In western Queensland, grasshoppers are more foe than friend as they chew their way through crops and pasture.
- Grasshoppers are extremely destructive to pastures, particularly after good grass growth
- Bob Elliott from Belmont Station lost a lot of feed when the grasshoppers arrived in February
- But thanks to great rain after they left, he saw a better response in paddocks where the grasshoppers had been
The pests can cause damage on a biblical scale in a matter of days.
But for Winton grazier Bob Elliott, the grasshoppers have proved to be unusually helpful.
When he first noticed the insects on his Belmont property in February, he initially feared the worst.
“You can’t help but panic a little bit,” Mr Elliott said.
“In a week you could go from a little bit of grass to absolutely no grass at all.”
Rain perfectly timed
Mr Elliott received an early Christmas present when 138 millimetres of rain fell over parts of his property in December.
As the green shoots began to sprout, another 127mm fell before the grasshoppers arrived in their thousands in February.
By then, Mr Elliott was worried he would have no feed left for his stock, as the cloud of grasshoppers wreaked havoc.
But he struck it lucky a third time as the heavens opened in March with another 40mm of rain.
“We noticed that where the grasshoppers had been the worst was where the feed grew the best,” he said.
“It had phenomenal growth. Without that March rain, I don’t think we’d have grown very much.”
His theory is that by having the grasshoppers come along and effectively trim the grass back, when they did eventually receive the 40mm it was able to respond better.
Enough grass for the year
Much of the grass has dried off now, but Mr Elliott said he was in a good position until the end of the year.
The same couldn’t be said for others in the region.
“A lot of places in the Winton district didn’t get that March rain,” he said.
“There’s a lot of places that are going to be doing it tough.
“It’s just another thing we’ve got to fight against.”
The wet season is over for another year and many farmers have started making decisions about their properties for the year ahead.
Thanks to a mix of good fortune and good timing, Mr Elliott was set for the time being.
“We’re going to do okay this year,” he said.
“We’ve got enough grass for the stock we have.”