A rural devotee has pests in his sights
Just ask Jason Rogers, the West Otago owner of Aotearoa Pest Control, who works with area farmers to rid their properties of pests.
He’s a rural man through and through; throughout his career he has done everything from farming to mowing.
But after the accidents took their toll on his body, he decided it was time to get back to what he had always done – pest control, an occupation he could do at his own pace.
Much like the dining experiences now all the rage, Mr. Rogers uses a similar philosophy in his own business.
The possums were harvested for their fur and then the meat was shipped off for pet food, rather than the carcass being “thrown down a ravine”, he said.
Using the animal was something he was passionate about and he dreamed of opening a manufacturing plant in Kelso, where he lives, to produce pet food and opossum fur products.
Like most things, the opossum fur trade had been hit by Covid-19 and prices had fallen from around $130/kg at this time of year to around $100/kg.
The cost of fuel had risen and the tourism market – a major buyer of opossum fur products – had been decimated, but that trade would pick up again.
There were big expenses for anyone who wanted to get into the game; the market for hand-picked fur was “almost completely gone”, so a machine plucker was needed.
Mr Rogers uses a motorbike to get around and said it takes “quite a lot of fuel” to get to some of his blocks.
He remembers coming home with 200 or 300 rabbits on his bikes when he got into pest control years ago.
Others saw it and wanted to get into it. But they could last a month as they found it was hard work, he said.
There were other less tangible benefits; he had observed many “fascinating” animal behaviors and enjoyed hearing the return of birds, including wood pigeons, to the areas where he worked.
Mr Rogers said he had sympathy for farmers, many of whom lamb. He knew what it was like to work up to 14 hours a day on the farm and the last thing they wanted to do then was chase away pests.
“That’s when accidents happen,” he said.
He had seen with his own eyes the destruction and problems that could arise if pest numbers were allowed to ‘take off’.
“We’re not here…to kill an animal. Everything has a life, everything has to be controlled or we’ll have a disaster,” he said.
He was particularly concerned about planting trees on former farmland, saying pest control was not on the cards.
“Once the trees come up, they will never have them,” he said, adding that this was especially the case for trees that would not be pruned.
He could see the “writing on the wall” for something major to happen and he believed that New Zealand would never achieve its goal of becoming predator-free if the plantations continued.
The pine plantations also sucked in water and, as a former firefighter, he suggested planes be on standby during fire season due to the potential fire hazard.
He was also concerned about the effect on food supplies and the potential loss of jobs in rural communities.
By one day opening his own business, he hoped to create more jobs, buying directly from farmers in the area and creating a cycle.
His own children knew the circle of life and he was grateful to know that if they were hungry they knew what they could eat and had something to fall back on, like pest control, to win. money.
His wife was an avid spinner and they also knew how to keep warm with natural fibers such as opossum fur and wool.
Although he has no particular fondness for possum meat, Mr Rogers said that hare backstrap, which is dipped in milk and then roasted or fried, is hard to beat. It was “absolutely beautiful”.