Biological pest animal control methods

Biological control

Biological control using animal-specific diseases is a cost-effective way of reducing pest animal populations over large areas. However, biological control must be followed up with other control activities to be effective and prevent the problem of emerging disease immunity.

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD)

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (also known as rabbit calicivirus disease) is a fast-acting virus specific to rabbits. The virus spreads through contact between infected rabbits and insects that can carry the virus.

Biological control of rabbits with rabbit haemorrhagic disease is a cost-effective method to deal with a large infestation. Other methods, such as baiting and harbour destruction, should be incorporated in a control program to increase success and prevent disease immunity.


The myxoma virus was introduced to Australia in the early 1950s and greatly reduced the rabbit plague. Surviving rabbit populations developed a resistance to the virus because landowners generally failed to take other measures to maximise control. The virus is no longer produced commercially but still exists in most rabbit populations as mild recurring strains.

Livestock guardian animals

Livestock guardian dogs or other guardian animals can effectively protect livestock from predators, but the initial costs are high and ongoing management is required, and pest animal numbers are not reduced.

Livestock guardian dogs have been bred for centuries to protect livestock from wolves and bears throughout Europe and Asia. In Australia, they have successfully been used to guard sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, cattle, and even native wildlife. Suitable breed stock with strong guardian instincts is essential. Some suitable breeds are the:

  • Great Pyrenees from France
  • Komondor from Hungary
  • Akbash dog and the Anatolian shepherd from Turkey
  • Maremma from Italy.

When bonded with livestock at a very young age and trained and managed effectively, most dogs will become excellent flock guardians. However, you should always desex animals to prevent cross-breeding with wild dogs.

Other guardian animals such as llamas and donkeys have also been used to protect livestock from predators.

Learn more about livestock guardian animals.

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