. They have some excellent pages on the website which enables customers to accurately determine the size and type of mat to order. Here's a link to the page for what we were after, given our trampoline is rectangular in shape. After looking at our trampoline and doing some measurements we determined that ours is a "Hills" with 54 springs: 17 along each side and 10 along each end.
We placed our order online which was straightforward and the very next morning received an email advice letting us know that the replacement mat had been dispatched. Excellent service!
The mat arrived yesterday and we installed it straight away. The size was spot on.
Close observation of the replacement (see photo above) reveals two key differences between the old (on top) and new (on the bottom) mats:

  1. The overlap in the new mat is about 1 cm less than the original meaning that the stitching is closer to the edge. This is not a big drama but does make it more difficult to install the wires from the old mat into the new.
  2. The new mat has only two rows of stitching V four on the old mat. We suspect that the life of the new mat will be considerably reduced as a result and are a little concerned that the mat will be less able to handle use by other than small children. Hopefully the cost reduction approach by the manufacturer does not translate into reduced safety.

We are very happy with the service from Topline but a bit disappointed that the quality of the product seems less than the original. Time will tell.

Excellent Stockmanship Book

"Stockmanship: A Powerful Tool For Grazing Lands Management" by Steve Cote is as good a book around that explains the principles and techniques behind the low stress stockhandling methods we use here on Ochre Arch. We don't, though, profess to be across or proficient in all of the techniques.

Most of the principles and practices were developed by Bud Williams who recently died from cancer. He has certainly made a huge difference to many livestock managers, to the benefit of the welfare and wellbeing of the animals they manage.

A free copy of Steve Cote's book can be downloaded from this link.